- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids


African Lion Facts

Size Up to 3.7 ft (115 cm) (shoulder height)
Speed Up to 37 mph (60 km/h)
Weight Up to 551 lb (250 kg)
Lifespan 8-15 years
Food Antelopes, zebras
Predators -
Habitat Tropical Africa, West India
Order Carnivore
Family Cats
Scientific name Panthera leo
Characteristics Big cat, male with thick mane

Main Characteristics

Lions are large cats of prey that live in the savannas, dry forests and deserts of Africa. Unlike other cats, lions live in packs and are mostly diurnal. They prey on medium to large sized ungulates.

Anatomy and Appearance

The King of Animals? For many people, the lion is the most impressive cat. But in fact, it's not the biggest cat. This honor goes to the Siberian tiger. The lion is second largest.


Why Do Lions Roar?

"Look how strong I am!" This is the main reason why lions roar. They want to make clear that they are the boss and that no other lion dares to enter the territory. Lions also roar to recognize each other. Actually, a lion’s roar can be even heard from a distance of 2.9 miles (4.8 km).

Lions Hunt in Groups

Lions can run quite fast at speed of up to 37 mph (60 km/h) over short distances, but antelopes are much faster. They can cover large distances at 60 mph (90 km/h). So what should the lions do? They take advantage of moments of surprise while hunting. They sneak up to their prey from different directions until they are about 30 m away from their victim. During the attack, the prey cannot evade its enemies.

Lion Lion - Photo: Pablo Hidalgo/Shutterstock

Male Lions Are Only Guests

Lions live in packs. Yet, there is no place for males in the strong and social community of mum, granny, sister, aunts and cousins. The males are only guests to ensure the continued existence of the pack through reproduction. But this also has its benefits: Guests are usually being catered for. Male lions therefore hardly ever take part in hunting.

What Is the Role of the Male Lion?

If the males do not hunt – what is their job? Enjoying a lazy day? This would be too simple. Male lions actually have very responsible tasks, such as to mark and secure the territory, and to protect the offspring while the ladies go hunting.

Lion Lion - Photo: Dave Pusey/Shutterstock

Lion Species

Are There Asiatic Lions?

Yes, there are Asiatic lions, too. They look like their African relatives but their appeearance is slightly different. Their mane is shorter and more sparse. Unfortunately, Asiatic lions are are threatened with extinction. They survive only in a national park in India. There is a breeding program to save the species. The hope is that it can be reintroduced into the wild sometime in the future.

White Lions

Lions usually have yellowish or light brown fur. There are also white lions, but they are very rare. Their coat color results from a rare mutation in their genes. However, they're not albinos. Albinos lack the color pigments and have red eyes. White lions typically have blue eyes.

Can You Cross a Lion With a Tiger?

Yes, lions and tigers can have offspring. The cross between a male tiger and a female lion is called a tigon. If the male is a lion and the female a tiger, it's called a liger.

Lion Lion - Photo: Mogens Trolle/Shutterstock


Lions give birth once a year. During the first 4-6 weeks the cubs stay in their hiding place, until they are strong enough to participate in the life of the pack. After three months, the young lions can follow their mother everywhere. After one year, the male lions start to grow their mane. This is when they have to leave the pack to find a new one.

Fun Facts

Stepping Into the Lion’s Den

We use this idiomatic expression when we think, that we are entering a dangerous situation. It derives from the fable "The Old Lion and the Fox": In this story, an old and weak lion pretends to be ill and asks other animals to visit him in his den (because he is to weak to go out) - and eventually then eats them. The fox is the only one that sees though this cunning plan. On the ground, he notices the traces that only lead into the den.

The African Lion Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

Lion Lion - Photo: Gerrit_de_Vries/Shutterstock

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