The 10ft Liger who's still growing...
He looks like something from a prehistoric age or a fantastic
creation from Hollywood . But Hercules is very much living flesh and blood -
as he proves every time he opens his gigantic mouth to roar. Part lion, part
tiger, he is not just a big cat but a huge one, standing 10ft tall on his
back legs. Called a liger, in reference to his crossbreed parentage, he is
the largest of all the cat species.
On a typical day he will devour 20lb of meat, usually beef or
chicken, and is capable of eating 100lb at a single setting. At just three
years old, Hercules already weighs half a ton.
He is the accidental result of two enormous big cats living close
together at the Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, in Miami ,
Florida , and already dwarfs both his parents.
"Ligers are not something we planned on having," said institute owner
Dr Bhagavan Antle. "We have lions and tigers living together in large
enclosures and at first we had no idea how well one of
the lion boys was getting along with a tiger girl, then loo and behold
we had a liger."
50mph runner... Not only that, but he likes to swim, a feat unheard
of among water-fearing lions. In the wild it is virtually impossible for
lions and tigers to mate. Not only are they enemies likely to kill one
another, but most lions are in Africa and most tigers in Asia . But
incredible though he is, Hercules is not unique. Ligers have been bred in
captivity, deliberately and accidentally, since shortly before World War II.
Today there are believed to be a handful of ligers around the world
and a similar number of tigons, the product of a tiger father and lion
mother. Tigons are smaller than ligers and take on more physical
characteristics of the tiger.