Traditionally portrayed as the “king of the jungle.” Lions are large felines, with these big cats having once roamed Europe, Asia, and Africa. Nevertheless, they now only exist in the two of the mentioned areas of the world and lions are classified into two subspecies, that is the African lions that live in southern and central Africa and Asiatic lions which live in India’s Gir Forest.
Despite looking very similar, these two-lion subspecies differ significantly regarding diet, habitat, and size to mention a few.
Size and Characteristics
The length of the African lion from its head to the rump is 4.5 to 6.5 feet, with the tail measuring 26.25 to 39.5 inches long. Furthermore, African lions usually weigh between 265 to 420 pounds.
According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), Asiatic lions are usually bigger in comparison to African lions, weighing between 300 to 500 pounds. Also, Asiatic lions are 6.56 to 9.18 long and a tail with a length of 23.62 to 35.43 inches.
Usually, male lions tend to be larger in comparison to female lions as well as having a unique mane of hair around their heads. The role of the mane according to the San Diego Zoo is to seem more daunting to other male lions and make the male lions look more attractive to female lions. Moreover, during fights over mating rights and territory, the lion’s mane acts as a protection to the lion’s neck.
African lions are found in Botswana, Angola, Mozambique, the Central African Republic, Tanzania and other regions of the sub-Sahara Africa. Additionally, according to the National Geographic, they roam a territory of approximately 100 square miles, with this terrain, mostly consisting of grasslands, scrub and open woodlands.
On the other hand, Asiatic lions can only be seen in India’s Gir Forest National Park, with this wildlife sanctuary being 877.37 square miles of land. This region is mostly covered with grasslands, deciduous forest, scrub jungle, and rocky hills.
The African lion’s prey on large animals that graze on the grasslands, including zebras, antelopes, and wildebeest. Asiatic lions also do feed large animals, including sambhar, buffaloes, chital, nilgai, and buffaloes, while still preying on smaller animals.
Both Asiatic and African lions live in pride and are social cats, but the pride of these two types of lions is very different.
According to National Geographic, the pride of African lions is composed of up to three males, about a dozen females along with their young ones. Nevertheless, there exist prides that have as many as 40 members.
Asiatic lions, however, are divided into two prides, with the males having pride and the females as well having a pride. These two prides only come together over the mating season.
In both types of lion pride, females always stay put. Moreover, females in a pride are typically related to each other since female lions remain with the pride that they were born into. On the other hand, male lions wander away when they are old enough and form their pride.
When male and female lions reach 3 to 4 years old, they are ready to mate, with the gestation period usually lasting approximately four months. Female lions seclude themselves when giving birth to their young ones, hiding the cubs from the rest of the pride for the first six weeks of their lives. Cubs just after birth usually are three pounds and are entirely dependent on their mothers.
Additionally, all females in a group of lions usually mate at the same time. According to San Diego Zoo, cubs after the first six weeks are taken care by the rest of the females in the pride other than their mother.
Hunting and habitat loss and diseases which can spread from domesticated dogs in the nearby villages according to the National Zoo, thus causing a threat to the existence to the lions.
According to the International Union for Conservancy of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, African lions are also among the vulnerable species since their numbers have been gradually reduced. Currently, the lion population is about 30,000 to 100,000, with this population size being cut in half over the past two decades as a result of vengeful killings by farmers after lions’ prey on their livestock. Additionally, habitat loss and trophy hunting have resulted in reduced population size.
Lions in Asia are in a risky position due to the ever-increasing human encroachment thereby reducing the size of their habitat. IUCN lists these lion species as a threatened species with approximately only 350 of them being in existence, and only 175 mature lions being in this group.
The female lions are the primary hunters of the pride, typically creating hunting parties to hunt some of the quick animals located within their habitat.
Smithsonian National Zoo states that lions can manage killing prey that weighs up to 1,000 pounds, thus showing lions goes toe-to-toe with prey much bigger than themselves. Using their powerful jaws, lions kill prey by strangling it to death or snapping the neck of the prey.
The male lions when taking over a pride tend to kill all the cubs to eliminate any competition.
WWF states that lions can reach speeds of 50 mph when running for short distances as well as leaping about 36 feet.