Lion dimensions

Lions (Panthera Leo) are an apex predator and the largest big cat in Africa. A fully grown male lion can weigh between 150 and 225 kg, with a shoulder height of around 1.2 m and a total length of up to 3.3 m.  A fully grown female lion weighs between 110 and 155 kg, with a shoulder height of about 1m and a total length of up to 2.75 m.

Lioness dimensionsAdult male lions are the only big cat to have a mane.  The bigger and darker the mane, the more attractive he is to a lioness as a mate as this shows he will be more intimidating to rivals, thus protecting the cubs, and that he has good genes.

A lion's roar can be heard up to 10 km away. They roar to communicate with other members of their pride or coalition and to warn off any intruders to their territory.  When you are in the bush and you hear a lion roar you actually feel that roar reverberating right through your body. It is something you never forget.

Lions have round pupils, unlike the vertical ones of domestic cats. One reason is to allow more light into the eye at night for better night vision. Most hunting takes place between dusk and dawn. Lion cubs are born with blue eyes which change colour at 2-3 months of age.

Their habitat is mainly woodland savannas, grasslands and semi-desert. Their colouring, and often size, adapts to their habitat. For instance, the lions of the Kalahari are renowned for their very black manes and the lions of Namibia have longer legs and leaner bodies for endurance as they need to travel some distance looking for prey in the desert conditions.

Lions are very social animals and are the only big cat that lives in prides. Females in the pride are usually related and have very strong bonds. They will often stay with their pride for life.

Lionesses often synchronise oestrus so that they give birth round the same time. Cubs are raised communally. The gestation period for a lion is between 98 and 114 days. An average of 4 cubs are born, although there can be as many as 6. Cubs are weaned between 3 and 6 months of age and they are sexually mature at 24 months. Cub mortality in the wild is high with a 1 in 5 chance of survival.

When young males reach sexual maturity they are kicked out of the pride to ensure there is no inbreeding. They will need to team up with other young males if they have no brothers and form a coalition in order to survive. Their life is a hard one with fighting for territory being a constant battle.

Lions hunt a variety of prey, mostly ungulates (buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe) but are opportunistic and will take down young elephants and hippos as well as scavenge by chasing other predators off their kill. Cubs will join in a hunt from around 11 months of age. Although it is usually the lionesses who bring down prey, male lions are able to hunt too. After the hunt, the males will eat first, followed by the females and the cubs. While this may seem harsh behaviour, the females know that they males offer protection for the pride so tolerate the arrangement.

Challenges for pride takeovers, where incoming males challenge the pride male/s for the pride, can result in horrific injuries and even death. If the challengers win, they will usually kill any cubs still dependent on their mothers. This is to ensure that the females come into oestrus and that the new males can put their energy into ensuring that their genes thrive. 


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