Zoo-bred offspring of a tiger and a lioness. The opposite cross, of a lion and a tigress, produces a liger. Differences in behavior and habitat make interbreeding of the tiger and lion unlikely in the wild. The tigon and the liger have features of both parents, in variable proportions, but are generally larger and darker than either. It is thought that most, if not all, male tigons and ligers are sterile; the females may be able to produce young.
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A tigon or tigron is a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a female lion. The tigon is not currently as common as the converse hybrid, the liger; however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tigons were more common than ligers.
Tigons can exhibit characteristics of both parents: they can have both spots from the mother (lions carry genes for spots — lion cubs are spotted) and stripes from the father. Any mane that a male tigon may have will appear shorter and less noticeable than a lion's mane and is closer in type to the ruff of a male tiger. It is a common misconception that Tigons are smaller than lions or tigers. They do not exceed the size of their parent species because they inherit growth-inhibitory genes from the lioness mother, but they do not exhibit any kind of dwarfism or miniaturisation; they often weigh around .
The comparative rarity of tigons is attributed to male tigers' finding the courtship behaviour of a lioness too subtle and thus may miss behavioural cues that signal her willingness to mate. However, lionesses actively solicit mating, so the current rarity of tigons is most likely due to their being less impressive in size than ligers, with a corresponding lesser novelty value. A century ago, tigons were evidently more common than ligers. Gerald Iles, in At Home In The Zoo (1961) was able to obtain three tigons for Manchester's Belle Vue Zoo, but wrote that he had never seen a liger. A number of tigons are currently being bred in China.
At the Alipore Zoo in India, a female tigon named Rudhrani, born in 1971, was successfully mated to an Asiatic Lion named Debabrata. The rare, second generation hybrid was called a li-tigon. Rudhrani produced seven li-tigons in her lifetime. Some of these reached impressive sizes—a li-tigon named Cubanacan (died 1991) weighed at least 800lb (363 kg), stood 52 inches (1.32 metres) at the shoulder, and was 11.5ft (3.5 m) in total length.
Reports also exist of the similar ti-tigon, resulting from the cross between a female tigon and a male tiger. Ti-tigons resemble golden tigers but with less contrast in their markings. A female tigon born in 1978, named Noelle, shared an enclosure in the Shambala Reserve with a male Siberian Tiger called Anton, due to the keepers' belief that she was sterile. In 1983 Noelle produced a ti-tigon named Nathaniel. As Nathaniel was three-quarters tiger, he had darker stripes than Noelle and vocalized more like a tiger, rather than with the mix of sounds used by his mother. Being only about quarter-lion, Nathaniel did not grow a mane. Nathaniel died of cancer at the age of eight or nine years. Noelle also developed cancer and died soon after.