60 Mind-blowing Facts About Lions


1. Around 2000 years ago millions of lions roamed all across the regions of Europe, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and India. Today, there are as few as 32,000 on Earth.

2. Aslan is the Turkish and Mongolian word for “lion”. Now you can see where C.S Lewis got the name for his famous character in the Chronicles of Narnia.

3. You can tell the relative age of a lion by its mane. The darker the mane, the older the lion.

4. Besides protecting the neck in fights and indicating age, the mane has another function. It seems that females are attracted to lions with darker, fuller manes as this indicates better overall health.

5. Despite not loving the water lions are still great swimmers. If they need to, they will swim to cross a river or pursue prey.

6. Lions are powerful animals and can leap up to 35 feet forward. Their ability to pounce should never be underestimated.

7. Lions need a lot of food and eat around 10-17 pounds of meat per day. That would be like a human eating 20 hamburgers! Of course this doesn’t always happen if the cats haven’t caught any food.

8. The lion is the only member of the cat family with a tasseled tail. Besides looking really cool and offering the perfect fly swatter, these tails allow lions to relay simple messages to each other when on the hunt.

9. Only around 1 in 8 male lions survive to adulthood with many of them dying right after being kicked out of the pride at age two. Life for a lone male is a tough one.

10. Life can get better for a male by forming a coalition. A coalition is a group of around 3–4 males that hunt, live and work together. Often these bands will attack neighboring males to take over their prides and territories.

11. One of the most famous coalitions is the Mapogo 6, a band of brothers who were credited with killing an excess of 40–100 lions. They ruled the lands of the Sabi sands with an iron paw but after a while they were beaten out by rivals. Now only two of these scarred brothers remain as they search for new territory.

12. Sadly, lion bones are becoming more popular on the Chinese black market as tigers become rarer. Just like the tiger bones those of the lion are used for traditional medicine.

13. Trophy hunting can devastate a pride’s dynamic. Not only does it destabilize the entire pride but it also wipes out the old male’s dominant genes as the replacement will kill all his former cubs.

14. In 2002 conservationists were surprised to find that a lioness had adopted an orphaned baby antelope. Sadly, 2 weeks later a male lion killed the young ungulate and the lioness was observed roaring in what seemed to be anger.

15. A male lion can stretch up to 10 feet long and can weigh around 420 pounds. Females are typically smaller at 250–350 pounds.

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16. Just a century ago around 200,000 lions roamed Africa. Now there are only 20,000–32,000 left.

17. African lions are vulnerable and their numbers are on the decline. Luckily they were recently placed on the Endangered Species Act in 2015 which should give them some protection.

18. In a full out straight sprint, lions can run at around 65 km/h but only for short periods. This allows hunting lions to take down prey before the chase even begins.

19. The lion has the loudest roar of any big-cat and can be heard from around 5 miles away.

20. Lions can see in the dark 6 times better than humans. A reflective coating at the back of the eye captures moon light while a white patch of fur under the eye reflects even more light towards the eye. This allows lions to be fearsome predators at both night and day.

22. Tanzania has the largest population of lions in Africa.

23. White lions occur both in the wild and in captivity. This is not albinism but a recessive mutant gene that gives them a white coat. Surprisingly, wild white lions seem to thrive just as well as their normal cointerparts despite their different coloring.

24. In the wild male lions live to around 12–16 years of age. Lioness fair better at 15–18 and in captivity lions can live up to 20 years.

25. “Canned” lion hunting is when lions are farmed and put in an enclosure where they are easy to hunt. Companies will often send out catalogs so hunters can choose the lions in which they hunt. Prices can range from 5,400–48,000$ and I find this practice to be truly despicable.

26. Male lions mate up to 100 times in 2 days to ensure the lioness becomes pregnant and carries on his genes. Unlike us humans, mating sessions can last only a few seconds. Now that’s fast!

27. Asiatic lions were once found all throughout Europe and India but now there are fewer than 600 individuals left. These felines are quite different from their African cousins and now they are only found in India’s Gir National park.

28. Unlike African lions, male Asiatic lions live primarily solitary lives (They may form small coalitions.) and only live with the females and cubs during the mating season.

29. The lions of Africa’s coast have been known to travel 50 kilometers a day along the beach, searching for seals to eat.

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30. Cape buffalo are one of the lion’s main prey and also one of its greatest rivals. Buffalo are very aggressive, known to harass other animals for no reason and lions are no exception. Cape buffalo kill more lions than any other prey animal.

31. Lion claws are around 3 inches long, the length of a human finger!

32. Lioness usually spend their whole lives in the prides they grew up in. On the flip side males leave their families at age 2 to look for their own pride to rule.

33. The earliest recorded images of lions are found in the Chauvet cave in Southern France dating back 32,000 years.

34. In Botswana 90% of free roaming lions are infected with FIV, the feline version of HIV.

35. Sadly, around 600 lions are killed each year by trophy hunters.

36. The farmers of east Africa use a poison called Furadan to kill lions, hyenas and other predators. Just a small handful sprinkled on a carcass can wipe out an entire pride. This poison my be banned in the US and EU but lion don’t really live in regions they control so…

37. Ever wonder how Simba in the Lion King got his name. Well it turns out “Simba” is Swahili for lion.

38. While quite rare, there are certain large lion prides that are specialized in bringing down elephants. The elephant killers of Botswana are a pride numbering 30 strong and have been fairly well documented killing the largest land mammals on earth.

39. A lion hunt is a symbolic act and a sort of coming of age for many tribes in Africa such as the Maasai.

40. Many mythical creatures are based off the lion such as the Griffin, Manticore, Chimera and Nemean lion.

41. Lions have a well attuned sense of hearing, enhanced by movable ears that can adjust to the direction of sound. With this acute sense lions can hear prey from very far away.

42. When a lion curls up its lips over its teeth its using its Jacobson’s organ in the roof of its mouth to “taste” the air. Then by sticking out their tongue and showing their teeth in “flehmen response” they can determine if their food is close by and/or worth eating.

43. Lions have an interdigital scent gland in their toes which allows them to mark territory. So essentially they can smell with their feet. Strange!

44. The lion’s loose skinned belly allows it to be kicked, rammed or stomped by prey and suffer less injury.

45. The lion’s tongue is rough enough to peel skin and is used when eating. Just a few licks from a lion could shear away the skin of a human being.

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46. A lion can roar at the age of 2.

47. It is a common misconception that the lion’s claws are retractable, they are actually protractible which means they are sheathed when the animal is at rest. If lion claws were retractable they would need to walk around tense to keep them sheathed and that wouldn’t be very convenient.

48. There are many lion hybrids out there such as the Liger (Lion+Tiger), Tigon (Lion+Tiger), Leopon (Lion+Leopard) and Jaglion (Lion+Jaguar).

49. Lions are the national animal of many countries such as Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, Ethiopia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Singapore.

50. The famous MGM lion is named Leo the lion and has opened in everyone of their movies since 1929. 4 different lions have been used for this role.

51. African lions are actually quite diverse with 6 different sub-species.

52. The average lion pride consists of 13 animal but they can range anywhere from 2–40 members.

53. Lioness have been known to bring back baby animals so that their cubs can practice their hunting.

54. A lion pride’s territory can stretch up to 248 square kilometers.

55. Lions mostly hunt at night with success rate of around 25%. They do this in the cover of the dark as it allows for more stealth.

56. Lions sleep the most of the big cats at 22 hours per day. Additionally lioness do 90% of the hunting while the male rests.

57. Male lions have 2 main jobs: Defend the pride from rival males and to mate with all the females and ensure the next generation of young lions is born. The average male will keep his pride for 4 years. In addition male lions do hunt when in coalitions and in prides they are often recruited against bigger game.

58. The mane of a male lion starts growing at 18 months and continues until the cat is 5 years of age.

59. Lions are skilled hunters but also notorious scavengers that steal around 50% of their meals on average. Being the largest predator on the savannah comes with some perks and even hyena clans can’t defend their meals against the full strength of the pride.

60. Lions hate hyenas but some males have taken this hatred to a whole new level. First, the lion will wait near a group of feeding hyenas to discover the identity of the dominant female. Then the lion will kill her, throwing the hyena clan in to disorder for a good long while. This eliminates competition for some time, giving the lions an easier life.