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Female (Lioness)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. leo
Binomial name
Panthera leo
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Distribution of lions in Africa
Felis leo
Linnaeus, 1758

The lion (scientific name : Panthera leo) is a large mammal of the cat family (Felidae). The lion is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Today, wild lions live in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia.[3]

Lions live in grasslands and mixed areas with trees and grass. The relatively small females are fast runners over short distances, and co-ordinate their hunting of herd animals.

Lions have disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.[4] The lion is now a vulnerable species. There was a decline in its African range of 30–50% over two decades in the second half of the 20th century.[2] Habitat loss and conflicts with humans are the greatest causes of concern.

Lions are often called the "king of the beasts". They are used as symbols representing courage. They appear in heraldry more often than any other animal. They are an icon of courage and royalty.

Lions live for 10 to 14 years when they are in the wild. When they are captured, they can live longer than 20 years. In the wild, males do not usually live longer than 10 years. This is because wounds from fighting with other males make their lives shorter.[5] They usually live in savanna and grassland, though they sometimes live in bushes and forests. Compared to other cats, lions are very social. A group of lions is called a pride. In a pride of lions, there are related females, their young, and a small number of adult males. Groups of female lions often hunt together.

Description[edit | edit source]

There are about 30,000 lions left in the wild in Africa. Only 350 lions are left in Asia. They live in the Gir Forest in the state of Gujarat, India.

Lions hunt many animals; for example, gnus and antelopes. Male lions usually weigh between. Large lions have reached. Females (lionesses) are usually.[6] Mature male lions are the only cats with a mane.

Behaviour[edit | edit source]

Lions live in groups with other lions that are called prides. Ten to forty lions may live in a pride. Each pride has a home area that is called its territory. Lions do not allow other carnivores (meat-eating animals) to hunt in their territory.

The lions roar is distinct to each individual, and is used for territorial marking, and warning off other lions in separate prides (or lone individuals). This however, is usually carried out by competing males.

Lions are not built for speed like cheetahs but are for stealth. The females usually do the hunting for the pride. However the males can sometimes help if needed, to take down large animals.

The lion has large canines which it uses to suffocate its prey by biting its neck and crushing its throat. It also has long retractable claws which act like grappling hooks, to keep hold of the prey whilst delivering the bite.

Breeding[edit | edit source]

A lioness is ready to have young when she is 2–3 years old. Baby lions are called cubs. Cubs are born after 3 1/2 months. The cubs have to rest 14 days before the can see well. Lions do not have a den (home) where they would live for a long time. The lioness conceals the cubs in thick bush, gullies or rocky outcrops. If the hiding place has been seen by other predators, then the lioness will move the cubs to a new hiding place. The cubs will be introduced to the pride at about 6 weeks old. The cubs are very vulnerable when the lioness goes out to hunt and needs to leave the cubs behind. A litter of 2-6, usually 2-3, cubs are born and most of the time only 1-2 cubs survives until introduced to the pride where they have the protection of the whole pride. In zoos lions have been known to breed with tigers and it's called a liger or tigon.

Lions in heraldry[edit | edit source]

Lions appear in heraldry more often than any other animal. They traditionally symbolise courage, valour and royalty.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wozencraft, W. Christopher (16 November 2005). "Order Carnivora (pp. 532-628)". In Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nowell & Bauer (2004). "Panthera leo". Database entry includes a long statement of why this species is vulnerable.
  3. An endangered remnant population lives in Gir Forest National Park in India
  4. Harington, CR ‘Dick’ (1969). Pleistocene remains of the lion-like cat (Panthera atrox) from the Yukon Territory and northern Alaska. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 6 (5): 1277–88. [1]
  5. Smuts, G.L. (1982). Lion. Johannesburg: Macmillian South Africa (Publishers)(Pty.) Ltd.. p. 231. ISBN 0-86954-122-6.
  6. Nowak, Ronald M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9.
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