The lion (Panthera leo) is a massive, powerfully built cat in the Felidae family, second only to the tiger in size. The lion, the proverbial “king of beasts,” has long been one of the most well-known wild animals. Lions are most active at night and can be found in a variety of environments, but their preferred habitats are grassland, savanna, dense scrub, and open woodland. They used to be found in most of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but now they are mostly found south of the Sahara. In India’s Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, an isolated group of around 650 Asiatic lions form a slightly smaller race that lives under strict security.

General Characteristics

The lion is a tall, muscular cat with short legs and a long neck. The size and appearance of men and women differ significantly. The male’s most distinguishing feature is his mane, which differs between individuals and populations. It may be completely absent, fringed around the ears, or full and shaggy, covering the back of the head, neck, and shoulders and extending onto the throat and chest to join a fringe around the belly. The mane and fringe of some lions are very dark, almost black, giving the cat a majestic look. Males with manes seem larger, which can be used to threaten rivals or attract a potential partner.

A fully grown male is about 1.8–2.1 metres (6–7 feet) long, except the 1-metre tail, and stands about 1.2 metres tall at the hip, weighing 170–230 kg (370–500 pounds). With a body length of 1.5 meters, a shoulder height of 0.9–1.1 meters, and a weight of 120–180 kilograms, the female, or lioness, is the smaller of the two. The lion’s coat is short and ranges in color from buff yellow to orange-brown to silvery gray to dark brown, with a darker tuft on the tail tip than the rest of the coat.


Lions are the only cats that live in groups called prides. A pride’s members usually spend the day in several dispersed groups that can come together to hunt or share a meal. A pride is made up of several generations of lionesses, some of whom are related, a few breeding males, and their cubs. The group may have as few as four members or as many as 37, but the average size is about 15. Each pride has a well-defined territory that includes a core area that is strictly protected from intruding lions and a fringe area that allows for some overlap.

When prey is plentiful, a territory can be as small as 20 square kilometers (8 square miles), but when game is scarce, it can be as large as 400 square kilometers. Some prides are known to use the same territory for decades, handing it on from female to female. Lions mark their territories by roaring and smelling it. Their distinctive roar is usually heard in the evening before a night of hunting and again in the morning before waking up. Males often make their presence known by urinating on bushes, trees, or the ground, leaving a pungent smell in their wake. Different scent marks are left by defecation and rubbing against bushes.

You can see these animals while on a safari after your stay with us.

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