Lions vary in colour from nearly white to deep ochre brown but tawny yellow is the most common shade.  Male lions can grow to over two metres long, one metre high and weigh between 150 and 225 kilograms. Female lions are smaller than the males weighing between 120 and 150 kilograms.  The male lion is also the only cat to have a mane. The mane is a sign of maturity and also helps to protect the male during fights with other lions.  Click here to watch a video of lions.


Female lions typically give birth to one to four cubs after a pregnancy of about 110 days. The mother lion will care for her cubs for up to two years.  Cubs are born with spots, which disappear as they get older, although the spots sometimes persist on their legs and belly. Cub’s eyes are blue-grey when they are born and change to amber when they are 2 to 3 months old.

Picture of a lionEndangered status

Lions once ranged from north Africa through south west Asia, west into Europe and east into India. These days their distribution is patchy and they are only found in reserves and national parks south of the Sahara and in the Gir Forest, India.  Lions are listed as vulnerable. The African Lion population has decreased by 20% over the past three years with their numbers estimated to be somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000. Their main threats include poaching and being eliminated by farmers and disease.


Lions are carnivores that hunt by ambush. The females tend to do most of the hunting for the whole pride, they hunt cooperatively, each individual taking on a different role. Their main prey includes medium to large-sized mammals such as antelope, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, warthog and deer. 

Lion Facts

•    Lions can be found living on desert fringes, in woodland or open savannah. They can live for 12 -16 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.
•    Lions spend most of their day resting. In fact, males sleep for almost 22 hours of every day.
•    All members of the pride carry a common smell that is passed on to each individual by rubbing their heads together.
•    The roar of a lion is so powerful it has been known to stir up the dust surrounding it.
•    Lions are the only cats to live in groups, which are called prides. 
•    There are seven subspecies of lion, six in Africa and one in Asia

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