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liger liger burning bright

Steady on there guys.

Not so fast. There were quite a few stories this week about Kiara, the world's first documented "liliger" cub, born at the Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia. A liliger is so-called because the father is a lion – how dull, just a plain old pedigree lion – and the mother is a liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger.

But the stories assumed we'd all heard of ligers. Sorry, not me. Sheltered life, I know. Grew up with a mongrel, true, but hybrid big cats are new to me.

William Blake's poem never went: "Liger liger burning bright/In the forests of the night". Judith Kerr never wrote The Liger Who Came to Tea. My kids don't eat Liger bars.

Now Kiara is undeniably a cute little thing, like a cross between, erm - a lion and a liger.

She turns heads and she'll turn even more when she's older. Thing is, what happens when she meets a handsome liliger? Does that make their cub a lililiger? And what happens when that cub grows up and meets someone?

Before you know it you've got Simon & Garfunkel's chorus to The Boxer on your hands: "Li li-li, li li-li li li li-li, li li-li, li li-li li li li-li, li-li-li li liger." Or something like it.

The daft thing being, of course, as everyone knows, that song is about a dog. Just look at the title.

The marketing opportunities for zoos are enormous. Gazelles and zebras? "Come and marvel at our gazebra. The last one died but we've built a gazebo from its bones where you can have an ice cream."

A dolphin and an octopus? "Thrill to the tricks our dophipus/octophin can perform. See how it juggles eight balls simultaneously and writes its name in ink!"

But deliberately messing with nature doesn't seem right and the zoo has been criticised for being "irresponsible and inhumane" by Big Cat Rescue. "It almost never works out for the individual cat," they say. "And in the rare case that it does, the number of animals that had to suffer in order for this one rare cat to exist is staggering."

It seems happier in the dog world. Labradoodles (labs and poodles) are pretty common. Not sure what happens if one of them meets a cocker spaniel, though. Is a cockerdoodle the result? Does that make the party to celebrate such an offspring a cockerdoodle do?

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