African Lion

African Lion



COMMON NAME: African lion
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Felidae
GENUS SPECIES: Panthera (panther, leopard) leo (lion)


DESCRIPTION: Short-haired, tawny cat; black tail tuft, ears, and lips; newborns with grayish spots which fade to adult color by three months
MALE At maturity, exhibit blond to black manes
MALE 1.7-2.5 m (5.5-8 ft), and 1.2 m (4 ft) at the shoulder
FEMALE 1.4-1.7 m (4.5-5.5 ft), and 1.06 m (3.5 ft) at the shoulder
MALE 150-250 kg (330-550 lb)
FEMALE 120-180 kg (265-395 lb)
DIET: Antelopes, gazelles, warthogs, smaller carnivores, and occasionally Cape buffalo, giraffe, and young elephants
GESTATION: 98-105 days; on average 2-4 cubs born
MALE 5 years
FEMALE 4 years
LIFE SPAN: Up to 30 years in captivity, 15 years average
RANGE: sub-Saharan Africa
HABITAT: Grasslands and semi-arid plains
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed


1. Lions are the only truly social cat species, and usually every female in a pride of 5-37 individuals is closely related.
2. An adult lion's roar can be heard up to five miles away and warns off intruders or reunites scattered pride members.
3. While lions are inactive up to 21 hours a day, in the darkest, coolest hours of early morning the "queens of beasts" hunt as a team to catch a communal meal.
4. Pride lionesses frequently enter breeding season together and later give birth at the same time which allows them to share nursing and other maternal duties.
5. Although only one out of four hunting events is successful, dominant males always eat first, lionesses next, and cubs scramble for scraps and leftovers.


Lions are the largest African carnivores and a hungry lion pride feeds on many animals that pass through or share its home range. As specialized communal predators, a pride's role includes keeping herbivore populations in balance with the resources available in their area of the plains.


Benyus, Janine M. Beastly Behaviors. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1992.

Bertram, Brian. Pride of Lions. New York: Scribner's, 1978.

Estis, Richard D. The Safari Companion Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1993.

Kingdon, Jonathan. East African Mammals, An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Vol. 3, Part A. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977.