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Lion Life Cycle


Lion cubs are born blind, in litters of two to four. (Litters up to nine have been reported, but chances of more than four survivng are low, because the mother has just four teats.) They are typically about 1 foot (30.5 cm.) long and weigh about a pound (.45 Kg.). The cubs are completely covered with fur at birth, and may carry some spots while they are young. The eyes open in about 2-3 weeks, but they probably don't function for about a week after they open. The milk teeth appear about three weeks after birth, and the cubs are ready for solid food about a week later. Interestingly enough, wild lion mothers often do not wean their cubs until they are 2-3 months old.

The mother lion keeps her cubs by themselves for the first few weeks, but then introduces them to the pride. Once introduced, cubs may suckle any lactating female. This helps bond the cubs to the adults, and promotes survival. The mother carries the young cubs around by the scruff of their necks when it becomes necessary to move them.

Cub mortality is extremely high, with only one in eight surviving to adulthood. (Survival prospects are excellent after that.) There is a number of reasons for this. First of all, teething is painful, and weakens the cub so that many die during teething. Mother lions can become absorbed by some activity, and will forget for a while that they have cubs to care for. A new male taking over a pride will kill all of the cubs, so that the pride contains only cubs of his siring. Finally, cubs are at the bottom of the feeding hierarchy, and only get food when the adults are filled. Indeed, many cubs starve to death when food is scarce. An interesting exception to this is that male lions will frequently let the cubs share his food, while the females make the cubs wait their turn.



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