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!
Quick 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, giraffes, crocodiles, 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- Royal: A king or queen, prince or princess
- Pride: A lion’s group or family
- Territory: The area patrolled and protected by a lion pride
- Mane: The fur that surrounds the head of a male lion
- Carnivore: An animal that eats primarily meat
- Species: A group of animals that are able to have babies together
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:
Question 1: How fast can a lion run?
Answer 1: Lions can run very fast for brief periods. A lion can run the length of a football field in six seconds! A lion can run up to 50 mph but only for a very short distance.
Question 2: How do lions take care of their babies?
Answer 2: Male lions watch the cubs while mothers hunt. All the mothers care for and feed babies – even those that aren’t their own.
Question 3: How do lions stay hydrated if water is scarce or it is the dry season?
Answer 3: Lions will eat wild melons when water is scarce in order to get moisture and avoid dehydration.
Question 4: Do Lions live in groups or are they solitary animals?
Answer 4: 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.
Question 5: What are baby Lions called?
Answer 5: Baby Lions are called cubs, lionet or whelp.
Question 6: What do Lions Eat?
Answer 6: 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 they 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.
Question 7: Have Lions got any predators?
Answer 7: 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.