Lion - Panthera leo
( Linnaeus, 1758 )



Lion Photo
Lion Location Map
Africa / Asia
Lion Photo Lion Location Map Africa / Asia

Subspecies: 14
Est. World Population: < 100,000


Body Length: 94 - 114 in
Tail Length: 24 - 36 in
Shoulder Height: 36 - 48 in
Weight: 350 - 500 lbs

Top Speed: 30 mph
Jumping Ability: (Horizontal)

Life Span: 10 - 12 yrs in the Wild
Life Span: 20 -25 yrs in Captivity

Sexual Maturity: 36 - 48 mo (Females)
Sexual Maturity: 36 mo (Males)
Litter Size: 3 - 4
Gestation Period: 105 - 120 days

Lions have a broad face, rounded ears, and a relatively short neck. Male lions have a mane, which varies in color. It usually is a silverish-grey or a yellowish-red. The darker the mane the older the lion. Captive lions are known to have longer and fuller manes than wild lions. The underside of males is a buff color, while the females' underside is whitish in color. Both sexes have sharp retractable claws on each paw and powerful shoulders, which they use to bring down their prey. Hinge-like jaws containing 2 inch canines also aid the lion in hunting and catching their prey.

- Zaire
- Angola
- South Africa
Barbary Lion - North Africa (REGARDED AS EXTINCT)
Cape Lion - South Africa (REGARDED AS EXTINCT)
- Eastern Africa
- Gir Forest, India
- West Africa

The lion is usually associated with the savannah grasslands of Africa, where, as the largest predator, it can choose from a wide selection of prey. The grassy plains upon which its large prey animals feed provides concealment for the lion, which relies on stealth, followed by a short burst of speed, to hunt.

A small, endangered population lives in the woodlands of the Gir Forest of India. The Lion adapts to this wooded habitat with a less social lifestyle. It avoids the densest forests, however, where prey is scarce. African lion populations also survive in the Kalahari Desert. The lion will venture near villages and farms, preying upon domestic livestock.

Biomes: tropical savanna & grasslands

Ethiopian: These creatures once ranged throughout Africa and from Europe to Iran and India.

Life Cycle:
Lions are polygamous, and in the wild they breed every two years. During the females oestrous period, the male and the female mate once every 20 minutes for 5 days. During this time if the dominant male is not around, she will breeding with other males in his pride. These animals have a gestation period between 100 - 120 days. Litters occur in 20-month intervals and consist of 3 cubs. Cubs are blind at birth and require nurturing care from their mother. In appearance they look something like a little ball of hair, but once they reach 2 years of age they weigh 100 kilograms and are not treated like cubs any longer. Males reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 years and females become sexually active at the age of 3 or 4 years. By this time the males are ready live on their own and the females are ready to start looking for a mate. Lions that are held in captivity have a life expectancy of 25 years or more. The life expectancy in the wild is more like 9 to 10 years, because of diseases and famine, injuries sustained during a hunt, and fighting with other lions.

Food & Hunting:
The lion's diet varies by region and may include medium-to-large hoofed mammals, such as gazelle, impala and zebra. It'll also scavenge the kills of hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, or leopards.

In large prides, hunting is the females' duty, and is undertaken at dusk or at night. The lioness is an expert at stalking and the colour of her coat helps conceal her. When hunting alone, a lioness creeps close before making the final sprint and pounce. She brings the prey down with her forepaws or teeth, and kills it with a bite to the throat. This bite suffocates the prey and may even sever its spine. The male then arrives to share in the kill.

hunting alone or in a small family group, a lioness might make a kill in one out of every dozen attempts. A pride of 20 or 30 lionesses, however, can achieve about twice this kill rate.

The lion is one of the most social of all cats. It lives in a pride which may contain up to 40 members, but usually consists of a single adult male and about six adult females, along with their offspring. There may be smaller subgroups, known as companionships, within the pride, but the large unit is essential for team-hunting.

The size of the pride's territory is defined by food availability and ranges from 3 to 61 square kilometers. Adults of either sex will maintain this territory by roaming its boundaries, urinating and leaving strong-smelling scent-marks on bushes to warn off other prides or nomadic males. The main responsibility of mature males is to protect the pride. They also help define the limits of the pride's territory by patrolling it and roaring loudly.

Lions of either sex spend most of the day - up to 20 hours - resting or sleeping. After a successful hunt, lions can spend even more time resting, as they won't need to hunt for several days.

By 100 AD no lions remained in Greece. By 1900, they were scarce in Syria; today Eurasian wild lions are limited to the Gir sanctuary in India. Lions are also limited in areas in Kenya and Tanzania. Some still may be found in South West Asia, but no recent sitings have been reported. A great portion of the lions roam the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Competition from humans for the grassland has led to a drastic reduction in the lion's range. Lions now survive in greatest number where humans are sparse. Licensed hunting for sport continues in some areas, but the lion is protected in national parks, such as the Masai Mara in Kenya.

All wild cats receive some protection under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species CITES. Within the National parks, lion populations tend to be very stable, but outside they fluctuate with food supplies and human intervention. Because these large prides live in open savannas, they serve as easy targets for poachers and hunters. In some sanctuaries tourists come to observe these beasts' behaviors, and within such confines their survival is not endangered.

Other Details:
A lion's resounding roar can be heard more than six miles away.

Slow compared to a cheetah, a lion can still sprint at up to 30 mph.

Until about 10,000 years ago, lions could be found in North America.

Brakefield, Tom. Big Cats: Kingdom of Might. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 1993
Alden, Peter. National Audubon Society Field Guide To African Wildlife. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1995
Alderton, David. Wild Cats Of The World. New York: Facts on File, 1995
Nowak, Ronald. Walker's Mammals Of The World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999

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Database Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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