Lion Basic Facts
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Lion Characteristics


The lion is the second largest feline after the tiger. With powerful legs, a strong jaw, and 8 cm (3.1 in) long canine teeth, the lion can bring down and kill large prey. Lion coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard. Although these fade as lions reach adulthood, faint spots can still often be seen on the legs and underparts, particularly on lionesses.

Lions are the only members of the cat family to display obvious sexual dimorphism—that is, males and females look distinctly different, as a consequence of the specialized roles that each play in the pride. For instance, the lioness, as the hunter, lacks the male's heavy mane, which would impede her ability to camouflage when stalking the prey. The color of the male's mane varies from blond to black, generally becoming darker as the lion grows older. Weights for adult lions generally lie between 150 - 241 kg (330–530 lb) for males, and 123–182 kg (270–400 lb) for females. Nowell and Jackson report average weights of 181 kg for males and 126 kg for females; one male shot near Mount Kenya was weighed at 272 kg (600 lb). Head and body length is 170–250 cm (5 ft 7 in – 8 ft 2 in) in males and 140–175 cm (4 ft 7 in – 5 ft 9 in) in females; shoulder height is about 123 cm (4 ft) in males and 100 cm (3 ft 3 in) in females. The tail length is 70–100 cm (2 ft 3 in – 3 ft 3 in).

Fast Facts

Swahili Name: Simba

Scientific Name: Panthera leo

Height: 4 feet (1.2m) (males)

Length: 5-8 feet (1.5-2.4m) (males)

Weight: 330-530 lbs (150-241 kg) (males). In general, female lions are smaller than males.

Lifespan: 10-14 years (In wild). Zoo lions can live longer, into their 20s.

Gestation: About 110 days

Top speed: 50 mph (81 km/hr), for short distances



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