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What do lions look like?
Lions belong to the order of predators and there to the family of cats and to the genus of big cats.
In addition to the tigers, they are the largest big cats on earth:
They are up to 180 centimeters long, the tail measures an additional 70 to 100 centimeters, the shoulder height is 75 to 110 centimeters and they weigh between 120 and 250 kilograms.
Females are significantly smaller and weigh an average of only 150 kilograms.
The fur of the lions is yellowish brown to reddish or dark brown in color, on the belly it is a little lighter.
The tail is hairy and has a black tassel at the end.
The unmistakable characteristic of the males is the huge mane, which is darker in color than the rest of the fur.
The mane can be black-brown to red-brown, but also yellowish-brown and extends from the cheeks over the shoulder to the chest or even to the stomach.
The mane of the males only develops when they are around five years old. It is completely absent in females, and Asiatic male lions have a weaker mane.
Where do lions live?
Lions are now only found in sub-Saharan Africa and in a small nature reserve on the Kathiawar peninsula in the Indian state of Gujarat. They used to be widespread from North to South Africa and from across the Middle East to all of India.
Lions mainly live in the savannah, but they can also be found in dry forests and semi-deserts.
In contrast, they cannot survive in humid tropical forests or in real deserts where there are no water holes.
What species of lions are there?
Depending on their area of origin, lions differ in size: the most formidable animals live in southern Africa, the most delicate in Asia.
In addition to the lions, the genus of the big cats includes tigers, leopards and jaguars.
How old do lions get?
Lions live on average 14 to 20 years old. In zoos, lions can even live to be over 30 years old. Males usually die earlier in the wild because they are driven away by young competitors. If they do not find a new pack, they usually starve to death because they cannot hunt enough on their own.
How do lions live?
Lions are the only big cats that live in a pack. A pack consists of one to three males and up to 20 females and their young.
The most powerful male can usually be recognized by its particularly long and dark mane. It indicates that the pack leader is fit, healthy and ready to fight.
The mane is believed to be used to protect the males from injuries caused by bites and swipes during fights.
In addition, female lions prefer males with well-developed manes. Conversely, males with smaller manes steer clear of lions with large manes because they know they are dealing with a powerful rival.
The place at the head of the pack is hotly contested: Usually the leader has to give way to another male lion after two to three years. The new head of the pack often kills the cubs of the defeated lion. The females are then ready to mate more quickly.
The females usually always stay in the same pack, the males, on the other hand, have to leave the pack when they become sexually mature. They form so-called bachelor groups with other males, roam around and hunt together. After all, each male tries to conquer his own pack.
A lion sanctuary can be 20 to 400 square kilometers. If the animals find plenty of prey, the territory is smaller; if they find little food, it must be correspondingly larger.
The area is marked with feces and urine. In addition, the males show with their roar that the territory belongs to them.
When not hunting, lions sleep and doze for up to 20 hours a day. They are leisurely animals and cannot walk very long.
When hunting, however, they can reach top speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour; But they cannot keep up this pace for long.
Because the eyes of the lions are directed forward, the animals can judge distances very well. This is very important for predators that go hunting.
And because their eyes, like those of all cats, have a light-reflecting layer in the retina, they can also see excellently at night.
Their hearing is also very well developed: With their movable ears, they can hear exactly from which direction a sound is coming.
Friends and enemies of the lion
At most, a buffalo or a pack of hyenas can be dangerous to an adult lion. In the past, the animals were most threatened by people who hunted them. Today the animals are endangered by the destruction of their habitat and diseases that are transmitted by prey such as buffalo.
How do lions reproduce?
A male lion can smell whether a lioness is ready to mate. To do this, the animals plead: They open their mouths slightly, pull their upper lip and suck in air. If the female is ready to mate, it will mate many times over the next five days.
After a gestation period of around 110 days, a lioness gives birth to two to four cubs. For the birth, she retreats into hiding and stays there with the cubs for up to eight weeks. Lion cubs are 40 to 55 centimeters long and weigh 1200 to 1500 grams, and their fur is spotted. These spots usually disappear in the first year of life.
After these first weeks, the mother lion returns to the pack with her cubs. From this point on, the cubs are suckled not only by their own mother, but by all lionesses in the pack that are currently having cubs.
Only when the little ones are six months old are they weaned. Then they can go hunting for the first time. But it takes time until they have learned all the tricks, and only when they are around one and a half to two years old are they successful hunters themselves and can take care of themselves. The animals become sexually mature when they are three to four years old.
How do lions hunt?
Male lions are real pashas: they leave the hunt to the females. Only these go hunting at night or in the morning. Males only hunt when they are not in a pack.
Because lions cannot run fast for very long, they stalk their prey and then attack from different directions. The common hunt makes it possible that they can kill very large prey.
Finally, they sprint after the prey with jumps of up to six meters in length, pull the animal to the ground and kill it with a bite in the throat. But then the males take care of the prey first, before the females and, last but not least, the young are allowed to eat.
How do lions communicate?
The roar of a male lion can be heard up to eight kilometers away.
This is how the animals make an impression and gain respect.
Otherwise, lions make growling and humming noises.
What do lions eat?
Lions are pure carnivores. They mainly hunt buffalo, zebras, antelopes, wildebeest and gazelles. However, they do not stop at smaller animals such as rabbits, birds and sometimes even fish. Large packs can even kill teenage elephants or hippos.
Lions also eat carrion - especially the males who live without a pack. They often drive away other big cats or hyenas from their prey. In East Africa, hyenas are said to lose 70 percent of their prey to lions.
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