African Lion & Lioness (Panthera leo)
Fun Fact: The lion is a symbol of strength, authority and command.
Body and Skeletal Structure
African lions range from around 4.5 to 10.8 ft (1.4-3.3 m) in length from head to the end of the body. A male is usually 3.9 ft (1.2 m) tall, while a female (typically called a lioness) is generally 3.6 ft (1.1 m) tall. Tail length ranges from 2.2 to 3.3 ft (67.1-100.6 cm). As for weight, they normally weigh from 265 to 420 lbs (120-191 kg). Like most animals, the males are usually slightly larger and heavier than the females.
Fun Fact: The lion is the second largest cat in the world.
A lion’s and lioness’s short fur color is generally a mix of gold, blonde, brown and/or tawny hues. Their underbelly is white-furred and their long tails have black tufts at the ends. Also, male lions are the only ones to have a mane of long, thick hair encircling their neck and heads. The color of the mane typically ranges from a darker mix of tawny to brown to black colors.
Fun Fact: A lion’s mane provides some protection for their neck when they fight with other lions.
Lion are carnivores, and as such, they hunt other animals for the meat that sustains them. Lions hunt antelopes, zebras, wildebeests warthogs, and other large prey animals that dwell among their lands.
Fun Fact: Lions are mainly nocturnal hunters, but they do sometimes hunt during the day as well.
Most African lions normally live to be around 8 to 15 years old.
Fun Fact: Female lions tend to live longer than the males.
Mating Season: Throughout The Year
Gestation Period: About 110 days
Litter Size: 3-4 cubs (Average: 3)
Communication and Behavior:
Unlike other felines, lions are pretty social animals. They live in groups called prides. A pride typically consists of no more than 3 males, about 12 females (that are usually related to each other), and their young. The size of a pride depends on the availability of food and water. The scarcer the resources, the smaller the pride. The members of a pride normally keep track of one another by roaring. Both the males and females have powerful roars that can heard from up to 5 mi (8km) away. Lions within a pride are often affectionate and tend to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, purring, and licking when resting.
Male lions are territorial and they defend their pride’s territory.They use scent-markings to claim it and as a way to let others know of their claim. They also roar menacingly to warn trespassers and chase off animals that intrude on their turf.
Female lions (also known as lionesses) are the pride’s primary hunters. They are smaller and more agile than their male counterparts. They often work together when they go hunting, so they can bring down the large animals that they prey upon. Many of these animals are faster than them, so it helps that they work in cooperative groups.
However, after the hunt, the group effort disintegrates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill. Also, lions will hunt alone if the opportunity presents itself, and they do sometimes steal kills from hyenas or wild dogs.
Fun Fact: Females tend to stay in the same pride as they age, while the males usually leave a pride after staying in one for around 2-3 years.
Habitat and Range:
African lions live among the various grasslands, scrub, and open woodlands in central and southern Africa.
African lions are currently vulnerable to extinction due to the destruction and loss of habitat. They’re also threatened by continued poaching for their furs, use in bravery rituals, use as hunting trophies, and for their “medicinal powers.” They are killed by some ranchers as way to protect their livestock as well. Furthermore, these lions are susceptible to tick-borne diseases like canine distemper and babesia that are spread to them by neighboring village dogs and hyenas. The combination of distemper and babesia causes a large amount of fatalities in lion populations.