Lions were once widespread throughout most of Africa and India, and even North and South America. Wild lions now only live in sub-saharan Africa and Gir Forest of northwestern India. Lions of Africa are listed as vulnerable on the World Conservation List of Threatened Animals. Lions of the Gir Forest are listed as an endangered species.
The lion is one of the big four cats, including the tiger, jaguar and leopard. Lions live in habitats from open plains to thick brush and dry forest. They are a well known and recognizable animal. They are yellow-gold in color, with the male lion having a very distinctive long, dark, shaggy mane. Young lions have light spots that disappear as they grow older. Lions also have a very distinctive roar that can be heard as much as 5 miles away.
The lion is second in size only to the tiger. The male lion can be up to ten feet long, and weigh upwards of 550 pounds. Female lions are slightly smaller than the male. Lions live for ten to fourteen years in the wild, although males often die younger due to injuries from fighting other male lions. Zoo lions may live up to 25 years in captivity.
Lions are social animals. They live in groups called prides. A pride usually consists of one or two adult lions, and up to 40 related female lions and young cubs. Females stay in their mothers’ pride for life, while young males are driven when they grow large enough to compete with the dominant males. They young males must then search and form their own pride.
The female lions hunt together, catching zebra, wildebeest and smaller animals such as rodents and reptiles. Lions will also steal food from hyenas, leopards, and other predators. Lions have strong bodies, and very powerful legs, jaws and teeth. This helps the lion chase down a zebra or wildebeest, drag it to the ground, and kill it. Although female lions do most of the hunting, the male lion eats first, followed by the females. The young lions get the remaining scraps.
If you are interested in learning more about the lion, see the Kidport Lion Video Collection.