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Lions – The Big Cats

Lions Quiz
Lions Quiz

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.

In the mating season, males join females and their cubs in prides. Poaching and habitat loss threaten lions.

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

Lions have muscular bodies, deep chests, round ears, and fur that ranges from light buff to silvery grey, yellowish red to dark brown.

The mane of a lion is one of its most recognizable features. When male lions reach a year old, their manes grow. Age darkens the mane color.

Researchers have shown that it’s size and color are affected by environmental factors, like humidity and ticks and fleas

Female lion (lioness)
Female lion (lioness)

Tigers are the largest big cats in the world, followed by lions. Females weigh 290 pounds (130 kilograms), while males weigh 400 pounds (180 kilograms). An 800-pound lion was the biggest recorded!

As carnivores, lions hunt and eat meat. Female lions need 11 pounds of meat a day, while males need 15.4 pounds.

Lions hunt from dusk to dawn and rest during the day. Lions live in southern and eastern Africa, where it is usually very hot during the day.

During hot days, lions conserve their energy by staying cool, and they hunt when the sun is down.

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

Lions live mostly in special reserves in Africa. They can’t be hunted or hurt in these areas. There are 20,000 lions in Africa, but only 300 in Gir forest of India and 200 in zoos. The lion is endangered.

The number of lions in Africa was more than 200,000 only 100 years ago. It is estimated that lions live between 16 and 29 years in the wild.

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

In comparison with tigers, leopards, and cheetahs, lions are pretty unique. The lion lives in prides. Other cats are solitary animals, meaning they live alone and hunt alone.

Up to four males, several females, and their cubs make up a pride. As the males are bigger and stronger, they protect the pride’s territory and defend the cubs.

Hunting is done by the adult females. They work together to hunt bigger animals like buffalo so they can feed the whole group.

They run as fast as 50 mph (80 km/h), but cannot run that fast for very long.

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

Prey is usually consumed at the location of the hunt, but lions sometimes pull large prey under cover to avoid being consumed by scavengers like vultures and hyenas. A lack of food leaves cubs in the lurch, while all other pride members eat to their hearts’ content, including crippled and elderly lions.

During certain seasons, lions may go a few days without eating anything, but after a successful hunt, the whole pride will gorge themselves. One lion can eat 30 kilograms (66 pounds) in one sitting.

Occasionally, lions will rest for a few hours before continuing to eat. In addition to hunting their own food, lions will steal the kills of cheetahs and leopards.

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

Big Cats

Lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars are big cats. A lion is the second-largest big cat and is unique due to its social structure of living in prides. Large herbivores are controlled by them, keeping ecosystems balanced. Poaching and habitat loss threaten lions, underscoring the need for conservation.

Prides

Prides are the heart of lion society. Prides usually include related lionesses, their cubs, and a few males. As well as leading cooperative hunts, lionesses care for their cubs. Lionesses are important to the pride despite the male’s title of ‘King of the Jungle’.

Savannas

Lions live in savannas, grasslands with scattered trees. Africa’s savannas are home to these big cats, which hunt herbivores such as zebras and wildebeests. Lions scan their territory from acacia trees. Lions thrive on the vast savanna, where prides can flourish. Human activities threaten these habitats and lion populations.

Lionesses

A lion pride’s survival relies on lionesses. It is lionesses’ agility and size that makes them hunt. Also, they raise cubs. The pride’s backbone is the lioness, despite the male’s symbolic prominence.

Carnivorous Diet

As apex predators, lions eat large herbivores like zebras and wildebeests as their primary diet. Prey is taken down by Lionesses, the hunters. Adult males eat first after the hunt. As a carnivore, lions play a crucial ecological and social role.

Lion Roar

Lions’ roars display dominance and serve as communication tools. Prides can hear it five miles away, deterring rivalry. In order to assert their dominance, males roar louder than females. Lion’s roar reinforces their ‘King of the Jungle’ status by reinforcing lion communication.

Cubs

Lion cubs are crucial to the pride’s survival. They survive by relying on lionesses. Initially, their spots provide camouflage. Lionesses teach cubs survival skills, like hunting. Cub mortality rates are high due to predation and pride takeovers. The future of the pride and species depends on cub survival.

National Parks

Lions need protected habitats in national parks to survive. Lions live in Serengeti and Kruger parks. Human-lion conflict is minimized in these parks. Additionally, they facilitate scientific research on lion behavior. Tourism facilitates conservation, fostering appreciation.

Conservation

Because of habitat loss, poaching, and human conflict, lion populations are declining. The conservation effort focuses on protecting habitats, preventing poaching, and fostering community coexistence.

Communities are educated about poaching and reserves are established. By conserving lions, we maintain ecological balance and cultural significance.

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.