20 interesting lion facts (for adults and kids alike)

Find out more about these amazing animals on World Lion Day!

A photo of a lioness and cub lying in the long grass

1. Not all wild lions are from Africa

There are two subspecies of lions found in the wild. The African lion and the Asiatic lion. Asiatic lions are found in a small population in India’s Gir Forest. Although both sub-species of lions look very similar, there are some differences. Male Asiatic lions tend to have darker, shorter manes compared to African Lions. Additionally, both male and female Asiatic lions are smaller than African lions.

2. Lions can weigh up to 250kg

Male African lions can weigh between 150kg and 250kg, at their heaviest – 250kg is a whopping 39 stone. Female African lions weigh slightly less, up to 180kg, which is still an impressive 28 stone!

3. Lions are born spotty

Lion cubs are born with spots, it is thought this helps to keep the cubs camouflaged in long grass. As they mature these spots eventually begin to fade.

4. A lion’s mane can grow up to 16cm long

A lion’s mane helps it to appear larger and more threatening towards potential rivals, growing up to an incredible 16cm long. The male hormone, testosterone, affects the development of the mane, captive lions that have been castrated normally lose their mane or never develop one in the first place. One of our Lions of Lockdown, Louga, came to us missing his mane for this reason.

5. Cubs are reared together

Female lions, known as lionesses, tend to have cubs around the same time. Each lioness helps to look after the cubs, keeping them safe from potential predators.

6. A group of lions is called a pride

Lions live together in a family unit known as a lion pride. The pride consists of one or more male lions, multiple related female lions and their cubs. Each member of the pride has a role, with females rearing the cubs and doing most of the hunting. The male lions defend and protect the pride from potential predators and rival males.

7. Where do lions get water from?

Lions can live in extremely dry places, including deserts. To overcome this, they can get some of the water they need from the prey they kill. Research has found that lions kill more prey found close to rivers and water sources than anywhere else. This is due to the preys’ own need for water meaning they will risk a drink, even whilst lions are present.

8. They can eat up to 40kg of meat in a single meal

Lions need a lot of food to keep them going and can eat up to 40kg (nearly a quarter of their bodyweight) in one meal! Lions do not chew their food, instead using their long canine teeth to grab and kill their prey and their sharp teeth at the back of their mouth to tear it into chunks so they can swallow it.

9. They hunt during storms

Lions are clever hunters, choosing to hunt at night or during storms where their prey is unlikely to see or hear them. Lions also use the cover of darkness to sneak up on their prey, with most hunts taking place at night.

10. They are the only cats to roar together

Lions roar to protect their territory and ward off potential rivals and they are the only species of cat to roar together. Lion cubs will also sometimes try to join in, once they reach 2-3 months old.

11. A lion’s roar can be heard FIVE miles away

Lion’s roars can be heard up to five miles (8km) away and can reach 114 decibels – that’s almost as loud as a chainsaw!

12. Only 23,000 lions are left in the wild

Lions are classed as critically endangered species due to the populations of lions decreasing by 43% over the last two decades. The biggest threats to lions are poaching and habitat loss.

13. Lions can live up to 20 years

Female lions tend to live longer than male lions. Overall, the average lifespan of a wild lion is 10-14 years but they can live for up to 20 years.

14. The name for lion in Swahili is simba

Swahili is a native African language used in many countries, including Kenya, and simba is the Swahili word for lion – does that sound familiar?

15. Lions are the only cats that lives in groups

Lions live in large groups, typically consisting of between 2 and 40 individuals, called prides. Most other wild cats are solitary animals (meaning they live and hunt alone), although some, including cheetahs, will hunt cooperatively.

16. Female lions use clear tactics to catch their prey

Female lions often hunt in groups and use teamwork to stalk and surround their prey. During the hunt for food, groups of females chase the prey towards other lionesses, who are waiting in ambush.

17. Lions sleep up to 21 hours a day

Lions enjoy lazing and relaxing, being known to spend up to 21 hours a day sleeping and resting. However, there is a purpose to this behaviour. Sleeping a lot allows lions to preserve their energy for when they really need it, the hunt.

18. Lionesses’ can give birth to up to 6 cubs!

Lionesses tend to give birth to around 3 cubs. However, litter sizes have been recorded with as many as 6 cubs! Once the cubs have been born, they will be kept hidden from the pride by the lioness until they have gained strength and can keep up, returning when they are around 4 to 6 weeks old.

19. Lions face many threats

Lions face a multitude of different threats. From habitat loss and fragmentation to climate change and the reduction of available prey. As well as this, lions are targeted by trophy hunters. Lions are killed each year by humans, through the trophy hunting and canned hunting industry. Both classed as a form of sport, trophy hunting is where wild animals are killed and their body parts used as a trophy. Canned hunting is the hunting of wild animals (usually lions) kept in a confined area where they cannot escape. It is estimated that there are 8000 captive-bred lions kept in South-Africa which are used for canned hunting.

20. Born Free are protecting lions by painting cows!

Born Free are working with local communities in Meru to paint eye spots on the back of cows to reduce human-lion conflict. The eye spots protect the cows, as lions believe they have already been spotted and lost the element of surprise, meaning they are less likely to target these animals.


Adopt a Lion

By adopting a lion with Born Free, you can help protect lions living in the wild, and lions that Born Free rescues from captivity.

Adopt a Lion Today