Lion (Panthera leo)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Felidae
Size:    Length: 5 to 11 feet (1.5 to 3.4 m)  Height to shoulder: 3.5 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) 
Weight: 242 to 573 pounds (110 to 260 kg)
Diet: Zebras, wildebeests, buffalo, gazelles, giraffes, warthogs and insects
Distribution: Africa, India
Young:  2 to 6 cubs every 2 years
Animal Predators:  Hyena
IUCN Status: Vulnerable in Africa; Critically Endangered in India
Terms: Young: Cub  Group: Pride 
Lifespan: Up to 21 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity



         Lions once lived throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

         Unlike many other big cats, lions live and hunt together in groups.

         Male lions are the only types of cats with manes.

         Captive lions who have been fixed lose their manes.

         Like other cats, lions are capable tree-climbers.


Lions are usually yellowish-beige or yellowish-red in colour, with rounded ears and a long tail. Their undersides are lighter in colour, ranging from buff to creamy white. Like many other types of cats, they have retractable claws. Only male lions have a mane, and as they grow older, their mane darkens. Male African lions have fuller manes than Asian lions. Asian lions have an extra skin flap on the abdomen, absent in African lions. 



Lions live in open woodlands or thick bush, where sufficient cover provides opportunity for hunting. They live in India and the sub-Saharan grasslands and semi-arid plains of Africa.  


Feeding Habits

Lions hunt other mammals, including zebras, wildebeests, buffalo, gazelles, giraffes and warthogs. The females do most of the hunting, and hunt together in groups. The males eat first from the meat killed by the females, before the females and then the cubs get their turn. 



After mating, female lions are pregnant for almost four months, and just before giving birth, a female will go away to a secluded spot. The cubs are born with spots. Females keep their cubs away from the group until they are approximately two months old. By three months, most of the cubsí spots will have faded. Because many of the females in the pride give birth at the same time, they share the duties of taking care of each otherís cubs, including nursing them. Although they may continue nursing until four months of age, cubs typically begin to eat meat when they are two months old and will begin to hunt just before they reach the age of one. Young males are expelled when they reach two or three years. Male lions usually do not provide any care for the cubs, but form boundaries around the prideís territory and defend it from intruders. 



Related female lions (sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins) live in groups called prides, bonding together to raise their cubs. Female cubs born into a pride will stay with it for life, although sometimes prides that grow too large in number will split into smaller groups. Groups of males, called coalitions, often join up with the prides, to mate and also to feed. Every few years, the males are challenged by another group of males, and they fight fiercely to keep the intruders out. If the new group wins the fight, they may try to kill off the existing cubs of the defeated males. The females defend their cubs vigorously, and when several of them band together to fight off one male, they manage to save some of the cubs. When a new group of males have established themselves with the females, relations are peaceful, with the males, females and cubs living comfortably together, displaying signs of affection and playfulness. 



Lions became extinct in Greece by 100 AD and in Europe almost 2,000 years ago. In India, there are only 200 lions left, living in the Gir Forest. Hunting lions is prohibited in some African countries. 



Lion Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US