Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is already considered to be his magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Sunday, 6 August 2017

RECALLING LONDON ZOO'S LIJAGUPARD - THE SUBJECT OF A (VERY) CROSSBRED CONTROVERSY


Frederick W. Frohawk's exquisite illustration of the London lijagupard (public domain)

In my previous ShukerNature blog article (click here), I drew attention to a very remarkable, and extremely sizeable, feline hybrid – Cubanacan the litigon, the result of a successful mating between a lion and a tigon (tiger x lioness hybrid), who was formerly exhibited at Alipore Zoo in Kolkata, India. Now, here is another truly extraordinary episode appertaining to big cat crossbreeding.

It began just over a century ago - with the arrival at London Zoo in 1908 of a singularly mysterious felid that resembled a slim, gracile lioness but was elegantly dappled with large brown rosettes recalling those of the Himalayan snow leopard Uncia uncia! Its owner was J.D. Hamlyn, a London-based animal dealer, who asserted that it had been captured in the Congolese jungles and represented a wholly new species (dubbed a Congolese spotted lion) - a statement that naturally attracted a great deal of media publicity. It was even portrayed in a beautiful drawing prepared by English zoological artist Frederick W. Frohawk, which opens this present ShukerNature article.

However, London Zoo's superintendent, cat expert Reginald I. Pocock, was sceptical of such grandiose claims, and dismissed this feline enigma as a leopard x lion hybrid (leopon), after which it was removed from London to Glasgow. Tragically, it died just a few years later - reputedly killed by a lion that broke through into its cage from a neighbouring enclosure - and was later exhibited as a mounted taxiderm specimen in standing pose (very closely resembling its pose in Frohawk's drawing) at France's National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Reginald I. Pocock, a legendary name in British zoology (Wikipedia - reproduced here on a strictly educational, non-commercial Fair Use basis only)

By the early 1930s, the full history of this controversial cat had finally been uncovered, and its extraordinary identity was at last exposed. At the turn of the century a male jaguar had mated with a leopardess at Chicago Zoo, the result of which was a litter of three jagupards (aka jaguleps), one male and two females. All three were later sold to a travelling menagerie, but whereas the male was killed by a lion his two sisters grew to adulthood, and both of them mated with a lion. Remarkably, these matings were viable, yielding several cubs - and it was one of these that found its way to London Zoo, deceitfully billed as a new species.

Bearing in mind that this amazing animal was the complex product of genetic intermingling between three different species of big cat - lion Panthera leo, leopard P. pardus, and jaguar P. onca - it is little wonder that it seemed so exotic in appearance and engendered such confusion. After all, it isn't every day that a lijagupard (aka lijagulep) turns up in London - or anywhere else, for that matter!

This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted from my book Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery, which contains detailed histories of a wide range of feline hybrids, including ligers and tigons, litigons, liligers, and titigers, leopons and lipards, jaglions, pumapards, jagupards, and many others too.






4 comments:

  1. What is your opinion on the mystery cat, the onza? Many native Mexicans insist its a jaguar and puma hybrid. But how likely are such matings to occur in the wild?

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    1. I would really like to know one of those native Mexicans, because as one of them I can tell you that Onza is one of the many names of the Cheetah, which is an African cat.

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    2. Biochemical and genetic analyses conducted upon the Rodriguez onza from 1986 revealed it to be identical to the puma in those respects, with no hint of any jaguar aspects. So if that specimen truly was an onza, I think that the onza is merely an ecomorph of the puma, i.e. a strain of puma that has evolved via natural selection certain distinctive external characteristics as a response to certain specific ecological requirements.

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  2. "Reginald I. Pocock, a legendary name in British zoology"

    Seeing as cat expert Reginald Pocock is the same man who named most of those Poecilotheria species that are so prized in the arachnoculture hobby*, I'm beginning to realise how legendary.

    * A community that would generally frown upon the kind of rampant hybridising documented here! It seems like a very unusual - and somewhat lax - sequence of situations to lead to a (let me check the spelling...) lijagupard. Still, I can't disagree that the illustration is interesting, and it would have been a sight to behold!

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