Panthera leo
Population size
23-39 Thou
Life Span
12-25 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The lion (Panthera leo ) is a large cat of the genus Panthera native to Africa and India. It is the most widely recognized animal symbol in human culture and it has been extensively depicted in sculptures and paintings, on national flags, and in contemporary films and literature. Cultural depictions of lions were prominent in Ancient Egypt, and depictions have occurred in virtually all ancient and medieval cultures in the lion's historic and current range.


The lion is a big wild cat with short, tawny-colored fur and white underparts. The long tail ends with a black tuft. These animals display sexual dimorphism with males, having their distinctive manes, ranging in color from black to blond. They develop their manes at the age of 3 years. Meanwhile, the manes of those, living in open areas, are notably fuller. The mane makes the lion look much larger than it is, helping the animal intimidate the opponent during confrontations with other lions as well the Spotted hyena, which is the animal's primary competitor throughout its range. Young lions have a grayish coat, covered with brown markings, which then disappear by the age of 3 months. However, lions in eastern Africa tend to retain these spots on their stomach.




Presently, lions are distributed across the sub-Saharan region of Africa and in Gir Forest in Gujarat state of India. They prefer grassy plains and savannas, scrub bordering rivers, and open woodlands with bushes. They rarely enter closed forests. Remnant populations can also be found in the tropical moist forests in West Africa and montane forests in East Africa.

Lion habitat map

Climate zones

Lion habitat map
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Habits and Lifestyle

Lions can be active at any time of the day but their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing and grooming. Most hunting often takes place at dusk. Apart from that African lions spend much of their time resting. They rest in order to save energy, in the absence of prey, or to escape the midday heat. African lions are highly social animals, gathering in groups or prides, which include up to 3 male lions and multiple lionesses with their young. Prides are defended by males, who patrol and mark the territory. However, there's harsh competition between males for the territory and position in the pride. In a case, if another male overcomes the leading male of the pride, he usually kills all cubs, sired by the previous male. Meanwhile, males do not tend to hunt due to their slow speed and eye-catching appearance. Instead, hunting is left to females of the pride, who hunt in groups, cooperating with each other during their hunting trips. The females are excellent hunters: they are faster and more agile than males, able to hunt down animals that are much bigger and faster than them. Lions have a large repertoire of vocalizations. Most of them are variations of growling, snarling, meowing, and roaring. Other sounds produced include purring, puffing, bleating, and humming. Roaring is used for advertising their presence. Lions most often roar at night, a sound that can be heard from a distance of 8 km (5 mi).

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Lions are generalist hypercarnivores. They primarily hunt on zebras, antelopes, gazelles, deer, buffalos, young giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest, young elephants, and less frequently - on hares and birds. Lions can also scavenge on carrion when the opportunity arises; they scavenge animals dead from natural causes such as disease or those that were killed by other predators such as hyenas.

Mating Habits

year-round, peak during the rainy season
110-119 days
3-6 cubs
2 years

Lions have a polygynous mating system, meaning that a male lion can mate with a number of lionesses. They breed throughout the year with the peak period, occurring during the rainy season. The gestation period lasts from 110 to 119 days, yielding 3-6 cubs on average. The female gives birth in a hidden, solitary nursery. Reaching the age of 4-6 weeks, the cubs join the pride. Usually, all females of the pride feed and care for the young; when a mother female leaves the pride to hunt, another lactating female will feed her cubs. Weaning occurs at the age of 6-7 months, though the cubs typically stay close to their mother during the first two years of their lives. Males become reproductively mature at 5 years old while females reach maturity earlier, at 2.5-3 years of age.


Population threats

Lions have long been hunted out of fear and as trophies. However, hunting is still one of the major factors, threatening these animals' populations across Africa. Currently, they suffer from loss of their range due to growing human settlements and alteration of their habitat into agricultural lands. Meanwhile, those, living nearby human settlements, are exposed to diseases, spread by domestic dogs.

Population number

According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the lion is 23,000-39,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Lions are an irreplaceable link in the ecosystem of their range. Feeding upon herbivorous animals such as zebras or buffaloes, they control the numbers of these species' populations. Otherwise, these herbivores could out-compete other animals of their range, leading to the complete extinction of these species and thus destructing the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • When resting, lions display highly social and friendly behavior, spending their time together and strengthening social bonds between members of the pride: they play together, rubbing against each other's heads as well as sleeping in groups.
  • Without their fur, lions, and tigers look alike. They are extremely hard to distinguish from each other since their body structure is almost identical. In addition, African lions are relatives of leopards and jaguars.
  • The male lion is the only species of cat, that has the identifying mane, which gives the animal a majestic appearance, bringing about the title "King of the Beasts".
  • Lions are the second (to tigers) largest living species of feline.
  • Newborn cubs possess brown-colored rosettes, which they usually lose when growing up, though some individuals retain pale markings throughout their lives.
  • In pride, females are responsible for hunting, whereas males have to defend the territory. However, in spite of this allocation of responsibilities, males always eat first.
  • The mane of a male lion gradually darkens during the animal's life, being a good indicator of the lion's age.
  • When walking, the heels of lions do not touch the ground due to the structure of their legs.

Coloring Pages


1. African Lion Wikipedia article -
2. African Lion on The IUCN Red List site -

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