They share physical and behavioural qualities of both parent species (spots and stripes on a sandy background).Male ligers are sterile, but female ligers often are fertile.As these characteristics vary highly between individuals, most of these forms were probably not true subspecies, especially as they were often based upon museum material with "striking, but abnormal" morphological characteristics.

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Males have about a 50% chance of having a mane, but if they grow them, their manes will be modest: around 50% the size of a pure lion mane.

Ligers are much bigger than normal lions and tigers, typically 3.65 m (12.0 ft) in length, and can weigh up to 500 kg (1,100 lb).

The liger is a cross between a male lion and a tigress.

Because the growth-inhibiting gene from the female tiger mother is absent, the growth-promoting gene passed on by the male lion father is unimpeded by a regulating gene and the resulting ligers grow far larger than either parent.

The lion's closest relatives are the other species of the genus Panthera: the tiger, snow leopard, jaguar, and leopard.

Results of phylogenetic studies published in 20 indicated that the jaguar and the lion belong to one sister group, which diverged about 2.06 million years ago.Results showed little genetic diversity between lions from Asia, West and Central Africa, whereas lions from East Africa were genetically closer to lions from Southern Africa.Results of another phylogeographic study indicate that southeastern Ethiopia, western Somalia and northern Kenya are genetic admixture regions between lions from Central Africa and Southern Africa, and that lions in the northern part of Central Africa are genetically closer to lions in North and West Africa, and those in the southern part of Central Africa closer to lions in Southern Africa.This population has been listed as Critically Endangered in 2015 and survives in West Africa from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin to Niger and Nigeria.It is possibly extinct in Mauritania, Mali, Ghana, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Togo.The Asiatic lion persica was the most distinctive, and the Cape lion had characteristics allying it more with P. Lions in eastern Kenya are genetically much closer to lions in Southern Africa than to lions in the Aberdare National Park in western Kenya.