Lion, I am sure you all know, is known as the king of the jungle; what with its majestic look, loud roar and thick mane. As kids, you have probably heard several stories regarding the lion. Won't it be interesting to know about these fantastic animals even better?
The lion (Panthera leo) belongs to the carnivorous cat family called Felidae. They are huge cats with a length of around 5 to 8 feet (without the tail) and a tail of around 24 to 40 inches. The height of these animals is at least 4 feet and they weigh around 330 to 500 lbs, i.e., around 150 to 227 kg. Do keep in mind that the size, weight and the height of the female lion is always less than the male.
Lions have a tawny- or golden brown-colored coat and a tuft at the end of their tail. The males, as you know, have a huge mane around their head and neck. It is this mane which makes them look so majestic. They have strong powerful legs which help them run fast behind their prey. They have strong jaws to kill the prey and then feed on it.
Species of Lions
Lions, like other animals, consist of various species. The most famous ones of the species which you have probably heard about are the African lion, Asian lion, American lion, Cave lion, White lion, and Mountain lion. The color and the habitat of these cats vary according to the species. The mountain lions are now protected by the Government. Earlier, it was a sport to hunt wild mountain lions.
Lions are mainly found in the grasslands and the savannas. You will also find them in the dense bushes or in woodlands. They are mainly found in Africa, in the south of the Sahara and north of South Africa. In India, a very small portion of the northwestern part of the country is the home of the lion. Otherwise, they are almost on the verge of extinction.
The male lion is either called the tom lion or simply the lion, while the females are called 'she lion' or the lioness. Although the male lions are usually the more majestic ones, they are not as good hunters as the females. The latter is the one who does all the hunting for the family. I have to tell you here that the lions are very social. They move around in a pride; cubs and all. They are the only 'social animals' of the entire cat family.
Did you know?
You can hear a lion roar from a distance of 8 km!
Food or Natural Diet
You have seen on TV how lions hunt for food. They are carnivorous animals and they usually feed on animals like zebras, wild buffaloes, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, etc. They also feed on animals like deer and small rodents. Sometimes, lions also steal from other predators, like hyenas or feed on domestic livestock when they come near villages.
Reproduction and Cubs
One strange fact is that all the lionesses give birth at the same time. They reproduce after every two years. Young lions are called cubs and each litter has at least 3 or 4 cubs. The mother or any other lioness can nurse the cub. For the first three months, the cubs drink milk from their mother and later, they move on to meat of other animals. Many times, the male lion may kill the cubs of the rivals in pride. This is because, he wants only his own gene cubs to live.
Lion cubs are easy preys for animals like hyenas. But, the mothers are very protective about their cubs.
Danger of Extinction
If you visit the Sahara desert, you can still find the 'king'. But on the other hand, when it comes to Asian lions, they are almost on the verge of extinction. You will find very few of them in the Northwestern part of India. Due to man's careless attitude towards nature, these lions, like any other animal, have suffered and are still suffering. Right now, there are just around 21,000 lions existing in the world today.