If you had to guess what the biggest cat on Earth is, what would you say?
Most people would probably guess the African male lion or tigers from the Asian continent, but as big and strong as these cats are, they top out at relatively low weights compared with the current world record holder.
African male lions generally weigh up to 420 pounds while wild tigers generally tip the scales at upwards of 660 pounds.
The largest cat in the world is a three-time Guinness Book of World Records holder, and he resides in a safari park that is easily accessible by the general public.
Most people have never heard of this rare animal, but he is particularly well known among big cat aficionados because of his timeless nickname and imposing size.
He can be found in one of the most popular resort towns in the United States, and is capable of swimming or running up to 50 miles at a time.
Meet the World’s Biggest Cat: Hercules the Liger!
Hercules The Liger is a GIANT Cat
Standing a whopping 12 feet tall on his hind legs and weighing in at over 900 pounds, Hercules the Liger is considered to be the world’s biggest cat.
Located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari, Hercules outweighs the average African male lion by more than double.
While Hercules has a diet consisting of 20 pounds of beef or chicken each day, he burns it off quickly considering the incredible amount of exercise he is known for doing.
He was born among a litter of four ligers back in November 2003 at the preserve and named after none other than the mythological character. Hercules, who consumes on the low end 20 up to 25 pounds of meat daily (9-11 kg) and also has favorite logs he uses to sharpen his claws. This massive Liger has also traveled coast to coast here in the US to promote wildlife conservation.
He is believed to be one of only a handful of ligers left worldwide.
Hercules weighed in at his record weight in 2013, when he was measured at 922 pounds. This was considered to be the maximum weight ever recorded for a healthy and non-obese Liger.
Hercules, the largest non-obese liger in the world, is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest living cat on Earth, weighing in at 418.2 kg (922 lb). Photo From: James Ellerker/Guinness World Records. Pictured In: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA
How Much Did Hercules The Liger Weigh At Birth?
Making his size even more remarkable is his birth weight — believe it or not the strapping tiger/lion hybrid was just four to five pounds at the time of his birth! Making this massive liger weigh about half of the weight of a human baby at birth. Can someone say ‘MASSIVE GAINS!’?
Here are some more stats on Hercules the Liger courtesy of BigCatRescue.org:
What is a Liger Anyway?
The liger is a hybrid animal which means that it is a species that has been bred with two other species. It is an offspring of a male lion (also known as Panthera leo) and a female tiger (also known as Panthera tigris). This is the largest of all known extant felines.
Ligers look like a giant lion but with muted stripes kind of like their tiger ancestors. Ligers are a playful animal and enjoy swimming, which is a characteristic of tigers in the wild naturally, and are very sociable just like lions. They do exist in captivity because these habitats of the parental species do not actually exist in the wild. Would the liger hang out with the lions? the tigers? It would be a bit confusing.
Historically speaking, when the Lion in Asia was on the move, the territories of both lions and tigers did technically overlap and there are some urban legends of ligers existing in the wild in this region of the world. Good to note, Ligers typically grow larger than either parent species, unlike tigons.
What are Tigons? In Comparison To Ligers?
Tigons are hybrid cross-breeds of male tiger and lioness (female lion), whereas a Liger is a cross-breed of a male lion and female tiger. Same breeds, different breeding sexes. Make sense? They both develop different traits.
The liger and the tigon do possess distinct features of both parents, in their own proportions, but are generally larger than both of them. It is thought that these species, both male ligers and tigons are sterile and not able to reproduce. However, the females, may be able to produce young here and there.
The general fertility patterns of hybrid big cat females has been well documented across a number of different hybrids.
What Does A Typical Liger Look Like?
Parents: Male lion and female tiger
Born: Generally in captivity, but historically in Asiatic regions of the world in the wild.
Average Height: 6 feet, taller when fully stretched
Claws: The size of a velicoraptor’s, about two inches long and one inch thick
Likes: Swimming, in stark contrast to a male African lion’s tendencies
Hercules The Liger’s Claim to fame: The world’s biggest hybrid cat
Controversy Swirls as Liger Park Owner is Charged
Despite the incredible nature of the Safari Park, which includes lions, tigers, and more, it should be known that its owner, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, was charged with one count of felony wildlife trafficking in October 2020, after it was alleged that he and another man illegally trafficked lion cubs.
Two of Antle’s daughters were also indicted on two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
Do Ligers Roam Free in the Wild?
According to BigCatRescue.org, ligers do not occur in the wild, probably “because of the same reason humans do not breed with gorillas or chimps,” the site said.
“Crossing the species line” does not generally occur in the wild, because “it would result in diminished fitness of the offspring,” said Ronald Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.
The Gir National Forest in India is the only place in the world where lion and tiger habitats overlap, adding to speculation that wild ligers may have roamed the area hundreds of years ago, although Tilson doesn’t believe it.
“This would be highly improbable, because the Gir forest is really very dry and not optimal tiger habitat,” he said.
For now, let’s just enjoy the incredible specimen that is Hercules while we still can, as the world’s reigning champ is getting up there in age.
Check out this video of the World’s Largest Cat going for his daily walk, and be sure to share this with any big cat lovers in your life!
How Long Do Ligers Typically Live?
Ligers have a similar lifespan to lions and tigers. Like lions and tigers, they can live more than 20 years in captivity. In the wild, it is unsure how long they can live.
Shasta, a ligress (female liger) was born at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City on 14 May 1948 and died in 1972 at age 24. Nook, a male at the Valley of the Kings Animal Sanctuary in Wisconsin died in 2007, at 21 years old. Hobbs, a male at the Sierra Safari Zoo in Reno, Nevada, lived to almost 15 years of age before succumbing to liver failure and weighed in at 450 kg (992 lb). He was born in 1943 and died in 1960. South Africa still has two ligers at its one zoo at Bloemfontein.
Check Out Hercules The Ligers Parent Cats
As you can see in the video below. Hercules The Liger has the father lion and the mother tiger. This massive cat trumps both of them in size however!
Were There Any Cats Bigger Than Hercules The Liger?
That is a great question. There was one cat in Wisconsin that was actually quite a bit larger than Hercules the Liger, believe it or not. This cats name was nook.
Nook was a male liger held in captivity at the Valley of the Kings which is an Animal Sanctuary in Wisconsin. This massive cat died in 2007 and made Hercules look small: he weighed over 550 kg (1,213 lb). This is a massive weight for a big cat, even for a liger! Many people believe that he was the largest cat to ever live on Earth. However, if there were Ligers in the wild in Asiatic parts of the earth that roamed the jungles untouched there’s really no telling how massive these Ligers could have gotten. Who knows, maybe there was a Liger that weighed over 1,500 pounds since Hercules was 300 pounds smaller than Nook! We’ll never know.
A Photo Of Nook The Liger. A Cat That Was Seemed Obese.
The Liger World website shares that Nook was abandoned by its owners when the cat was around 3 and a half months old. Even at such a young age it is very common within the United States to abandon such large cats because they grow so big that it becomes nearly impossible for their owners to truly care for them. Their food consumption alone can be 20-30 pounds of meat daily, and that doesn’t even include other care. It’s a very costly endeavor. He was transferred to the animal sanctuary at the age of just 4 months old.
Nook weighed over 550 kg (1,213 lb), and may have even weighed up to 615 kg (1,400 lb). This is a huge weight, a massive size even for a big cat, even a liger. Unfortunately, at the age of 21 Nook was euthanized to death because of cancer. He lived an average lifespan however.
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