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Lions – The Big Cats

Lions Quiz
Lions Quiz

If you love Disney’s The Lion King, you probably love lions, too! These big cats really do seem like royalty. They are powerful, graceful, and have a roar that can be heard from up to 5 miles (8 kilometers) away! There are lots of cool facts about lions, some of them you may already know, but keep reading to find out more!

A lion is a large, carnivorous mammal belonging to the Felidae family. It is known for its distinctive mane, which is only found on male lions. Lions are apex predators and are found in sub-Saharan Africa and a small population in India.

They are social animals, living in prides consisting of females and their cubs, with males joining during mating season. Lions are threatened by habitat loss and poaching.

Lion Facts for Kids

  • Lions are the second largest big cat species worldwide.
  • They live in groups called prides.
  • Female lions, called lionesses, do most of the hunting.
  • A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away.
  • Lions rest for up to 20 hours a day.
  • Cubs are born with spots that fade over time.
  • The male lion’s mane grows as it ages.
  • Lions mainly eat large animals like zebras and wildebeest.
  • Lion’s lifespan is about 10-14 years in the wild.
  • Only male lions typically have manes.


Male lion
Male lion

The lion is a muscular, deep-chested large cat with a rounded head, a reduced neck, round ears and fur that differs in color from light buff to silvery grey, yellowish red and dark brown.

A lion’s mane is one of its most recognizable features, but only male lions grow manes. When male lions reach a year old, their mane starts growing. The color of the mane varies and darkens with age.

Some research shows that its size and color are influenced by environmental factors, such as average ambient temperature, and the presence of parasites such as ticks and fleas.

Female lion (lioness)
Female lion (lioness)

Lions are the second largest of all the big cats in the world, right after tigers. Most males weigh around 400 pounds (180 kilograms), while females weigh around 290 pounds (130 kilograms). The biggest lion ever recorded weighed over 800 pounds!

The average 8-year-old human weighs about 55 pounds, so it would take about 7 eight-year-olds to weigh the same as 1 male lion or 5 eight-year-olds to equal a female lion. That’s pretty heavy!


Lions are carnivores, which means they eat meat and hunt other animals for food. Males need to eat about 15.4 pounds of meat each day, which is much more than the 11 pounds of meat a female lion needs each day.

Lions generally hunt from dusk until dawn and spend the day resting. In nature, lions live in southern and eastern regions of Africa where it tends to be very hot during the day.

Lions will preserve their energy and try to stay cool during the hot days and they generally hunt while the sun is down and temperatures are cooler.

All about lions - An African lion image
An African lion – The lions are called Biggest CATS or The King of the Jungle

Most lions nowadays live in special reserves in Africa. These are places set aside for them where they cannot be hunted or hurt. It is estimated that about 20,000 lions live in Africa, while there are less than 300 Asian lions in the Gir forest of India and another 200 live in zoos around the world. Lions are an endangered species.

Just 100 years ago, there were more than 200,000 lions in Africa, but many have been killed by hunters, poachers, and ranchers. Lions live up to 16 years in the wild, but the oldest lion ever recorded lived to be 29 years old.

Lion prides - group of lions image
Lions live in groups called PRIDES.

Lions are pretty unique compared to other large cat species like tigers, leopards, and cheetahs. First, lions live in groups called prides. Most other cats are solitary animals, meaning they prefer to live and hunt alone.

A lion pride has up to 4 adult males, several adult females, and their cubs. The males are bigger and stronger, so their role in the group is to protect the pride’s territory and defend the cubs from any threats. T

he adult females in the group are responsible for hunting. These ladies all work together to bring down bigger animals like buffalo so they can feed the whole group from one hunt.

They are extremely fast runners and can reach speeds of 50 mph (80 km/h), but they can’t run this fast for very long.

Four lionesses catching a cape buffalo
Four lionesses catching a cape buffalo

Generally, lions eat their prey at the location of the hunt but sometimes they pull large prey under cover to protect it from scavengers like vultures, hyenas, and other large cats. When food is scarce, cubs suffer the most while all other pride members eat their fill, including the crippled and elderly lions that can live on the leftovers.

Food can be hard to come by during certain seasons, so lions may go a few days without eating anything, but once the females have a successful hunt, the whole pride with gorge themselves. Lions can eat up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) in one session and overfill their bellies.

The lions may even rest for a few hours before continuing to eat if they are unable to consume all of their prey in one sitting. Lions will also steal the kills of cheetahs and leopards if it is easier than hunting their own food. Sometimes lions will kill leopard and cheetah cubs and even adults when they get the chance.

Lions tend to dominate cheetahs and leopards, which is another reason they are considered kings and queens of the jungle.


female lion hunting image
All About Lions: The female lions do most of the hunting.

In human culture, the lion is one of the most widely recognized animal symbols. Lions are widely depicted in paintings, sculptures, in contemporary films and literature and even on national flags. These majestic cats are a symbol of strength and nobility in cultures across Europe, Asia and Africa.

They are depicted as the “king of the jungle” or “king of beasts,” and are a popular symbol for royalty, stateliness and sporting teams. In the region of sub-Saharan Africa, lions are a common character in the stories, proverbs and dances practiced by people, but they are rarely featured in visual arts.

The word for lion is Swahili, a language spoken in some regions of Africa, is “simba,” (just like in the movie The Lion King) which also means “aggressive,” “king,” and “strong.”

The lion continues to appear in modern literature, such as Aslan from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. What other movies, books, or stories do you know that feature lions as primary characters?

Big Cats

Big Cats include species like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Lions, often termed as ‘King of the Jungle,’ are the second-largest big cats and are unique due to their social structure of living in prides. They control the population of large herbivores, maintaining ecosystem balance. However, like other big cats, lions face threats from habitat loss and poaching, underlining the necessity for conservation.


Prides, the heart of lion society, set lions apart among big cats. A pride usually includes related lionesses, their cubs, and a few adult males. Lionesses lead cooperative hunts and care for the cubs, while males protect the pride and territory. Despite the male lion’s ‘King of the Jungle title, they rely on the females for sustenance, showing lionesses’ importance in the pride.


The savanna, a grassland with scattered trees, is the main habitat for lions. These big cats thrive in the African savanna, using tall grasses for cover while hunting herbivores like zebras and wildebeests. Acacia trees provide vantage points for lions to scan their territory. The vast savanna supports lions’ social structure, offering room for prides. Yet, human activities threaten these habitats and the lion populations.


Lionesses, central to lion prides, are crucial for their survival. Unlike males, lionesses hunt due to their agility and size. They also raise cubs, imparting survival skills. Despite the symbolic prominence of the male lion, it is the lioness that forms the pride’s backbone. This illustrates the complex social dynamics of the lion community.

Carnivorous Diet

Lions, as apex predators, have a carnivorous diet primarily comprising large herbivores like zebras and wildebeests. Lionesses, the hunters of the pride, coordinate to take down prey. Post hunt, the meal is shared, with adult males eating first. This carnivorous diet is central to the lions’ ecological and social role.

Lion Roar

The lion’s roar, an iconic sound, serves as a communication tool and a display of dominance. Heard up to five miles away, it helps keep prides together and deter rivals. Males typically roar louder than females, asserting their dominance. Essentially, the lion’s roar plays a vital role in lion communication, reinforcing their ‘King of the Jungle’ status.


Lion cubs, the young of lions, are crucial for the pride’s survival. Born in litters, they rely on lionesses for early survival. Their spots, fading over time, provide initial camouflage. Lionesses teach cubs survival skills, such as hunting. However, high cub mortality rates, due to predation and pride takeovers, pose challenges. Therefore, cub survival is key to the pride and species’ future.


The mane, a unique feature of male lions, symbolizes power and maturity. Its size and darkness indicate a lion’s age, health, and testosterone level. A larger, darker mane suggests a healthier, stronger male, attracting females and intimidating rivals.

While providing protection in fights, the mane can hinder hunting due to overheating and reduced stealth. Yet, it remains an iconic male lion feature, reinforcing their ‘King of the Jungle’ status.

National Parks

National parks offer protected habitats for lions, crucial for their preservation. Parks like Serengeti and Kruger are known for their lion populations. These parks provide undisturbed environments for lions, minimizing human-lion conflict. They also facilitate scientific research on lion behavior and ecology. Moreover, they provide tourism opportunities, fostering appreciation that can aid conservation.


Conservation is key to lion survival, given their population decline due to habitat loss, poaching, and human conflict. Conservation efforts focus on preserving habitats, preventing poaching, and fostering co-existence with communities.

Strategies include establishing reserves, enforcing anti-poaching laws, and community education. Successful conservation helps ensure the survival of lions, thus maintaining ecological balance and cultural significance.

Quick School Project Facts About Lions

  • Lions are the only known type of cat that live in groups, which are called prides. A pride has many females, their cubs and just a few males.
  • The females do most of the hunting. They work together to bring down prey. This keeps them safer than if they hunted alone.
  • Males have an important job too. They patrol their territory and protect the young cubs. They also make sure cubs get enough food.
  • Male lions have manes. It has been thought that maybe manes protect them during fights with other lions. The color and size of a lion’s mane can also be important clues about how healthy that lion might be.
  • Lions are carnivorous, meaning they survive by eating other animals. They eat almost anything including antelope, buffalo, giraffescrocodiles, baby elephants, lizards and bugs. They have also been known to sometimes steal food from other big cats.
  • Lions spend a lot of time napping – males will sleep up to 20 hours each day while females sleep up to 18!

Lion Vocabulary

  1. Royal: A king or queen, prince or princess
  2. Pride: A lion’s group or family
  3. Territory: The area patrolled and protected by a lion pride
  4. Mane: The fur that surrounds the head of a male lion
  5. Carnivore: An animal that eats primarily meat
  6. Species: A group of animals that are able to have babies together
Male Lion Mane image
A Male lion with manes that protects him while fighting.

Learn More All About Lions

Do you want to learn even more about the kings and queens of the jungle? Watch this cool 49 minute documentary video about the lives of wild lions in Africa:

How fast can a lion run?

A lion can run at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour for short distances. This makes them one of the fastest land animals in the world. Their powerful legs and muscular bodies allow them to sprint after prey and catch them with ease.

However, lions are not built for endurance and can only maintain their top speed for a few hundred yards before needing to rest.

Animal Top Speed
Lion 50.3 mph (81 km/h)
Cheetah 75.6 mph (121.5 km/h)
Greyhound 45 mph (72 km/h)
Pronghorn 60 mph (97 km/h)
Thomson’s gazelle 50 mph (80 km/h)

How do lions take care of their babies?

Male lions watch the cubs while mothers hunt. All the mothers care for and feed babies – even those that aren’t their own.

How do lions stay hydrated if water is scarce or it is the dry season?

Lions will eat wild melons when water is scarce in order to get moisture and avoid dehydration.

Do Lions live in groups or are they solitary animals?

Lions live together and are very social. A family of Lions is called a pride. A pride usually has no more than 4 dominant males, many females, and babies.

What are baby Lions called?

Baby Lions are called cubs, lionet or whelp.

Lion cub with mother
Lion cub with mother – Head rubbing among pride members is a common social behaviour

What do Lions Eat?

Lions love meat and have to have it to survive. In their habitat lions hunt and eat the following – Zebra, Buffalo, and even Elephants. A lion will eat almost anything they feel it can overpower, so nothing is too big for a lion to attack.

They don’t always succeed with the likes of Elephants and Rhinos but they keep on trying. It goes without saying Lions will eat almost anything that contains meat.

Have Lions got any predators?

Yes, even though lions are like royalty of the animal kingdom, they do have one predator: humans. Lion hunting, or trophy hunting as it is known, is still an ongoing problem facing the conservation of this large cat.

The majority of trophy hunting is licensed and takes place in countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia. There are less than 25,000 wild lions roaming the African continent, which is a drastic decline compared to the more than 1.2 million that lived in the 1880s.