The lion is the largest and most powerful of all the African big cats. In fact as world ranking goes, there is only one species of cat larger – the tiger. Furthermore, while the lion is commonly known as 'The King of the Jungle', lions do not inhabit jungle environments.
Unlike most other members of the cat family, the lion is a social animal living in a family group known as a ‘pride’. A pride can hold between 16 and 30 members.
Some prides included a single male, while others can have up to 6 males. Where a pride has more than one male lion, they are probably litter mates or have established a permanent bond as siblings.
Nowadays, wild lions only remain in remote areas which have yet to be developed by man.
So, just where do lions live?
Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. In fact, they were once found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from Western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.
Unfortunately today, the lion has become a species at risk, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of thirty to fifty percent over the past two decades in its African range.
This means that lion populations are now next to untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.
At six weeks they begin to accompany their mother to the kill, where they acquire a taste of meat and learn how to hunt. A lion cub cannot tear meat until it has permanent teeth - usually produced once it has reached about one year old, so it continues to rely on its mother for food. Slowly the cubs will master the art of hunting and by 15 months the cubs will be able to catch and kill small prey.
When the cubs reach two years of age, their mother is usually pregnant again and they are forced to leave her. However, some female cubs may be allowed to stay in the pride, but the dominant male will drive out all the male cubs. Less than half the young lion survive their first few weeks alone .
What do Lions eat?
Lionesses usually hunt for the pride which is probably why they are more aggressive by nature. However, the male lion will always take precedence at the kill, dragging the prey in to the shade, then gorging himself before the females and cubs begin to eat.
However, lions are not particularly known for their stamina—for instance, a lioness' heart makes up only 0.57 percent of her body weight (a male's is about 0.45 percent of his body weight), whereas a hyena's heart is close to 1 percent of its body weight. Therefore, they only run fast in short bursts, and need to be close to their prey before starting the attack. They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility; many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of around 30 metres (98 ft) or less.
When water is scarce, lions will often lie in wait close to a water hole, knowing that its prey will eventually go there to drink.
When prey is scarce, lions will then eat almost anything, including carrion. They may even attack larger prey such as giraffe, buffalo, and hippopotamus. They are have also been known to take on elephants and rhinoceros, but this is rare due to the danger of injury.
Of course, lions will also attack domestic livestock. In India, cattle contribute significantly to their diet. Lions are also quite capable of killing other predators such as leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs, though unlike most big cats, they will seldom eat the competitors after killing them.
A lion may gorge itself and eat up to 66 lb in one sitting, and if it is unable to consume all the kill it will rest for a few hours before consuming more. An adult lioness requires an average of about 11 lb of meat per day, while a male needs about 15.5 lb.
1. There may be one species of lion but did you know that it was believed that there were up to 12 subspecies of lion? Unfortunately, some of these subspecies are now extinct and others have been discounted for being too similar. So today we are left with 8 - for now.
2. Lions have been known to breed with tigers (most often the Siberian and Bengal subspecies) to create hybrids called ligers and tiglons (or tigons). They also have been crossed with leopards to produce leopons and jaguars to produce jaglions. The marozi is reputedly a spotted lion or a naturally occurring leopon, while the Congolese Spotted Lion is a complex lion-jaguar-leopard hybrid called a lijagulep. Such hybrids were once commonly bred in zoos, but this is now discouraged due to the emphasis on conserving species and subspecies. Hybrids are still bred in private menageries and in zoos in China.
3. The lion is the tallest (at the shoulder) of all living cats, averaging about 14 cm (5.5 in) taller than the tiger. Behind only the tiger, the lion is the second largest living big cat in length and weight.
4. The longest known lion, at nearly 3.6 m (12 ft) in total length, was a black-maned male shot near Mucsso, southern Angola in October 1973; the heaviest lion known in the wild was a man-eater shot in 1936 just outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal, South Africa and weighed 313 kg (690 lb).
5. The mane of the adult male lion, unique among cats, is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the species. It makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent intimidation display; this aids the lion during confrontations with other lions and with the species' chief competitor in Africa, the spotted hyena.
6. The white lion is not a distinct subspecies, but a special morph with a genetic condition, leucism that causes paler colouration akin to that of the white tiger; the condition is similar to melanism, which causes black panthers. They are not albinos, having normal pigmentation in the eyes and skin.
7. Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild big cats, most of which remain quite solitary in nature.
8. Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day.
9. Lionesses do the majority of the hunting for their pride, being smaller, swifter and more agile than the males, and unencumbered by the heavy and conspicuous mane, which causes overheating during exertion.
10. The Nile crocodile is the only sympatric predator (besides humans) that can singly threaten the lion. Depending on the size of the crocodile and the lion, either can lose kills or carrion to the other. Lions have been known to kill crocodiles venturing onto land, while the reverse is true for lions entering waterways, as evidenced by the occasional lion claw found in crocodile stomachs.
11. Although adult lions have no natural predators, evidence suggests that the majority die violently from humans or other lions. Lions often inflict serious injuries on each other, either members of different prides encountering each other in territorial disputes, or members of the same pride fighting at a kill.
12. Lions have an array of facial expressions and body postures that serve as visual gestures. Their repertoire of vocalizations is also large. Lion sounds include snarling, purring, hissing, coughing, meowing, woofing and roaring. Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi), is used to advertise the animal's presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.
13. Lions were kept and bred by Assyrian kings as early as 850 BC, and Alexander the Great was said to have been presented with tame lions by the Malhi of northern India. Later in Roman times, lions were kept by emperors to take part in the gladiator arenas.
14. The lion will only kill when it is hungry. Prey can usually sense when lions are hunting and grazing animals will often ignore lions at other times – even when they close by.
15. Lion-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of lions in combat with other animals - usually dogs. Records of it exist in ancient times through until the seventeenth century. It was finally banned in Vienna by 1800 and England in 1825.
16. Lions were once kept in the Tower of London. However, the presence of lions at the Tower of London was intermittent, being restocked when a monarch or his consort such as Margaret of Anjou the wife of Henry VI - either sought or were given such magnificent -animals.
17. Believe it or not, it has been estimated that a lion will copulate 3,000 times for every young that reaches one year old.
18. Lions and other big cats have few sweat glands but can pant up to 200 times per minute to cool down.
19. Individual lions can be identified by a unique pattern of whisker spots.
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Image care of http://www.deshow.net/animal/wild-lions-645.html and http://www.metrolic.com/roaring-in-the-wild-lions-150877/
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion and http://predatorhaven.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/lions-money-sex-again.html and http://predatorhaven.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/lions-money-sex-again.html and http://animalszooguru.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/lions-cubs-lions-video-pics-photos.html and http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/184239/20110721/forget-vampires-and-zombies-man-eating-lions-attack-after-full-moon.htm and http://mosaicartsource.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/lions-in-ancient-mosaic-art-cyprus-el-jem-israel-libya-naples-pella-pompeii-sicily-tunis-venice/ and http://modcult.org/tags/lion