Lion: What You Should Know

The lion is a mammal and a separate animal species. Like the tiger, it belongs to the cat family and is therefore a predator. The lion is often called the “king of beasts”. With his large mane, the male is very conspicuous.

In nature, he lives today only in central and southern Africa. There is only one national park left with wild lions in India. It used to be found in almost all of Africa and in the area between Greece and India. You can also see lions in many zoos, but only rarely trained in the circus.

A fully grown lion is a meter and a quarter tall at the shoulders. Males weigh an average of 190 kilograms and females 125 kilograms. Females can be easily distinguished from males because they appear much more delicate. The females also have no mane. Lions can purr just like our domestic cats, but only on the exhale. The fur is sand-colored and has no pattern.

The lion appears in many legends, fairy tales, and films. Already in ancient times it was revered for its majestic appearance and depicted on vases and murals. It is an important heraldic animal. Many kings named themselves after him, for example, Richard the Lionheart. It can also be found in the sky: in the northern sky, there is the constellation of Leo, one of the signs of the zodiac.

How do lions live?

Lions are the only big cats that live in pride. This includes some females, mostly related to each other, and their children. There are also a few males in the pack, usually around three. They are not necessarily related to each other. The males rule over the females, but they also defend the females. A pack can contain up to thirty animals.

Each pack claims the territory for itself. The size of the territory depends on the number of animals in the pack, but also on the number of prey. A territory can be so large that it would take a person two to three weeks to circumnavigate it on foot. The lions mark the boundaries with their droppings and urine, but also with loud roars.
Young males spend about two to three years with their pack and are then chased away. They roam and associate with other younger males. If they feel strong enough, they will attack the males of another pack. If they win, they own the females. The little lions usually bite them dead so they can make their own cubs. The attacked males die or are injured. Then they die because they can no longer hunt enough prey.

Lions hunt at night or early in the morning. Their prey is zebras, antelopes, gazelles, and buffalos. Even young elephants and hippos can defeat them in a large pack. However, they do not defeat adult rhinos. You often hear that only the female’s hunt and the males then feed on the prey. But that’s not true.

Lions can run very fast, but they can’t keep it up for long. In addition, many prey animals are faster. So lions stalk as close as possible and then accelerate with full force. In addition, they make very long jumps. Nevertheless, at most every third attack leads to success, sometimes only every seventh.

How do lions breed?

Only the pack leader is allowed to mate with the females. The mother lion carries the cubs in her belly for about four months. She gives birth to one to four young at a time and nurses them with her milk. So long they remain in hiding. Then the mother brings them to the pack.

The young also suckle milk from other females in a pack until they are about six months old. The mothers also raise the young together. Even without milk, the young stay with their mother for about two years. Then they are sexually mature, so they can have their own young.

Female lions live up to twenty years. The males are usually killed or chased away by younger males beforehand. They will then no longer find a pack and starve to death.

Are lions endangered?

As a species, lions are not endangered. But there are several subspecies. Some are already extinct, others are endangered.
Most lions still live south of the equator in Africa and in eastern Africa. The different subspecies are related to each other. But they cannot meet because there are very long distances between them. Many live in national parks and are not endangered. But many governments are fighting for this because there are still many poachers.

Lions are also related to each other between the Sahara and the rainforest. However, they differ significantly from the groups in the south. There are also long distances between their habitats. Individual subspecies will probably survive, while others are threatened with extinction.

The third group is very small and related to sub-Saharan lions. It is the Asiatic lion, also known as the Persian lion or Indian lion. Today he only lives in the Gir National Park on a peninsula that belongs to India. He was almost exterminated. A good hundred years ago there were only about twenty animals left. Today there are again around three hundred. But because there were once so few animals, their genes are very similar. This can easily lead to deformities and diseases. It is therefore not certain whether and how this subspecies will continue to exist.

A fourth group is long extinct. The cave lion lived in Europe, North Asia, and Alaska. From him, however, there are only fossils and bones found in caves. The American lion and some other subspecies fared similarly.

Many lions from different areas live in zoos today. Young animals are often exchanged with each other so that they mix better and produce healthy offspring. But there are fewer and fewer lions in the circus. Their territory is much too small there and they cannot lead a life as is usual in nature.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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