Lions Physical Characteristics Lions have relatively short-legged, long, muscular bodies and large heads. The male grows on average to 1.7 to 2.5 m (5.6 to 8.2 ft) long, not including the tail, which is 90 to 105 cm (36 to 41 in) in length. It stands 1.23 m (4 ft) high at the shoulder, and it weighs 150 to 250 kg (330 to 550 lb). The mane, which covers the head and neck, sometimes extends to the shoulders and belly. The mane will vary in color and length; well-fed, healthy lions have longer, fuller manes. Females are smaller but equally muscular. Lions vary in color from golden to brown. The mane of a male lion will vary from black to yellow. Both sexes have retractable claws to keep them sharp when they are needed. Lions have wide powerful jaws. The lions roar, which can be heard by humans up to 9 (5.6
miles) kilometers away, is usually uttered before the animals hunt in the evening, after a successful hunt, and again in the early morning.
Habitat & Human Impact Lions once ranged throughout Africa and from Europe to Iran and India. By 1900 lions were no longer found in Syria; today Asiatic lions are limited to the GÃÂ¬r Sanctuary in India. Lions also roam Africa south of the Sahara, particularly the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Kruger National Park in South Africa. This drastic reduction in range came about as humans and domestic livestock spread into savanna lands. Because lions live in open areas, they are easily shot by hunters and herders.
Lions fur coats are a highly prized possession by poachers, and are worth a lot. Over the last 200 years, over 90% of the world's lion population has either been shot or killed as result of humans. Lions are also a very popular attraction for zoos and many lions live in captivity.
Diet & Predatorial Behavior Lions are one of the world's most famous predators. Their preys ranges from insects to giraffes; but they prefer large animals such as zebras and wildebeast. The lion will cautiously stalk its prey until it is within close range and it will sprint reaching speeds about 50 to 60 km/h. The lion will usually take its prey down by the neck using its huge jaws and razor sharp claws. The female is the hunter and will have the first meat, soon after the male comes to share the meat. A lion may eat 40 kg in one meal.
Lion Society Among the most sociable of cats, lions associate in groups called prides. A pride has 4 to 37 members. The females, which represents several generations, will rarely leave the pride. Male cubs stay in the pride until they are expelled when a new group of males join the pride. They then roam for several years, after which they begin to contend with rival for the head of a pride. Many males often remain nomadic.
The size of the territory the lion pride works depends on the amount of available prey in the territory, but they usually range from 100 to 300 sq km. Lions mark their territory by leaving strong odors on bushes and roaring to warn other prides and nomadic males which have roamed into their territory.
Reproduction & Life Span Lions breed every 18 to 26 months in the wild and lions in captivity breed annually. The mating may last up to 3 days. The mating will begin by the female making a kill and bringing it to the male for consumption and energy. The gestation period is about 110 days and 1 to 4 cubs are usually born. Lions in captivity can live up to 30 years; male lions in the wild live about 12 years and females 16.