Meet Hercules the Liger, The World’s Largest Living Cat

Meet Hercules the Liger, The World’s Largest Living Cat

Now that’s a big boy! 

 At 922 pounds (2013 weight) and over 11 feet in full body height, Hercules is the world’s largest living cat, currently holding the world record for the biggest carnivore mammal on earth.

The liger is the hybrid offspring of a male lion and a female tiger, two big cat species in the genus Panthera. [1] Big boy Hercules was born to an African male lion named and a female Bengal tigress. Hercules lives at the Myrtle Beach Safari Wildlife Preserve in South Carolina with his team of trainers, far away from his four other liger brothers who live in captivity in other states. Despite being born of the same mother, Hercules is far bigger than all his brothers, and Aries is said to be the smallest.

Hercules is an adorably handsome cat with a tawny lion back and faint brown or black stripes characteristic of a tiger. The colors of a liger’s fur are dependent on its birth parents’ colors. His face is an equal mesh of lion and tiger features, except that he completely lacks a mane.

This special cat that has defied the odds surrounding the survival of ligers. He’s lived for more than 10 years and is still a very healthy, strong, and non-obese cat, despite his massive size. [2] Where an African male lion can weigh up to 418 pounds and the average weight of a female Bengal tigress is 308 pounds, their cross-breed literally has no size limits and hence, Hercules could be weighing about 1,000+ pounds as of 2020. 

How is he so large?

Ligers can grow this big because they lack the growth-inhibiting gene in female lions. [3] Male lions pass a growth-promoting gene that may cause their offspring to grow abnormally large if not tempered. The females, who may mate with more than one male, provide the compensation gene, and this is why pure-bred lions are normal-sized. However, female tigers only mate with one male and do not require any growth-promoting or inhibiting genes. 

Hercules’ father has a growth-promoting gene but his mother, a tigress, lacks any growth-affecting gene, leading to his massively unmatchable size.

This is why Tigons, crossbreeds of male tigers and female lions are often pretty small in comparison to ligers. The female lion brings the growth-inhibiting gene and keeps the offsprings’ size downplayed.

Ruling his world

Ligers love to sleep a lot and as such, Hercules only eats once a day and spends the rest of his time training or crashing. For his single meal every day, Hercules eats about 30 pounds of meat from different sources and consumes about a gallon of water. His average growth rate is one pound per day, an astonishing record compared to any other big cat in the world. 

Hercules is the healthiest and fittest liger in existence, and about 100 of them are said to reside in various reserves around the world. The big boy is capable of leaping through a distance of 40 feet, and if he were to live in the wild, he would make a formidable predator.

Hercules is the pride and joy of Dr. Bhagvan Antle, an American exotic animal trainer, author, and conservationist who specializes in raising elephants, big cats, and of course, special hybrids. Dr. Antle has often said that the big boy is his greatest achievement, and it’s pretty easy to see why. 

Hercules and his brothers have never reproduced which strongly suggests a sterile nature. However, this observation is subject to continuing research, and the results are still inconclusive. The animals exhibit sexual behaviors and may even work on their urges as well. Hercules lives at the ranch with female tigers, a living arrangement that can be seen with other ligers around the world.

Several anti-liger campaigns have come up in the past, with activists insisting against the crossbreeding of lions and tigers. They claim the animals are prone to renal disease and heart conditions, have small bones, and would often die young. However, the life of Hercules has made these claims extremely difficult to verify because the big boy is as strong and as healthy as any other big cat in the entire world.

Thanks to a trait from his tiger mom, Hercules loves to swim and despite his massive size, he’s actually pretty good at it. You can’t help but just love him.

References

  1. Hercules, 922-Pound Liger, Is The World’s Largest Living Cat (PHOTOS).” Huff Post. Andres Jauregul. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  2. Hercules the Liger.”
  3. The confusing world of the Liger.Wildlife Way Station. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
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