Lions are fierce and majestic, but also misunderstood. Despite the fact that they’ve somehow become known as “The King of the Jungle,” they don’t even live in the jungle, but rather in the grasslands and savannah. Though they have no natural predators, lions are classified as vulnerable on the World Wildlife Fund’s list of endangered species. Read on for some of the most interesting facts about the second biggest cat in the world.
1. They embrace their pride. African lions are incredibly social and live in communal groups known as prides, which consist of 10 - 15 lions. Prides are formed by groups of females and their babies, also known as cubs, whelps, or lionets. Males regularly join and leave prides in search of mating opportunities.
2. A female’s place is on the hunt. To satisfy a carnivorous diet made up of mammals like wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, (and sometimes rhinos, hippos, and elephants when food is scarce), females are tasked with hunting while the males patrol and protect the pride’s territory. Even after the females do the work of killing the prey and bringing its meat back to the pride, the males always eat first.
3. Their roar is for more than just showing off. Both male and female lions roar to communicate their location, show their strength, and intimidate lions from other prides. This warning can be as loud as 114 decibels and can be heard up to five miles away.
4. They are natural athletes. Despite being up to ten feet long and weighing up to 550 pounds, lions can sprint at 50 mph and leap up to 36 feet. However, they are also known to tire quickly after running a short distance or eating up to 70 pounds of meat in one meal.
5. They care about hair. A lion’s mane reveals important characteristics like age and strength. The darker the mane, the older the lion, and the greater his potential to be a good fighter and mate. Lionesses are attracted to longer, darker manes; male challengers see more mane as a sign to stay away.
6. Personal space isn’t a problem. Lions can sleep up to 20 hours a day, draping themselves over one another in close-knit clumps or piles.
7. They are tip-toe pros. Like most cats, lions’ heels don’t touch the ground when they walk, and their paws have soft pads to help them tread lightly when stalking prey. When ready to attack, lions unleash sharp retractable claws that can grow up to two inches long.
8. Their lifespans are relatively short. Wild lions have been known to live up to 16 years while those raised in captivity may reach 25 years.
9. Family comes first. A lion’s territory is determined by its pride, and each pride’s territory can range in size from 15 to 400 square miles. Because prides are dominated by females, the territories are also matrilineal. Females in the same pride look out for all the cubs and may even nurse each other’s young.
10. They need our help. There are fewer than 21,000 lions remaining in all of Africa. Their range once spanned across Africa, Asia, Greece, the Middle East, and India but is now limited to only a few African regions.
Although they have no natural predators, lions have one threat they can’t escape: people. Habitat loss and violence from humans are the two greatest factors contributing to their declining population. Support these regal beasts and bring some of their majesty home with a purchase of one of these fine prints: