liger hercules abbeyroad

Hercules, the 900lb liger, crosses Abbey Road and takes the Underground as he goes on a tour of 'Sixties London'

By Mail Online: 28 Jan 2010

At first glance it looks like the monster beast is prowling around the streets of London.

But even though Hercules the liger appears to be taking in the sights of the capital - he's really sunning it up in the Freestyle Music Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The aptly-named Hercules looks happy and relaxed as he pads around the mock-up English city that celebrates the British music invasion of the States in the 1960's.

Liger crossing Abbey Road
Hercules the liger walks across the iconic Abbey Road set
in a mock-up of London in a U.S. music park

Beatles in London

And in a graphic display of his incredible size and strength, Hercules stops for a spot of lunch handed down from the top of an iconic 1967 double decker bus, eating and drinking his way through some of the 25lbs of meat and gallon of water he needs each day.

'Hercules is a prime example of hybrid vigour, which he gets from his lion father and his tigress mother,' said Dr Bhagavan 'Doc' Antle, the founder of The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in South Carolina, who has brought up eight-year old Hercules since birth.

'The social side of his personality of course is inherited from his father and the pensive, observant nature is inherited from his mother.

'As a mixture of the world's largest two big cats, Hercules is an impressive specimen and a pretty well balanced and relaxed guy too.'

Liger in front of Underground
Hercules poses with Ragani Ferrante from TIGERS outside a 'London Underground' station

Pounding his way past one of London's famous black cabs, Hercules' bright and wide eyes take in the sights and sounds around him.

'This excursion demonstrates the sheer size and power of Hercules as he walks past some of the most recognisable landmarks in the world,' said Dr Bhagavan.

'Most people are aware in their everyday lives of the size of a double decker bus and they know how large that is.

'Now they can see that Hercules is larger than the black cab and can easily stretch his way to the top of a London bus.'

London Tour Bus
TIGERS staff feed Hercules from the top of a double decker bus, showing the creature's immense size

Standing four-and-a-half-feet high at the shoulder and almost 6ft tall at the tips of his ears, Hercules has a page devoted to him in the Guinness Book of World Records.

'People ask me if Hercules is the "largest" big cat in the world and my response to that is always that he has an entire section in the book of records,' explained Dr Bhagavan. 'There have been fat cats and unhealthy looking cats, but Hercules is an exceptional specimen and you just have to look at him and this photo-shoot to appreciate his physique.

'One thing I have always thought when I look at Hercules and indeed all big cats is that to look into their eyes is to look into God's own eyes.'

Being photographed next to a traditional London black cab again highlights the size of Hercules

Able to run in short bursts as fast as a male tiger, Hercules approached his day trip to the Freestyle Music Park the same way he does any new adventure.

'He is excited by any new environment," said Dr Bhagavan. 'Hercules becomes bright eyed and attentive to me, and his handlers from TIGERS take real joy in accompanying him on these new experiences.

'His parents Arthur, a lion, and Ayla, a tigress, were outstanding cats and this is obvious when you take a look at Hercules.'

Working from TIGERS base at Myrtle Beach, Dr Bhagavan is keen to point out that despite people's perceptions, the population of wild lions is declining.

'Everyone is aware that tigers are critically endangered, but it is the population of lions that is not on the table. There are only around 20,000 left in the wild and this needs to be addressed.'

Spending the majority of his day sleeping, Hercules and his brothers, Sinbad, Zeus and Vulcan are just some of the cats under Dr Bhagavan's care.

'I have 25 years of experience with big cats,' he explained. 'One point I must make is the commonly held misconception that ligers are inbred and unhealthy.

'That is a fallacy and is untrue.'