As the names suggest, ligers and tigons are offspring of lions and tigers that have been crossbred. This cross breeding takes place in captivity, such as in a zoo, or with the use of artificial insemination. One would assume that the result of cross breeding a lion and a tigress, or a tiger and a lioness, would be the same, however, there is a vast difference in the two.
Lion + Tigress = Liger
Ligers are the result of the breeding of a male lion and a female tigress. In appearance, they resemble both their parents, obtaining the fur color from their fathers, and light stripes from their mothers. The stripes are not as prominent as those on tigers. Sometimes, they also have faint spots on their skin, which is the result of the lion's genes. In few cases they grow a mane, but it is never as prominent as that of a lion. Rather, it appears more like that of a male tiger. The most remarkable feature of this animal species is that it has the capacity to grow twice as large as a lion, in build and in weight. When a liger stands, it can attain a height of almost 12 feet, and can weigh up to 1000 pounds. When they roar, they sound like lions. A male liger is usually infertile.
Tiger + Lioness = Tigon
Tigons aren't as impressive as ligers to people, simply because they are unable to attain the height and build that a liger does. In appearance, a tigon is darker, but it too, has faint stripes and spots. Also, if a tigon grows a mane, it will be very mild. Initially, these animals were very popular, but now the liger has surpassed all that the tigon could provide for amusement, with its strength. Now, there are very few tigons around. Males are infertile. Many believe that a tigon is much smaller than its parents, but the fact is that they can reach the size of their parents, though they may not exceed the size of their parents.
Being offspring of the same species, ligers and tigons are different yet similar in many ways. While in appearance they do not match up to each other, they do roar in a lion-like voice. They also have a liking for water, which is a trait synonymous with tigers. While lions are social animals, tigers are loners. It is this trait that affects these species most. Both these species are known to exhibit confused behavior, due to the difference of traits among lions and tigers.
Since the males of both species are infertile, it is impossible for them to reproduce. However, the female species of these breeds have been successfully bred with other animal species. For instance, they may be bred with lions and tigers. Thus, a female liger and a male lion would reproduce a Li-Liger, that would have dominant traits of a lion, and lesser traits of a tiger. On the other hand, a female liger and a male tiger would reproduce a Ti-Liger, that would have dominant traits of a tiger, and lesser traits of a lion. There are also Li-Tigons and Ti-Tigons, that are hybrids of such cross-breeding processes.
Though lions and tigers may co-exist in the wild, this kind of reproducing pattern does not occur in a natural habitat. This has happened when tigers and lions have been held together in captivity, or as a result of scientific research. Many animal conservationists do not approve of this kind of animal experimentation, simply because it will eventually lead to the disruption of the natural species, i.e., lions and tigers, making them endangered species (where the tiger already belongs). Moreover, this kind of unnatural process does not always yield healthy results. In fact, many ligers and tigons have suffered from several genetic diseases and are more prone to contracting health problems. Studies have shown that if such an event were to occur in the natural habitat, these animals would never be able to survive. This is because a liger is too heavy to charge towards its prey and will eventually starve, while a tigon, in several cases is too small to compete with other carnivores. This is why you may rarely spot them outside a zoo, in the wild.
Facts such as these remind us that sometimes it is better to allow nature to take its course, than to alter it. The behavioral tendencies that are displayed, i.e., the conflicting nature towards being social as well as loners, often leads to depression and eventually, death. Also, their susceptibility to disease considerably shortens their life span. Now, you may see one, only as a result of an accident, when a tiger and a lion find themselves in close proximity with the lack of another suitable mate. The process of experimentation with the help of artificial insemination is no longer approved.