What happened when a white lion and a white tiger had babies together? The internet lost its collective mind, as photos of the wild cat hybrid cubs (called Ligers, of course) was about the cutest thing to ever land online. Back in 2014, the world’s first white tigers were born and they were the most adorable — and rarest — big cats in existence.
At the time that Yeti, Odlin, Sampson, and Apolo were born, in 2013, they were the first of their kind: born from a white male lion, Ivory, and a white female tiger, Saraswati. In 2014, there were around 300 white lions and 1,200 white tigers left in the world, so their parents were already fairly rare.
Then came these sweet lion-tiger cubs, with only about 1,000 ligers in the world, most of which live in captivity. The family of ligers and their parents live at the T.I.G.E.R. Sanctuary in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The sanctuary has successfully bred ligers before, including Hercules, which the Guinness Book of World Records listed as the biggest cat in the world, coming in at 922 pounds.
The safari’s director and founder of the T.I.G.E.R Sanctuary, Doc Antle, told the Daily Mail about how quickly the cubs were growing, noting: “I skip a day seeing them and it looks like they’ve doubled in size. It’s like someone’s blowing them up with a tire pump.”
The cubs had enjoyed swimming and were sociable, with the smallest, Apollo, acting most like a house cat, enjoying the handlers petting him. The largest of the litter, Yeti, by comparison, was more energetic and liked to be the center of attention.
According to the Myrtle Beach Safari website, Doc Antle believes that Yeti will reach the size of his Uncle Hercules, noting: “I am convinced Yeti will make the Guinness Book of Records. He’s so big already – has such a big, fat head and paws. All the cubs grow so quickly but Yeti is already so much bigger.”
Further, Doc Antle explained that the ligers created quite a buzz, saying: “We’ve had everyone from congressmen to people from all walks of life get on planes to fly in to see such an incredibly unique … they have such a beautiful creamy color that I have never seen on a cat before.”
According to Ligerworld.com: “White ligers are not as much white as their parents but rather they have an off-white creamish color. Their fur color is slightly paler than the normal ligers.”
The Myrtle Beach Safari website notes that their “experience is a fully-guided walking tour which is completely interactive and lasts approximately 3 hours” and visitors can meet Hercules. The site explains that as part of a safari package, “you will be privy to a rare sighting while on tour, as there are believed to be only a handful of ligers worldwide.”
Among the comments on a video about the ligers are those who question whether this type of breeding is responsible, with one concerned commenter saying: “Crossbreeding two animals who’d probably kill each other in the wild, for monetary gain. They clearly don’t care about these poor animals and the genetic defects they suffer. Not to mention, they can’t breed. It’s not fair!”