Lions – 11 Fantastic Facts You Probably Don’t Know

Lions from the genus Panthera have captivated humans down the ages. Their onerous roar, awesome strength and size have been something to fear, respect and stand in awe of since ancient man. With numbers in the wild severely dwindling, now is a good time to give limelight to these great lions. Read on to read 11 fantastic facts you probably didn’t know about lions.

11. The Flehmen Reaction in Lions

When you see a male line curling its top lip, head back, mouth open seemingly appearing aggressive for several seconds all is probably not what it seems. Many wild animals including lions make a so called Flehmen response close to fresh urine to identify prey, locate kills, and importantly tell if a female is ready for mating.

Males or females will pause next to fresh urine, mouth gaping, tongue extended so pheremones and other scents will reach the Jacobson’s organ (vomeronasal organ) situated near the pallate, in the nasal cavity just above the mouth.

The Flehmen Reaction in Lions
The Flehmen Reaction in Lions

For more information about the Jacobson’s organ read https://www.britannica.com/science/Jacobsons-organ.

10. What does a Dark Mane Mean on a Male Lion?

The dark mane means the male lion is mature and likely to be a dominant leader. Hair amount and colour are linked to testosterone levels and amount of nutrition diet. As males get older the mane darkens. Scientists believe a thicker mane helps the male lion better survive attacks. Studies have also shown that testosterone levels are higher in males with darker manes, making them psychologically tougher and more aggressive.

Peyton M. West, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, citing a study in the journal Science, said it’s the mane color, not the length, that matters most to the female lions of Tanzania. In a study 9 out of 10 female lions would veer toward the lion with the dark mane, underpinning the black mane’s sexual appeal.

Black Mane Lions in Literature

Predator and prey paused, facing each other in the gloom. A skewed streak of lightning threw itself across the sky. At that moment, Lubaya saw, “IT” in the dimness: a spiked, black mane framed a ferocious square muzzle. “Despot of the night go back to roaming barren lands. GO where you are alone whoever you are!” she hissed.

He padded closer to her, a terrible anger grumbling up this throat, revealing itself in his bared teeth and his buckled brow. “The King of the Savannah makes his own rules – I will not waste time responding to your hysterical words – a lioness who should bend to the will of mine!

The Zambezi Allies, E.G. Price

9. Are Cubs Born Within the Pride?

Weighing only three pounds when born lion cubs are vulnerable to attack from hyenas and aggressive male lions so the mother will find an isolated spot to give birth and rear the cubs . When they are strong enough after a few weeks, she will move them every three or four days to avoid predators picking up their scent. They are not allowed to rejoin the family for several weeks.

Female Lions In Literature

“It is well known on the plains when lionesses live close to death and when death comes closer than usual, concentrating about survival leaves little room for anything else. With a young lion to fight for, a mother could very well possess the will and strength of two lions. She, bent, her haunches under her, arched her back and bared her own dagger-like canines. She was ready. She would assail him with her hardest blows. Maybe her son would escape his teeth, though the predator appeared unfazed.”

E.G. Price, The Zambezi Allies.

8. How Many Lionesses Typically Live a Pride?

Several lionesses usually live in a pride with one or two males depending on the size of the pride which can consist of 3 to 30 lions. It is not rare to see only one unrelated male in a pride. The related females will oversee a creche for infants. Males will usually remain with their mother until they’re about two, year old. Females may typically stay with their mother and the pride for their entire life span.

Lions – 11 Fantastic Facts You Probably Don't Know. Lionesses
Lions – 11 Fantastic Facts You Probably Don’t Know. Lionesses

7. Lions Practice Hunting Moving on the top Sides of their Paws From an Early Age

Hunting training typically begins when lion cubs are several weeks old. The cubs learn by watching adults. The infants practice stalking prey like warthogs through long grass. When the prey turns its head the lions advance, bellies on the ground. When the prey looks up they learn to pause so not to scare the hog. As the lions advance closer, they learn to turn turn their paws over and crawl on the quieter soft fur of the upper paws. The first lion will charge at up to 50mph. Practiced teamwork means another lion will be waiting opposite her and the prey for the possibility she will miss her target.

6. Lions can be Hostile and Ignore an Injured Weak cub.

It is common to observe an injured, weak cub, being totally ignored by its siblings and mother.

A mother will growl a warning at the cub if it tries to wean milk, end the feed and usher the rest of the family onwards. If the injured cub manages to follow a mother or adult cousin, both females often continue to prevent the cub feeding. Each time it tries to suckle, lionesses will often finish the feed. In the harshness of the savannah the lioness makes a decision to feed only the strong cubs and often not the injured.

5. How Loud is a Lions’ Roar?

A lion’s roar can amazingly be heard 5 miles away reaching 114 decibels from a distance of about 1 meter (3.3 feet). The female will roar far less frequenly. Male and female lions are able to roar from about one year old. While on safari many tourists will report the nightly sound of a booming pitch rising falling over the wilderness which is the male’s signal of power. The female will make a higher pitched roar the oaccassional time she roars. Lions vocal foldss form a square shape which manipulates the passing air, so they don’t place pressure on their lungs when roaring.

Lions – 11 Fantastic Facts You Probably Don't Know
Lions – 11 Fantastic Facts You Probably Don’t Know

There are a trifecta of good reasons why a male lion will roar, startling prey over a 5 mile radius. Firstly, the roar informs the animal kingdom that the territory is his. Secondly, booming roar informs females he’s looking for a mate and thirdly, simply to tell his coalition (males) where he is.

4. Lions Are now Classed as a Vulnerable Species.

There are only about 20,000-30,000 lions (WWF claims about 20,000) left in the wild, their population decimated historically by 94%. illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss and conflict with humans are to blame with the ICUN labeling lions as a ‘vulnerable’ species. Now only found in sub-Saharan Africa, with 80% in eastern or southern Africa lions are extinct in 26 traditional dwelling countries.

3. There is a Species of Asiatic Lion Living in India

A 30,000 sq km area of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, is home to a very small but growing number of Asiatic lions. A 29% increase in lions since the consensus of 2015 has seen the number rise to 523 animals: 421 adults, 262 females, 159 males, 115 sub adults and 138 are cubs. Since 2001 the number of animals has doubled. The forest department of Gujurat has been regularly conducting a lion census every five years. The Gir forest in India is said to be the last home of Asiatic lions in the wild.

2. A Larger Lion Once Existed in Europe

While we walk among city streets with our morning take away coffee, its hard to believe that 660, 000 years ago, a larger lion than the African lion we know today, once was a regular sight in Northern Europe. We know this from fossils found in Germany and Pakefield, East Anglia in United Kingdom. The lion coexisted with early humans as glaciers withdrew and temeperatures were like southern Europe today. A large African cat that originated 1.2–1.7 million years ago crossed into Eurasia 750,000 -780,000 years ago, and bred with Eurasia lions. Interbreeding is believed to have stopped about 500, 000 years ago and the large species fought for territory against early man. Known as Cave lionsthey lived in England and Wales during the Pleistocene era, disappearing about 40,000 years ago. It is known they lived in Macedonia up to several thousand years ago.

1. Why do Lions Have Eyes on the Front of Their Heads?

Have you ever wondered why a lion has eyes on the front of its head while animals like giraffes have eyes protruding more from the sides of the face? The reason is down to the needs of predator vs prey. While prey need eyes which will help scan all about them for the danger of predators, the lion requires keen eye sight that is laser focussed on the target directly ahead for better hunting.

Lions in Literature

“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

C.S. Lewis The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe

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