Planet earth is uniue in all the universe for its abundance and variety of animals, every one of which should be protected



The Lion (Panthera leo) is a mammal of the family Felidae and one of four "big cats" in the panthera genus. The lion is the second largest living cat, after the tiger. The male lion, easily recognized by his mane, weighs between 150-225 Kg (330-500 lb) and females average 120-150 kg (260-330 lb) [1]. In the wild, lions live for around 10–14 years, while in captivity they can live over 20 years. To reproduce, the lions mate for long periods of time.



Lions in a zoo sunbathing


Oh somebody please turn the lights out



Population and distribution


In historic times the habitat of lions spanned much of Eurasia, ranging from Portugal to India, and all of Africa. Around the beginning of the current era they died out from Western Europe and since the 2nd century, the lion has disappeared from Europe. Between the late 19th century and early 20th century they also became extinct from North Africa and Middle East. Now, most of the population lives in Central Africa, and their numbers are rapidly decreasing, estimated as between 16,000 and 30,000 living in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 in the early 1990s. The population is even more in jeopardy, because the remaining populations are often geographically isolated from each other, which causes inbreeding.


The last remnant of the Asiatic Lion (subspecies Panthera leo persica), which in historical times ranged from Turkey to India through Iran (Persia) and from Caucasus to Yemen, lives in the Gir Forest of northwestern India. About 300 lions live in a 1412 km˛ (558 square miles) sanctuary in the state of Gujarat.


Lions had become extinct in Greece, their last European outpost, by 100. Other extinct subspecies are the Cape Lion, the European Cave Lion (subspecies Panthera leo spelaea) which coexisted with humans throughout the last Ice Age, and the American lion (subspecies Panthera leo atrox), a close relative of the European cave lion (not to be confused with the mountain lion or puma).



Lioness and whisperer Kevin Richardson


Come here you I want to whisper in your ear





The first lions were presumed to have been maneless. Until around 10 000 years ago, maneless forms seem to have persisted in Europe, and possibly the New World. The maned form may have appeared c. 320 000–190 000 years ago. This maned form may have had a selective advantage that enabled it to expand to replace the range of earlier maneless forms throughout Africa and western Eurasia by historic times. The mane has evolved due to sexually selective pressure driving the trait to an exaggerated point where it no longer serves any other function. The trait has reached the point where cost of maintaining the mane has begun to outweigh its benefits. In fact, lions with particularly large manes often have trouble with thermoregulation.


In the past scientists believed that the "distinct" subspecific status of some subspecies could be justified by their external morphology, like the size of their mane. This morphology was used to identify them, like the Barbary lion and Cape lion. However, now it is known that various extrinsic factors influence the colour and size of a lion’s mane, like the ambient temperature. The cooler ambient temperature in e.g. European and North American zoos can result in heavy mane. Therefore, the heavy mane is an inappropriate marker for identifying subspecies.



Comparative view of the human and lion skeltons, c1860


Comparative view of the human and lion frames, c1860





Lions are predatory carnivores who live in family groups, called prides. The family consists of related females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or more males (often brothers) who mate with the adult females. Although it was once thought that females did most of the hunting in the pride, it is now known that males contribute to hunting. All male lions display hunting skills while they have yet to capture a pride of their own. Even males who have captured a pride of their own may still hunt. The frequency of hunting by male lions who have captured a pride is influenced by the terrain and available prey. Males in more wooded environments hunt for themselves far more frequently than males on the open savannah. Additionally, males appear to prefer buffalo as prey where females appear to prefer smaller prey such as the Blue Wildebeest and zebra. Regardless of who kills the prey, the male usually eats his fill first with the rest of the pride staying at a respectful distance.



Lions pride in Africa, big game cats


Do you reckon that herd of wildebeest are coming this way? 



Both males and females will defend the pride against intruders. Typically, males will not tolerate outside males, and females will not tolerate outside females. Males are expelled from the pride or leave on their own when they reach maturity. The male lion is a superb master and defender of his pride and territory.


When a new male (or a coalition) takes over a pride and ousts the previous master(s), the conquerors often kill any remaining cubs. This is explained by the fact that the females would not become fertile and receptive until the cubs grow up or die. The male lions reach maturity at about 3 years of age and are capable of taking over another pride at 4-5 years old. They begin to age (and thus weaken) at around 8. This leaves a short window for their children to be born and mature — the fathers have to procreate as soon as they take over the pride.


Sometimes a female may defend her and the ousted male's children from the new master, but such actions are rarely successful.





Kevin Richardson, Lion whisperer




Attacks on humans


While a hungry lion may occasionally attack a human that passes near, some (usually male) lions seem to seek out human prey. Some of the more publicized cases include the Tsavo maneaters and the Mfuwe man-eater. In both cases the hunters who killed the lions wrote books detailing the lions' "careers" as man-eaters. In folklore, man-eating lions are sometimes considered demons.


The Mfuwe and Tsavo incidents did bear some similarities. The lions in both the incidents were all larger than normal, lacked manes and seemed to suffer from tooth decay. Some have speculated that they might belong to an unclassified species of lion, or that they may have been sick and could not have easily caught prey.


There have also been recorded attacks on humans by lions in captivity; tigers are statistically much more likely to attack humans in captivity. Wild lions are also much less likely to attack humans than wild tigers are.



Asiatic lioness, panthera leo persica, or pussy cat


Asiatic Lioness Panthera leo persica, name MOTI, born in Helsinki Zoo 

(Finland) October 1994, arrived Bristol Zoo (England) January 1996.

The Gir Forest in India is the natural home of the Asiatic lion







The major differences between lion subspecies are location, mane appearance, size and distribution. However some of the forms listed below are debatable. Genetic evidence suggests that all modern lions derived from one common ancestor only circa 55,000 years ago. Therefore most sub-Saharan lions could be considered a single subspecies Panthera leo leo.


Most scientists today recognise subspecies (not all named here are considered valid by all scientists).


  • Panthera leo azandica - North East Congo lion.

  • Panthera leo bleyenberghi - Katanga lion or Southwest African lion.

  • Panthera leo europaea - European lion. Extinct around 100 due to persecution and over-exploitation, though may have been Panthera leo persica. Inhabited the Balkans, the Italian Peninsula, southern France and the Iberian Peninsula. It was a very popular object of hunting among Romans, Greeks and Macedonians.

  • Panthera leo goojratensis - Indian Lion.

  • Panthera leo hollisteri - Congo lion.

  • Panthera leo krugeri - South African lion or Southeast African lion.

  • Panthera leo leo (P.l.berberisca) - Barbary lion; extinct at least in the wild and was believed to be extinct in captivity. This was the largest of the lion subspecies, which ranged from Morocco to Egypt. The last wild Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1922 due to excessive hunting. Barbary lions were kept by Roman emperors to take part in the gladiator arenas. Roman notables, including Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar, often ordered the mass slaughter of Barbary lions - up to 400 at a time.



Big cat lions mating


Lion: "Sit still woman"  -  Lioness: "You smooth talker you"



  • Panthera leo melanochaita - Cape lion; extinct in 1860.

  • Panthera leo massaicus - Massai lion.

  • Panthera leo maculatus - Marozi. Status as subspecies is unconfirmed. Distinguishable from other subspecies by its spotted coat. Thought to be extinct since 1931. May have been a natural leopard/lion hybrid.

  • Panthera leo nubica - East African lion.

  • Panthera leo persica - Asiatic lion or South Asian lion. 350 currently exist in and near the Gir Forest of India. Once widespread from Turkey, across the Middle East, to India and Bangladesh, but large prides and daylight activity made it easier to poach than tigers or leopards.

  • Panthera leo roosevelti - Abyssinian lion.

  • Panthera leo somaliensis - Somali lion.

  • Panthera leo senegalensis - West African lion, or Senegal lion.

  • Panthera leo verneyi - Kalahari lion. Distinct behaviour and anatomy has been observed in this subspecies.




Lion cub talks to his father, big cats in Africa


Dad, mind if I borrow the car tonight?




Besides these subspecies there are also some prehistoric ones. 

  • Panthera leo atrox - American Lion or North American cave lion, about 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.

  • Panthera leo fossilis - Early Middle Pleistocene European primitive cave lion, about 500,000 years ago.

  • Panthera leo sinhaleyus - Sri Lanka lion or Ceylon lion.

  • Panthera leo spelaea - European cave lion, Eurasian cave lion or Upper Pleistocene European cave lion (300,000 to 10,000 years ago).

  • Panthera leo toscana - Tuscany lion - European primitive cave lion, was present around 1.6 million years ago.

  • Panthera leo vereshchagini - East Siberian and Beringian cave lion

  • Panthera leo youngi - North-Eastern Pleistocene China cave lion, 350,000 years ago.





Christian the pet Lion from Harrods 

meets John Rendall and Ace Berg after release into the wild





Lioness the picture of big cat contentment


The face that launched a thousand kisses, umm that warthog tasted good





White lions


Although they are not often heard of due to their rarity, white lions do exist, in Timbavati, South Africa. There is a recessive gene in white lions that gives them their unusual color (many white tigers with this same gene are bred for zoos and animal shows). A white lion has a disadvantage when it comes to hunting: it can be given away by its color, unlike the regular lion which blends in with its surroundings.



Cross-breeding with tigers


Lions have also been known to breed with their close counterparts, tigers (most often Amur), while in captivity to create interesting mixes. These two new breeds are called ligers and tigons.




Lion shaped happiness, big game cats apetites sated


I thought so too, are there seconds?




The liger originates from mating a male lion and a tigress. Because the lion passes on a growth-promoting gene, but the corresponding growth-inhibiting gene from the female lion is not present, ligers are larger than either parent. It is said that ligers do not stop growing and will grow constantly through their lifespan, until their bodies cannot sustain their huge size any longer, reaching up to half a tonne. Ligers share some qualities of both their parents (spots and stripes) however they enjoy swimming, a purely tiger activity, and they are always a sandy color like the lion. Male ligers are sterile, but female ligers are often fertile.


The tigon is a cross between the lioness and the male tiger. Because the male tiger does not pass on a growth-promoting gene and the lioness passes on a growth inhibiting gene, tigons are often relatively small, only weighing up to 150 kilograms (350 lb), which is about 20% smaller than lions. They can best be described as "housecat-like" in appearance, although with round ears. Like male ligers, male tigons are sterile, and they all have both spots and stripes, with yellow eyes. Tigons are not as common as ligers because they are more difficult to produce since male tigers are less attracted to lionesses because of their smaller size and are thought to have difficulty with recognizing lioness breeding cues.


Female ligers and female tigons are fertile and can produce offspring if mated to either a pure-bred lion or a pure-bred tiger. Such inter-breeding was a practice earlier, but has been stopped now.



Lion and Tiger playmates, big cats


If they can do it why can't we - peace to all men on earth



Lions in culture


Lions are recurring symbols in the coat of arms of royalty and chivalry, particularly in the UK, where the lion is also a national symbol of the British people, and in Ethiopia, where it is a symbol of the Monarchy. Lions appear in the art of China, even though lions have never lived in China. No animal has been given more attention in art and literature. C.A.W. Guggisberg, in his book Simba, says the lion is referred to 130 times in the Bible, for example in 1 Peter 5:8 where the Devil is compared to a roaring lion:


`seeking someone to devour`.


The lion can also be found in stone age cave paintings.


  • Although lions are not native to China, the Chinese people believe that lions protect humans from evil spirits, hence the Chinese New Year Lion Dance to scare away demons and ghosts.

  • The lion was adopted by the British people as their mascot together with the bulldog.

  • It is depicted as, "the courageous, and tough" in many ideas.

  • The lion is also a popular sport mascot. It was used as the FIFA World Cup mascot held in England in 1966 and the European Football Championships in 1996. The lion again became mascot with Goleo VI for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. A British group, The Lighting Seeds (inspired by the England football team emblem) have written the song Three Lions, which is the team`s nickname. The National Football League also has the Detroit Lions as one of its teams.

  • The island of Singapore is named for the Malay word singa (lion).

  • Disney's The Lion King.



The Lion King - Disney animated movie, cast of characters 




Lions in art


Lions have been widely used in sculpture and statuary to provide a sense of majesty and awe, especially on public buildings, including:


  • The Great Sphinx of Giza.

  • Nelson's column in London's Trafalgar Square.

  • The entrance to the Britannia Bridge crossing of the Menai Strait, Wales.

  • Patience and Fortitude, the large stone lions outside the main branch of the New York Public Library, also the mascots of the New York and Brooklyn Public Library system.

  • Chinese lions are frequently used in sculpture in traditional Chinese architecture. For instance, in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, two lion statues are seen in almost every door entrance.

  • The entrance to Sigiriya, the Lion-Rock of Sri Lanka, was through the Lion Gate, the mouth of a stone Lion. The paws of the lion can still be seen today. It is one of the 7 world heritage sites in Sri Lanka.

  • The Dying Lioness is a relief panel from 650 BCE, Nineveh (modern day Iraq) depicting a half-paralyzed lioness pierced with arrows. This piece currently resides at home.



Lions in literature

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in the Narnia series written by C.S. Lewis. Aslan is the eponymous lion who features throughout the stories.

  • The Wizard of Oz features the Cowardly Lion.

  • The japanese comic called Digimon has a lion-inspired monster called Leomon.

  • The cartoon and comic Thundercats stars a team of humanoid cats led by a warrior named Lion-O.



Lions in media

  • There have been five different lions used as the mascot for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios, based on the mascot of Columbia University, MGM publicist Howard Dietz's alma mater. Although the five lions went by the name of Leo the Lion, the first was named Slats. Slats was trained by Volney Phifer to roar on cue, as can be seen at the beginning of MGM movies. Leo died in 1936 and is buried in Gillette, New Jersey.

  • In 1966, the live-action picture Born Free appeared, based on the true-life international bestselling book of the same title. It covered the story of the Kenyan lioness Elsa, and the efforts of Joy Adamson and her game-warden husband George in training the lioness for release back into the wild.

  • In 1994, Disney made a hugely successful animated feature film called The Lion King, during the height of Disney animation in the mid 90's.

  • Osamu Tezuka made an anime called The White Lion about a little lion cub who grew up without parents and had to rely on his friends to survive from hunters and other prey.

  • In 2005, the Kenyan lioness Kamuniak captured international attention when she adopted oryx calves, an animal species that is normally preyed upon by lions. She fought off predators and lion prides who attempted to eat her charges. Kamuniak's story was captured in the Animal Planet episode, "Heart of a Lioness".


lion and lioness in the lions den, big cats at rest


Lovely photograph of a pair of lions resting: "Hey, give us a break"



Lions in heraldry


The lion is a common image in heraldry, traditionally symbolizing bravery, valor and strength.


The following positions of heraldic lions are recognized: rampant, guardant, reguardant, passant, statant, couchant, salient, sejant, dormant.


The image of lion appears on many flags, coats of arms and emblems. For example, it symbolises the Sinhala people (Sinhalese Singha = Lion). Local folklore tells of Prince Vijaya, the first of the Sinhalese kings, as being the son of Sinhabahu, who was fathered by a lion.




A lion in captivity quenching his thirst


I don't know what's in the water, but it sure tastes good









Lion v man meeting











Lions bring down a hippo




Lion world cup football mascot, Willie


World Cup Willie the mascot of the 

FIFA World Cup in 1966



Index to navigate Animal Kingdom:-




Such as frogs (class: Amphibia)


As in Earthworms (phyla: Annelida)


Neanderthals, Homo Erectus (Extinct)


Spiders (class: Arachnida)


Such as Eagles, Albatross (class: Aves)


such as Whales & Dolphins ( order:Cetacea)


such as crabs (subphyla: Crustacea)


Tyranosaurus Rex, Brontosaurus (Extinct)


As in Starfish (phyla: Echinodermata)


Sharks, Tuna (group: Pisces)


Homo Sapiens  THE BRAIN Skull


Ants, (subphyla: Uniramia class: Insecta)


Which includes PLANTS non- animal life


Warm blooded animals (class: Mammalia)


Such as Kangaroos (order: Marsupialia) Koala Bear


Such as octopus (phyla: Mollusca)


Trees -


Gorillas, Chimpanzees (order: Primates)


As in Crocodiles, Snakes (class: Reptilia)


such as Rats, Mice (order: Rodentia)


As in Amoeba, plankton (phyla: protozoa)



How to carve a lion in wood


Learn how to carve a lion in wood by clicking on the picture above



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