- A-Z Animals
The lion is a “Big Cat”, presently found in Africa and India. It is easily recognizable from its long mane, a prominent feature of the male lions. They are classified as keystone predators and reside at the top of the food chain in their habitat. Lions live in groups, hunt prey, and rear their young together, a trait not common in most cats.
Once upon a time, the lion was more widely seen throughout the world. However, due to shrinking habitats and indiscriminate hunting, their population has dwindled, nowadays living in a handful of protected parks and reserves.
While presently a handful of species remain, lions were once spread throughout the world. Some extinct species include the Barbary lion of North Africa, the American lion, and the European lion.
Size: Length: Females: 63–72 in (160–184 cm) Males : 72–82 in (184–208 cm)
Weight: Females: 240 – 316 lb (110 -143 kg) Males: 350 – 496 lb (160 – 225 kg)
Body and Coloration: Lions have a muscular build with a small round head. Their color may range from a light buff to a silvery-gray, or even a yellowish-red and dark brown, with the hindquarters being lighter. The shaggy manes vary from reddish-brown to black.
Mane: Male lions have a signature mane made up of hair darker than the rest of their bodies, deepening in color over time. A larger mane indicates several factors, such as a long reproductive life, greater success at fighting other males, and overall better health. The testosterone hormone is responsible for the development of the manes. So, castrated males, or those with a low level of the hormones will either lose their mane or have no mane at all.
Female lions rarely have manes, and if they do, one of the researched reasons behind the same is an increase in the cortisol and androstenedione levels.
Tail: Lions have a powerful tail ending with a distinctive tuft of hair. Cubs initially don’t have tufts, developing them at 5 1/2 months and becoming identifiable at 7 months.
African lions are scattered across the sub-Sahara, while the Asiatic lion is limited to the Gir National Park in Gujrat, western India.
Most lions prefer savannahs and grasslands, preferably with a few acacia trees to provide shade when it gets hot. The Asiatic lion lives in a mix of dry, savannah, and deciduous scrub forests.
On average, these big cats live for around 10-15 years.
Due to its vast palette, the lion is considered an apex predator and a hypercarnivore, some thriving on wild animals, while a few on domestic livestock.
The preferred prey for the African lion includes African buffaloes, gemsbok, giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest, and zebras. Sometimes, they may even consume porcupines and small reptiles.
On the other hand, the chital and sambar deer form the majority of the diet of the Asiatic lion, though domestic livestock also makes up a significant part.
Carrion forms a considerable part of a lion’s diet. Scavenging lions keep an eye out for vultures or marabou storks circling, indicating a dead animal nearby.
Full-grown adult males require around 15 lb (7 kg) of meat, while females need 11 lb (5 kg). However, lions usually eat much more than that in a single session, eating up to 66 lb (30 kg) at a time.
This species does not have a fixed breeding season. Once the female is in heat, the male has sex with her. Both genders initiate copulation. When mating, the male mounts the female, biting her neck throughout the process to keep her docile.
After a gestation period of a 110 days, a litter of 4-6 cubs is born. The mothers give birth to them in a secluded den away from the rest of the pride, returning after 6-8 weeks when the young have matured a little. Lionesses often give birth simultaneously to avoid competition during feeding, since the cubs indiscriminately suckle from any of the nursing mothers of the pride.
Cubs are born blind, weighing 2.6–4.6 lb (1.2–2.1 kg) at birth. Initially, they are wary of other adults but become more friendly and playful as time goes on. They reach maturity after 3-4 years, then the males are evicted from the pride or may even challenge the existing males. Females will usually stay with their group but sometimes become nomads. Often nomadic males and females will start their own pride.
The IUCN lists the lion as “Vulnerable” or “VU”. Several species of lion have become extinct in the wild, while the existing species are protected in reserves and parks worldwide. These include Waza National Park in Cameroon, Alatash National Park in Ethiopia, and the Gir National Park in India.
Normally, hyenas do not form a part of the lion’s diet as they do not provide sufficient sustenance. However, weak or old lions may attack them for food.
It is estimated that there are about 20,000 lions left in the world.
Despite their nickname, “King of the Jungle”, lions live in grasslands or open areas with few trees.
The lion is commonly associated with strength and courage. It is also a symbol of majesty, justice, and military might
Yes, lions are one of the “Big Cats”.
Lions can run short bursts of speeds, reaching 50 mph (80 kph) during these periods.
As an apex predator, lions face few threats. Old or weak lions and cubs can sometimes be attacked by cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas, while crocodiles have been known to attack them at times.
Physically, tigers are usually larger than lions.
Lions are capable of climbing trees, however, most trees in their habitat cannot support their weight.
Baby lions are primarily referred to as cubs, though sometimes they are called whelps or lionets.
A female lion is called a lioness.
They are not good swimmers and are more suited to land. Lions can swim though, and sometimes on hot days will cool off with a quick dip.
As the result of a condition called leucism, some lions can show a patchy white pigmentation. However, they are not natural albinos, as its eyes and skin have the same color as a normal lion.