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All Creatures,

Episode 53: The King, The Lion

September 04, 2018

Lions are one of the most iconic species on the planet. Many may think they know there is everything to know about lions, but we will disprove that notion in this episode. Listen to learn about the ‘King of Jungle.’

History of the Lion

The scientific name for lions is Panthera Leo. Within the species are two subspecies of lions:

  • Panthera leo leo is the scientific name of lions that inhabit North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and Asia
    • Asiatic lions first left Africa over 25,000 years ago
  • Panthera leo melanochaita is the scientific name for lions that inhabit East and South Africa

Lions have been important to human culture as well. Cave paintings dating back over 30,000 years depict lions. Lions are known as ‘King of the Jungle’ due to their recognition as being the top predator in many early human settlements. The Sumerians were the first to coin the term ‘king’ and used lions as a symbol of strength. While lions do not inhabit what today we think of jungles, the word jungle is Hindi and means an ‘uninhabited place’. This could apply to savannahs and deserts where lions are known to exist.

The current species of lions diverged from a common relative over 125,000 years ago and are derived from the Panthera lineage which includes tigers, leopards, and jaguars.

Lion Facts

  • Male lions have manes to protect themselves when fighting rivals. However, males from the Tsavo region of Africa have evolved to not have well developed manes.
  • Lions are the only cat species that live in family groups
  • Female lions do most of the hunting and tend to capture mid to small size prey. Male lions are hampered by their manes, making it more difficult to hide and also, they may get tired quicker
  • Lions typically only live 8 to 10 years in the wild, and on average 25 years under human care
  • Lions can run up to 50 mph and can leap up to 36 feet
  • A single lion has an 18% success rate when hunting alone, with groups they average a 30% success rate
  • An adult male lion can eat up to 43 kg/d (95 lb), whereas female can eat 25 kg/d (55 lb)
  • A lion roar can be heard over 5 miles away (8 km)
  • Within lion prides the females tend to dominate the males

Conservation Tip

Wash your clothes in cold water. It works better for the detergent and in removing stains. Only wash in hot if you need to sanitize the clothes or things like baby diapers.

Organizations to Support

Lion Recovery Fund


African Cats

Lions taking down an elephant


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