The Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo
IUCN Status: Vulnerable (global)
Weight: 265-500 pounds



Lions are divided into 2 populations, African lions, with 2 subspecies, and Asian. Lions are the largest carnivore in Africa and the second largest cat species overall. Lions and tigers are comparable in all measurements; however the lion has a longer skull. The lion is powerfully built with a deep chest and heavily built limbs. The lion is the only cat that is sexually dimorphic, males having a mane, belly fringe and elbow tufts which the females of the species lack.


The lion is a highly opportunistic predator. Their diet is typically dominated by ungulates, zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes, giraffes, and impalas. Very large prey includes hippopotami, rhinos and female elephants. Lions have been recorded killing primates, porcupines and many bird species, including ostriches.


Lions breed seasonally, though births often peak when seasonal ungulates give birth. Gestation lasts 98-115 days, averaging 110 days. Litter size is typically 2-4 cubs. Lionesses usually leave the pride to give birth, and will return when the cubs are around 6-8 weeks old when weaning begins. A male’s mane begins to develop at 6-8 months. Cubs can hunt independently at 18 months, but rarely disperse from the pride before 2 yrs. of age.