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Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Lion Cubs
Lion Cubs
© www.pgoimages.com
Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Lion Cubs
Lion Cubs
© www.pgoimages.com
Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

© www.pgoimages.com
Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Lion Cubs
Lion Cubs
© www.pgoimages.com
Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Male Lion
Male Lion
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Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Lion Range Map (Africa)
Lion Range Map (Africa)

Barbary Lion in Captivity (20th Century)
Barbary Lion in Captivity (20th Century)

Lioness resting in a tree
Lioness Resting in a Tree
Photographer: Cody Pope
Latin Name Panthera leo
Conservation Status Vulnerable
Location Africa & North West India
Colour Tawny/Yellow
Length 1.7 - 2.5 m (5.5 - 8.25 ft)
Tail 0.9 - 1.1 m (3 - 3.5 ft)
Weight 120 - 250 Kgs (265 - 550 lbs)
Life Expectancy

12 - 16 Yrs (Wild)
25 Yrs (in Captivity)

Main Characteristics

The Lion is the second largest feline species. They have a body length between 1.7 and 2.5 m (5.5 - 8.25 ft), a tail length between 0.9 and 1.1 m (3 - 3.5 ft) and they weigh between 120 and 250 Kgs (265 - 550 lbs). Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 50 % more.

Their colouration can vary from nearly white to deep brown, but tawny/yellow is the most common colour. They are solidly built and have a long tail which has a black tuft on the end.

Male Lions have a very distinctive mane. The mane enables them to be distinguishable from a female Lion from a distance, it acts as protection in a fight and it is also a sign of a healthy Lion. The mane is thick and woolly and it develops on the neck and shoulders as they mature.

Lions lack endurance and have to be close to their prey before they attack. In short bursts they can reach speeds of 80 Km/hr (50 mph). Hunting takes a lot out of them and they spend up to 20 hours per day resting. Lions are among the top ten fastest land animals in the world.


Lions are found in Africa and the Gir Forest in North West India. They live on the fringes of deserts, in woodlands or on open savannahs.

Lions live in prides that consist of 3 - 30 individuals, but they usually average at 4 - 6 individuals. The pride will be made up of females that are related to each other and males that are related to each other, but not to the females.

Lionesses stay in the pride that they were born into, but males are expelled from it when they reach maturity. They usually form coalitions with other males, often to whom they are related, and they hunt together.

Male Lions defend the pride and they patrol and mark their territory with urine and faeces. The size of a Lions home territory depends on the available resources but it can be between 8 and 150 sq. miles (13 - 240 sq. Kms). Competition between the males to lead the pride is fierce and they only tend to hold ownership of it for 2 - 3 years.


The diet of a Lion mainly consists of antelopes, gazelles, warthogs, wildebeest, deer, buffalos, young giraffes, young elephants, zebras and occasionally hares and birds. They will also readily eat carrion and sometimes they take kills from hyenas and wild dogs.

Hunting usually takes place either at night or dawn and several females will hunt together in a pack to increase their chances of success. They will stalk their victim until they are within 30 m (98 ft) then they will launch a short powerful attack and prey is usually killed by strangulation. Male Lions that are attached to a pride do not usually participate in hunting unless it is for large prey such as a buffalo.

Adult females need 5 Kgs (11 lbs) of meat per day and adult males 7 Kgs (15 lbs) of meat per day. Lions can survive for long periods without water as they get all the moisture they need from plants and their prey.


After a gestation period of 100 - 120 days, 2 - 5 cubs are born in a den. When they are born they are blind, helpless and they weigh less than 2.3 Kgs (5 lbs). They have a spots on their coat which disappear as they get older.

Within 3 weeks they have their eyes open and they can walk around, and by the time they reach 1 month old they have their first set of teeth. They are weaned when they reach 6 - 7 months old but they stay in the vicinity of their mother for the first 2 years.

The females in a pride will synchronize their reproductive cycles so they all have cubs together. The cubs are cared for by all the females in the pride so if a mother is away hunting another lactating Lioness will feed her young.

In the wild competition for food is fierce and between 14 and 73 % of cubs will die before they reach 2 years old.

A new male Lion in a pride will kill all the cubs under 2 years old, this encourages the females to come into season so the new male can mate with them and therefore all the cubs in the pride will be his.

Lionesses will become sexually mature at 2.5 - 3 years of age while a male Lion will become sexually mature at approximately 5 years of age.


Lions do not have many natural predators, but it has been known for hyenas to kill an injured Lion, or if food is scarce they will attack a healthy one.


Lions have several subspecies, the main differences being in location, size, mane appearance and distribution:

Barbary Lion
(Panthera leo leo)
They are also known as the Atlas Lion or Nubian Lion. They were found in North Africa continuing to Egypt. They are extinct in the wild and were the largest subspecies of Lion.

North East Congo Lion
(Panthera leo azandica)
The are found in the north eastern parts of the Congo.

South West African Lion
(Panthera leo bleyenberghi)
They are also known as the Katanga Lion and they are found in Zimbabwe, Angola and Zaire.

South East African Lion
(Panthera leo krugeri)
They are also known as the South African Lion or Transvaal Lion. They are found in the Transvaal region of south east Africa including the Kruger National Park.

East African Lion
(Panthera leo nubica)
They are also known as the Massai Lion and they are found in east Africa.

West African Lion
(Panthera leo senegalensis)
They are also known as the Senegal Lion. They are found in West Africa from Senegal to Nigeria.

Asiatic Lion
(Panthera leo persica)
They are also known as the South Asian Lion, Persian Lion or Indian Lion. They are only found in the Gir Forest in north east India and only approximately 350 of them exist in the wild.

Interesting Facts

The male Lion is the only cat to have a mane, thus giving it a regal appearance and earning it the title "King of the Beasts"

Lions are the only cats to live in groups, have a tuft at the end of their tail and have a mane.

Similar Animals

Mountain Lion
Snow Leopard
Clouded Leopard
Sunda Clouded Leopard


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