Learn about the King of the Jungle
1. It’s pretty big.
In fact, adult males can grow up to 550 lbs (250 kg) in weight, making them the second biggest cat in the world after the tiger. There are also tiger-lion hybrids known as ligers (only bred in captivity) which are, actually, bigger than either individual species.
2. The nickname is incorrect.
I know I just called the lion the “king of the jungle”, but it isn’t an appropriate nickname. In fact, the entire song lyric “In the jungle, the might jungle/ The lion sleeps tonight” is wrong. Lions don’t live in the jungle, they are predominantly found in savannas which are grasslands with sparse trees set far apart. Moreover, lions are mostly nocturnal. Sure, most documentaries you’ve seen on TV show them during daytime, but usually they are just sitting around in the shade being lazy. Most of the hunting is done at night.
3. Lionesses do most of the work.
Speaking of hunting, this is predominantly an activity for females. They act well together and coordinate in order to take down large prey. Very rarely will the males get involved. Typically, this only happens when they are bringing down a large target like an elephant. Even if the female lions are the ones who hunt, the males still get to eat first. The lionesses will bring their prey back to the pack (which is called a pride) and the alpha male will first eat his full. Everyone else gets whatever is left.
4. Males usually fight each other.
Just because they don’t hunt does not mean that male lions are non-violent. In fact, they actually fight way more than the females. Each pride is led by one (sometimes more, if they are brothers) alpha male and his throne is challenged often. The alpha male will constantly defend his position until, eventually, he gets too old and weak. The lionesses often help him repel intruders. You would think that they want to always be led by the biggest and strongest lion, but it doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately, one of the first things a newly crowned alpha male usually does is kill the cubs since they aren’t his. The lionesses know that their cubs are in danger whenever a pretender to the throne approaches.
5. They are actually very social.
Despite the whole “killing another lion’s cubs” thing, lions are the most social species of cat (or felidae, if you want the fancy version) in the world. Other big cats prefer solitude, only meeting up with each other to mate. By comparison, lions live in a pride which is typically 10-15 members strong. It is usually comprised out of one or more alpha males, a group of females which are usually related and their cubs. When they are relaxing, lions often display signs of affection such as purring, licking and rubbing each other.
6. Cubs reach maturity when they are 2-3 years old.
That is the typical age at which cubs become full-grown adults. If the cub is a female, she will be a welcomed addition to the pride and will join the other females in the hunt. If it’s a male, he will most likely be chased away by the alpha lion and he will look to form his own pride or take one over. However, it might take a while before he is strong enough to do that. In the meantime, he will join a bachelor pride which is made out of young adult males like him.
7. Lions are really lazy.
Even though nature documentaries tend to focus on successful hunts, the truth is that lions strike out far more often than they catch prey. This means that they have to conserve their energy, especially in the hot African sun. That is why lions will lounge around and sleep in the shade for most of the day (especially the males). They typically sleep around 16 hours per day, although they’ll sleep up to 20 hours if it’s really hot.
8. The lion has a very loud roar.
If you ever hear a genuine lion roar, it can be quite deafening. It is the loudest call of any cat and it can be heard up to 5 miles (8 km) away. Males use this impressive roar to establish their territory boundaries and warn intruders to stay out.
9. Males have a mane.
This is something that most people know since it’s the most obvious and distinguishing feature of the lion. No other cat has anything similar to it. Its role is to show the health and dominance of the male. It makes him look bigger and more intimidating. However, it’s not only the size of the mane that matters, but also the color. A darker mane is preferred by the females as it usually suggests a healthy specimen. The mane also has a practical purpose as it offers protection around the neck area.
10. They used to be widespread.
There once was a time when lions were among the most common land mammals on Earth. They were found in Africa, Asia and Europe. However, now there are roughly 25,000 to 30,000 wild specimens left and they are almost all located in Africa. There are a few hundred wild specimens which still live in India in Gir National Park.
Featured image courtesy of Robek via Wiki Commons.