Male: Avg. Length: 1.7- 2.7m - includes
tail, weight: 150-2000 Kg. (260kg being record)
Height: average 90cm measured from shoulders
Female: Avg. Length: 1.4-1.7m
includes tail, weight: 120=180 Kg.
Height: 75 cm
Lifespan: If lucky -
12 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
Record is nearly 30 years
Age can be calculated by the gradual
discoloration of their teeth.
Maximum speed: 60 - 80km ph over 100 m with
most chases lasting less than 200m in total.
Record Jump: 3.7m vertical or horizontally
10.8 m horizontal.
Full Sexual Maturity: Male -
2+ years, Females - 2-3 years. At 2.5 years males usually have to
leave the pride and fend for themselves.
Just after the age of two, lions start becoming become sexually
mature, males already started to grow manes. The appearance of the mane
causes the young males to be driven out of the pride. Females usually
stay with the pride for their entire life, although some are known to
Gestation period: 98-115 days.(9
- 15 weeks) An average of 20 to 30 months between births. (Female
menopause at approx. 17 years if she lives that long. Breeding takes
place throughout the year and is not dependant on seasons.
Synchronizing between females are common and ensures communal care.
(more info on mating page)
Average Body Temperature:38.33 deg C -
sensitive to heat - in hot days look for lions showing the following
behaviors : sleeping in the day thus limiting activity to the night,
lying on their backs exposing thin-skinned bellies, resting on high
rocks catching a breeze, panting after exertion or feeding.
Panting because lions do not have wet noses and they do not sweat.
Heart size: Lioness - about 0.57%
of her body weight and only 0.45% in males.
No. of teeth: 30
Full set of adult teeth
- at the age of 13 and 15 months.
The lion's teeth are well adapted for killing their prey and eating
it. 7cm (length) Spaced canine teeth slip between the cervical vertebrae
of prey animals, and sever the spinal cord. T
The shape of the back teeth, which are called carnassials are used
like scissors, for cutting pieces of meat. (Premolars & molars are
Unable to move their jaws from side-to-side, keeps the carnassials
teeth in alignment for cutting. All other teeth are used for cutting and
Lions do not chew food, meat is swallowed in chunks.
Lions use only one side of their mouths at a time. The lions
jaws can exert 690lbs of pressure.
The tongue :
is covered with rough
spines, called papillae. This helps the lion scrape meat off of bones,
and acts like a comb for grooming.
Click on tongue photo for a larger view
The digestive system is simple and meat is fairly easy to digest.
Lions usually rest for up to 20 hours after a large meal - see feeding
for more info.
Sense of Smell
Like all cats they possess a special olfactory organ on the roof of
the mouth called a Jacobsonís organ. The lion grimaces (called Flehman)
after smelling something, which passes the scent over this organ.
Reproductive status of females is assessed using this method. Both
male and females "taste" scents in this manner.
Sense of Hearing
The sense of hearing is only slightly above average, but their ears can
swivel to assess the direction.
Proportionately larger than in other
comparable-sized animals with round pupils.
Lions eyes are well-adapted
for use under very low light.
This helps the lion hunt at night.
Contrary to popular notion, a lion's eyes do not glow in the dark, but
they contain a special reflective coating that will reflect even
This coating increases the lion's visual acuity in very low light by
ensuring that every possible photon of light makes it to the cells in
Their eyes are effective even by starlight. A white circle
just below the eyes helps reflect light into the eyes to further improve
Like most mammals, lions have a nictitating membrane which serves to
clean and protect the eye in some circumstances.
Note the difference between the eyes of
tawny and white lions
Tails, paws, glands,
and other Characteristics
The lion's tail is the only one in the wild
and cat family with a tassel at the tip. The tail is important for
Females also use their tails as a 'follow me' signal for the
Paws are equipped with soft pads which
gives lions the advantage of quiet movements.
Lions are digitigrades
walkers as with most carnivores. Meaning they essentially walk on their
The claws grow as layers and as it wears, it is shed, and
new sharp-pointed claws are exposed.
Claws on a male lion can be 38mm.
Claws are retractable and sharp. Lions have four claws on their
back feet but five on the front, where the dew claw is found. The dew
claw acts like a thumb and used for holding prey while the jaws tear
away the meat from the bone.
Set far back from the other claws the
dew claw can not be seen in the paw print.
Photo: Adult lion paw size compare to the size of a human
Lions bodies are extremely
muscular with less bone mass than most other animals of the same size.
This is the cause for the grace of movement. The bones of the front legs
give an amazing range of motion to the forelimb. The front half of
the lion is very powerfully built enabling the lion to deliver
blows with it's forepaws heavy enough to break most prey species backs.
Mammae - Lions usually have two pairs of
mammary glands , one inguinal & one abdominal.
Glands - sebaceous glands around chin,
lips, cheeks, whiskers, above tail and between their toes.
take Kruger National Park
Cubs & Gestation
- 15 weeks) An average of 20 to 30 months between births
Weighing 1-2kg and are blind
with eyes opening at approx. 3-11 days. They can walk at approx 10-15 days
and start running by the time they are 30 days old. The mother hides
them for up to 8 weeks where after they can keep up with the pride.
Start feeding at 2 months and fully weaned by +- 7-10 months. Cubs suckle
from all mothers (with milk) and this ensures stronger bonds, always
someone to take care of the cubs should the mother be hurt or dies,
spreading of different antibodies.
Milk teeth appear about three weeks after
birth and ready for solid food at approx 5-6 weeks. Cubs are
carried by the scruff of their necks when it becomes necessary to move
A new male taking over a pride will kill all of the cubs, so
that the pride contains only cubs of his siring. Finally, cubs are at
the bottom of the feeding hierarchy, and only get food when the adults
are filled. Indeed, many cubs starve to death when food is scarce.
Young cubs spend much of their waking time playing, and practicing
the survival skills they will need as adults. Just before they are a
year old, they will join their parents in the hunt.
Before the cubs have
reached the age of two, they can bring down prey as large as a gazelle
More abundant in open
plains, areas with permanent water and plenty game. But in the wild can
be found in most places, including Semi-dessert, dry river banks.
Rubbing as a greeting ceremony,
very social and "keeping in touch" by calling each other / or cubs when
not together, females do most of the hunting, male guards family,
territory, more active at night and early morning,
Females will play at
any age, males usually stop at approx 3 years. Humming - purring,
puffing faintly when greeting each other, usually followed by falling on
top of each other, roar/calling and marking their area.
Diet : Mostly wildebeest, zebra,
impala, giraffe, waterbuck, kudu, warthog and buffalo. In leaner times
they will even settle for rats and birds.
When the opportunity arises lions will also become scavengers. Dead
elephant and Hippo carcasses can feed a pride of lions for days.
The diet of the lion is dependant on the habitat and the game available
and will hunt any prey available to them.
Past history and reports has even told of lion prides
that become experts in hunting baboons, crocodiles and young elephants.
Lions eat approx 15-25% of their own body weight. Not dependant on water
as they receive moisture from prey.
Moods and emotion: This can usually be
seen in facial expressions and eyes. :
Aggression: Dominance between males are
usually displayed by strutting
head low, ears back, forelegs apart with shoulders held higher than
normal, snarling and looking at its opponent. Its ready to charge if the
tail is lashed up and down, either combined with coughing or growling.
During feeding it will growl, ears back and the attack.
Most lions try and avoid water because their body temperatures drop
when they are wet and oils, which keep insects away, are washed off their fur.
Lion quantities in SA
(new updated link - Thanks David)
Video footage used: Courtesy of
BBC Nature Wildlife - displaying BBC video's on
this site is for educational purposes - Please do not copy
any photos - More lion photos on