Kingdom of Lions
= Who are we? =


Panthera leo

lion portraitLet's first mention the official facts about us:

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus species: Panthera leo

All this means that lions are flesh-eating cats. We eat gazelle, warthog, antelope, impala, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe. Sometimes we catch smaller prey like hare. We as Panthera leo are the biggest cats after the Siberian Tiger.

Our males can reach a length of 2.50 m (8 ft) and a height of 1.20 m (4 ft) at the shoulder. Our dear females are somewhat smaller with a length of 1.70 m (5.5 ft) and a height of 1.05 m (3.5 ft) at the shoulder.

Our weight is between 150 to 250 kg (330-550 lb) for the males and 120-180 kg (260-400 kg) for the females. On average a lion lives 15 years, but - it is hard to admit - in captivity we reach an age of up to 30 years.
Lions are the only truly social cat species. Our friends, like tiger, leopard, cheetah, lynx, jaguar, puma and ocelot lead solitary lives. Our prides consist of up to twelve related adult females, their cubs and up to six males. We are also the only cat species with different looking sexes: the males have proud blond to black manes. The roar of an adult lion can be heard up to 5 km (3 miles) away, but in a moisty atmosphere it even reaches further, until 5 miles (8 km). Lions roar to keep intruders away from our kingdoms and roaring helps to keep together the members of a pride.

lionWe prefer to live in lightly wooded country, rich grasslands and thickets on the borders of plains. Lions do not like dense forests. Our favourite time for chasing prey is in the early morning, the coolest hours of the day. The lionesses do the most of the work. They stalk as close to their prey as they can, until about 20 meters and then launch an attack. They can reach a speed of 35 mph (55 km/h). Often the lionesses work together. Several of them lie in wait downwind of a herd, while another one goes around the herd to the upwind side. Suddenly she breaks cover and chases the frightened wildebeests, zebras or antelopes towards the other lionesses waiting in ambush. When the result is good, lions eat enough for several days.

lionessOur females can breed several times a year, but after a litter, the next will come after about two years. Lion cubs are born blind and very small. They weigh only 1 to 2 kg at birth. Their eyes open after about two weeks. The cubs suckle not only with their own mother, but also with other lionesses. So each lioness is promoting her own genes, because the females in a pride are closely related. Cubs eat meat from their sixth week and they remain weaned six to eight months. Newborn cubs have greyish spots in their skin, which fade away in about three months. People might think that lions do not really care about their cubs. A lot of them die because of starvation and others are killed when a new male becomes the leader of a pride, because he doesn't tolerate the off-spring of other males. But those are the harsh rules for surviving. Even male lions are very affectionate with their own cubs, what is a quite unusual behavior for cats. And think of this: there are only few lions left in nature. That is not because of killing our cubs, but because of humans who kill lions, often for pleasure. Of course, we kill other animals too. But that is not for joy, that is for keeping the populations of herbivore animals in balance with their - and our - surroundings.

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