Height: 42 - 54 inches
Length: 132 - 168 inches
Weight: 330 - 550 lbs
Gestation: 100 - 120 days
Offspring: 1 - 6
Life Span: 13 - 25 years
Top Speed (Ground): 36 mph
Panthera leo krugeri
Also Called: Transvaal lion Male Roaring (448 KB)
The African lion is a very large cat, with males weighing between 330 and 550 pounds and females weighing between 260 and 400 pounds. It is 8 to 10 feet long, not including the tail. Its most famous feature is its mane, which only male lions have. The mane is a yellow color when the lion is young and darkens with age. Eventually, the mane will be dark brown. The body of the African lion is well suited for hunting. It is very muscular, with back legs designed for pouncing and front legs made for grabbing and knocking down prey. It also has very strong jaws that enable it to eat the large prey that it hunts.
The African lion is a carnivore. It hunts mostly large to medium-sized animals like the giraffe, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, wild hogs, and antelope. The hunt starts with the lion stalking its prey. When it is within about 100 feet, the lion charges at the prey, which in turn begins to try to outrun the lion. If the lion gets close enough, it will slap or grab the animal. This will usually knock the prey down. The lion then bites the muzzle or throat to suffocate its prey. Food is usually shared with the entire pride. About a quarter of the hunts are successful. Male lions need about 15 pounds of meat each day, and females eat about 11 pounds.
The lion prefers grassy plains, savannas, and semi-deserts. It is located throughout much of Africa, especially in the southeastern part of the continent.
The African lion is very high on the food chain. As such, it has almost no predators. Most of danger for the lion is during the first few years of its life. Because the young cub is so physically inferior to the adults, it can easily starve if there is not enough food that is left over after the adults eat. In addition, it is more likely to fall prey to predators or to male lions that move into the pride. Once a cub reaches maturity, it will live approximately 13 to 25 years.
The African lion's society is centered around the pride, which can consist of 3 to 30 lions, lionesses, and cubs. It is interesting to note that the lion is the only large cat that is social. Females in the pride are usually related and stay with the pride. Males, however, join a pride of females and stay for an indefinite period of time. They have been known to join several prides at the same time. Females do most of the hunting. Males will band together to defend the pride against outside males.
Males within the same pride do not compete for mating rights. Instead, they seem to have an agreement that the first male to encounter a female in heat is given a dominant status over the other males. About 100 to 120 days after conception, the lioness gives birth to a litter of 1 to 6 cubs, with the average being 2 or 3. Since the gestation period is so short, the cubs weigh less than 5 pounds. The cub's eyes open in about three weeks. After three months, cubs accompany their mother on hunting trips. They will stay near their mother for the first 2 years.
African lions have excellent eyesight, good hearing and sense of smell. They also have very quick reflexes, which allows them to keep up with the agile antelope.