The lion is known as the King of the Jungle, a majestic and fearsome creature. We might not all ever get the chance to see one face to face and that’s probably a good thing as they aren’t really as cute as they same and they don’t want to be petted like their smaller, domestic cousins. Behind the safety of strong glass at a zoo or on a nature documentary on television might be the closest most of us get and that’s much safer. Here are some facts about the biggest of big cats:
Lions, unlike other big cats, are very social beasts in contrast with some of their counterparts. A pride of lions is generally made up of around 15, many more than most other predators. They interact and work together as a cohesive unit, each with a valuable and important role to play.
Female lions take care of hunting for food while males defend the pride and their territory, in a role reversal of the norm of the animal kingdom. The male still has the pleasure of eating first despite not killing the prey himself as he is considered the most important, particularly the alpha of the pride. The hierarchy within the pride is fundamental to its success.
Despite their ferocity, lions are no match for some predators, namely hunters with guns. They have been hunted not to the brink of extinction, but not too far from it. It wasn’t only the colonialists of hundreds of years ago who killed them for sport and trophies, it still goes on today despite some people’s better efforts to stop it. A great deal of the animals’ habitat has been decimated within the last century or so and they are now on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Lions are now fundamentally only found in Africa having previously roamed in Asia and Europe as well. Sadly they’ve been hunted to extinction in Europe and captured for zoos throughout the world. The only exception to lions existing in the wild outside of Africa is a National Park at Sasan-Gir in India which has around 400 of the animals and was set up as a conservation project in an attempt to protect the now endangered species.
A lion’s roar can be deafening and will strike fear into the heart of man or beast. The ferocious sound can carry for an impressive distance of up to five miles.
Speed and distance
Lions may not be the fastest of the big cats, but they can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour in short bursts, enabling them to chase down and attack many animals incapable of such impressive sprinting ability. They are also capable of leaping distances of up to 36 feet which is also very intimidating.
King of the Jungle
King of the Jungle is actually a complete misnomer. Lions are not found in jungles at all and live on plains or grasslands. The origins of the nickname are unknown and it could well have derived from the ignorance of continental Africa by colonial types many years ago or even from popular Disney film The Jungle Book.
A lion’s age is difficult to determine accurately, but as a general rule of thumb a lion with darker mane will be older than one which has a lighter mane.
For such a large, heavy animal, a lion can creep around quite effectively and at speed too. This is aided by the fact that their heels don’t touch the ground as they walk, making them very effective predators.
The song The Lion Sleeps Tonight is more factual than you might think, although it isn’t strictly confined to the hours between sunset and sunrise. Lions can spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping, hardly surprising given the running and hunting they spend their time on for the other 4 hours.
Lions are truly spectacular animals. Nobody knows how long we’ll still have them to share a planet with and they really should be respected. It would be a travesty if they were driven to extinction by the activities of man and it must be halted if possible.