Which Big Cat is Really the Biggest of the Jungle?

There are a number of big cats living throughout the world, but one, in particular, reigns supreme as the largest of them all in the wild. Do you know which feline lays claim to being the king of the jungle, even if they don’t reside in one? Read on to find out.

Photo: Pixabay/matrishva

Lions or Tigers

If you’ve narrowed it down to lions or tigers due to their impressive sizes, you’re on the right track. The lion (Panthera leo) is a large cat of the genus Panthera native to Africa and India. Historically, it inhabited much of southwest Asia to northern India at one time. Males can grow to lengths of 10 feet with their 2- to 3-foot tails. They weigh between 330 to 550 pounds. Impressive? Yes, but they’re not the biggest cat in the wild. That title goes to the Siberian tiger.

siberian tiger
Photo: Pixabay/Pixel-mixer

Siberian Tiger

Weighing in at up to 660 pounds and measuring as much as 13 feet in length, the tiger takes the title of the world’s largest cat species. Native to Asia, they are beautiful creatures whose numbers are dwindling in the wild.

But it is the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur tiger, a subspecies found in the northwest of China, Russia’s far east, and potentially North Korea, that is the biggest of them all. These cats are said to be genetically close to the now-extinct Caspian tiger subspecies (Panthera tigris virgata), with the two lines descending from a common ancestor.

Photo: Алексей Шилин, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ligers and Tigons

In captivity, however, ligers are considered the largest cat on the planet. In zoos, lions are sometimes bred with tigers to create hybrids for research purposes. The liger is bigger than a lion and a tiger, whereas most tigons are relatively small compared to their parents due to reciprocal gene effects.

Tigons are produced when a male tiger breeds with a female lion. Ligers are the progeny of a male lion bred with a female tiger. Although both animals are the result of a crossbreed between a tiger and a lion, their specific parentage is what differentiates the two.

Photo: Pixabay/ELG21

Big Cat Hybrids

The leopon is a hybrid between a female lion and a male leopard. The heads of these animals are similar in appearance to that of a lion (males have manes) while the rest of the body bears similarities related to leopards. Their scientific name is Panthera pardus × Panthera leo. As with ligers and tigons, these hybrids are produced in captivity and are unlikely to occur in the wild.

snow leopard
Photo: Pixabay/strichpunkt

Wild Cats by Size

To put it into perspective, here is a list of the 10 largest cats in order of size:

Tiger, lion, jaguar, cougar, leopard, cheetah, snow leopard, Eurasian lynx, the Sunda clouded leopard, and the clouded leopard. Cougars, of course, are also known as pumas and mountain lions, and there are a number of lynx, including the bobcat of North America. Now that you’ve brushed up on feline physiology, go forth and share.

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