The liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion (Panthera leo) and a tigress (Panthera tigris), hence has parents with the same genus but of different species. It is distinct from the similar hybrid tiglon. It is the largest of all known cats and extant felines.
Ligers enjoy swimming which is a characteristic of tigers and are very sociable like lions but are more likely to live past birth than tiglons. However ligers may inherit health behavioural issues due to conflicting inherited traits, but this depends on the genetic traits of the parents. Ligers exist only in captivity because the habitat of the parental species do not overlap in the wild. Notably, ligers typically grow as large as both parents put together.
The history of ligers dates to at least the early 19th century in, India Asia. In 1798, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844) made a colour plate of the offspring of a lion and a tiger.
In 1825, G.B. Whittaker made an engraving of liger cubs born in 1824. The parents and their three liger offspring are also depicted with their trainer in a 19th Century painting in the naïve style.
Two liger cubs which had been born in 1837 were exhibited to William IV and to his successor Victoria. On 14 December 1900 and on 31 May 1901, Carl Hagenbeck wrote to zoologist James Cossar Ewart with details and photographs of every liger born at the Hagenbeck’s Tierpark in Hamburg in 1897.