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The Lion

The Lion, Panthera leo, is the second biggest of the natural big cats in existence today. The Tiger is bigger.  A cross between a male Lion and a female Tiger is called a Liger.  These will grow bigger than either parent species, but of course this is not a natural animal because they do not normally cross in the wild.

Social

Cats in general are loners.  Lions are an exception.  They will live in groups called prides.

  A pride may have several related mature males and several females with their cubs.  Prides of 15 or more lions exist, and one of forty has been reported. 

While in a pride the females do the hunting as well as looking after the cubs.  A lion can also survive alone.  A solitary lion of either sex will hunt.

Hunting

We tend to regard the Lion as a mighty hunter.  There is some truth in that, but over half their food is carrion.  This is also somewhat unusual for cats.

A pride of Lions will drive off other predators like Hyenas, Leopards and Cheetahs and eat the animals they have killed.

When the Lionesses of a pride do hunt for themselves they form a well co-ordinated group.

The King of the Jungle

In English speech the Lion is the King of the Jungle, while the Germans regard it as the Desert King.  These two habitats are almost opposites, but there is a bit of truth in both ideas.  There are Lions in the jungles, and in deserts.  But their main habitat is somewhere between these two extremes. Most lions live on the open savannah. 

The prehistoric savannah lions would have been both predators of early Humans and their competitors.

Modern Lions share some parts of the savannah with the savannah Chimpanzees.  If a pride of Lions meets a Troup of Chimpanzees, there is a confrontation with neither side attacking.

Of course, when they get a chance, Lions will eat Chimpanzees, and Chimpanzees will eat Lions, but neither species seems to be a major food source for the other.

Man Eating

Of course Lions can and sometimes do eat Humans, but we are not one of their main food sources either.

Diet

Lions tend to eat fairly large animals.  Because a pride of Lions is a group of very powerful carnivores working closely together they can kill large animals like Buffaloes and Giraffes.  However, with these large animals, there is a definite risk of the lion getting injured. 

Often Lions will go for slightly smaller things like Zebras and Wildebeest, as well as things like Warthogs.

Speed

Lions can run very fast over short distances, but are not so good in a long chase so they try to get close before attacking.  Very fast animals like some of the Antelopes are not major prey animals for Lions.

Very large animals like Elephants, Hippopotamuses and Rhinoceroses are also not usually attacked.

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