a proud, beautiful lion standing on a small hill with a tree in the background at sunset

Lion

Nicknamed the King of the Jungle, ferocious lions rule their habitats — but they aren’t immune to endangerment or extinction risks.

Get the facts on this magnificent mammal below, including the surprising distance jumping lions can reach.

Where Are Lions Found?

Though lions once roamed large parts of Africa, as well as Asia and Europe, they are now primarily confined to regions in sub-Saharan Africa. You can also find approximately 300 Asiatic lions in India’s Gir Forest.

Lions prefer grasslands and open woodlands, so don’t expect to find them in rainforests or deserts. Because lions get most of their moisture from food, they can comfortably dwell in dry climates. You can also find lions in zoos, where they live up to 20 or 25 years instead of the 10 to 15 years they enjoy in the wild.

What Are Some Characteristics of Lions?

Like smaller felines, including domestic cats, lions mark their territory with urine. They typically travel in female-led groups, called prides, with 10 to 15 females and their cubs, plus up to two or three males. Females do most of the group’s hunting, as males are often threatened by other power-hungry male lions.

Lions can sprint up to 50 miles per hour, and when needed, they can jump to safety or attack prey up to 36 feet away. Lions are often exhausted after their prowling adventures, clocking in up to 20 hours of sleep per day.

Lions are known for their loud roars which can be heard from up to 5 miles away. They roar when they’re angry or feel threatened.

Here is what a lion’s roar sounds like:

Lion Mating and Reproduction

Though lions can breed as early as age 2 or 3, many wait to mate until a pride is established. Once pregnant, a female’s gestation period lasts approximately 4 months, and females can give birth to as many as six cubs at one time. Cubs are born blind, putting them at risk for animal attacks. Only 1 in 5 lion cubs make it past age 2.

Lions are carnivorous creatures, though cubs do not eat meat until they are a few months old. They eat buffalo, giraffes, gazelles and zebras as well as other types of prey found in their regions. Male lions eat first, even though females typically catch the food, and then lion cubs get whatever is left. Lions do not typically attack humans unless provoked.

Are Lions Endangered?

Lions threaten other animals, especially giraffes and elephants, but many predators are hesitant to attack these furry felines. Hyenas are the exception. They attack lions and also spread diseases to these majestic mammals.

Due to changes in their natural habitat, lions may one day become extinct. Lions must also watch out for big game hunters, though poaching is generally illegal in their territories.

Lions in Pop Culture

Lions date back to the Biblical times, including a notable tale about Daniel and the Lion. Aristotle wrote about lions as early as 300 B.C. Because they represent courage and strength, lions are often used as mascots for schools and sports teams. Animated lions star in Disney’s hit movie, The Lion King, and a timid but likable lion was featured in The Wizard of Oz.

Astrology fans know that the lion represents Leos. If you gaze closely at the northern sky, you can see the sparkling Leo constellation. 

Lions exhibit bravery, strength and authority, making them a popular animal with people who value courage. Though lions seem intimidating, they aren’t likely to attack humans unless you bother them first, so it’s possible to coexist peacefully with these fierce felines in nearby areas.