Lions are carnivorous mammals that come from the family Felidae. They are geographically distributed in mostly sub-Saharan east and southern Africa, but can also be found in many zoos internationally and in India and some parts of Asia . The animals are breathtaking – they have pride and carry a mysterious aura that draw people to them.
The lion’s closest relatives are the other species of the genus Panthera: the tiger, the jaguar, and the leopard. P. leo evolved in Africa between 1 million and 800,000 years ago, before spreading throughout the Holarctic region.
The African lion is 4.5 to 6.5 feet (1.4 to 2 meters) long from its head to its rump, and its tail measures from 26.25 to 39.5 inches (67 to 100 centimeters) long. African lions typically weigh 265 to 420 lbs. (120 to 191 kilograms).
Asiatic lions tend to be much bigger, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). They weigh 300 to 500 lbs. (120 to 226 kg) and are 6.56 to 9.18 feet (200 to 280 cm) long. Their tails measure 23.62 to 35.43 inches (60 to 90 cm).
Male lions are generally larger than females and have a distinctive mane of hair around their heads. The mane’s function is to make the male look more impressive to females and more intimidating to other males, according to the San Diego Zoo. The mane also protects the male’s neck during fights over territory or mating rights.
African lions live in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They wander a territory of 100 square miles (259 square kilometers), according to National Geographic. This territory consists of scrub, grasslands or open woodlands.
Asiatic lions are found only in the Gir Forest National Park in India. This park is a wildlife sanctuary on 877.37 square miles (1,412 square km) of land. The land includes a deciduous forest, grasslands, scrub jungle and rocky hills.
African lions eat large animals that they find in the grasslands, including antelopes, zebras and wildebeest. Asiatic lions eat large animals as well, such as goats, nilgai, chital, sambhar and buffaloes. They are also known to eat smaller animals.
Lions are very social cats and live in groups called prides. Asiatic and African lion prides are very different, though.
African lion prides consist of up to three males, around a dozen females, and their young, according to National Geographic. There are prides that have as many as 40 members, though.
Asian lions divide themselves into two prides. The females have a pride and the males have a pride. They only come together during mating season.
With both types of lion prides, the females stay put. All of the females in a pride are usually related to each other because females tend to stay with the pride in which they are born. Males, on the other hand, wander off to create their own pride when they are old enough.
The lion has been an icon for humanity for thousands of years, appearing in cultures across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Despite incidents of attacks on humans, lions have enjoyed a positive depiction in culture as strong and noble. A common depiction is their representation as “king of the jungle” or “king of beasts”; hence, the lion has been a popular symbol of royalty and stateliness, as well as a symbol of bravery; it is featured in several fables of the sixth century BC Greek storyteller Aesop.
Nemean Lion in Greek mythology.