African Lion

African Lion

Panthera leo


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Quick Facts

Body Length: Males: 67 to 98 inches; tail length: 39 to 41 inches; females: 35 to 69 inches; tail length: 27 to 39 inches
Height: Males: 49 inches; females: 42 inches
Weight: Male: 330 to 530 pounds; Female: 270 to 400 pounds
Distribution: Southern Sahara to South Africa
Habitat: Grassy plains, savannahs, open woodlands, and scrub country
Wild Diet: Animals in the 100- to 650-pound range: wildebeests, impala, antelope, young giraffes, buffalo, wild hogs, and zebras
Zoo Diet: Nebraska feline and canine diet, plus chunk horse meat, liver, or shank bone as treats

Taking Pride in the Family

African lions make at least nine sounds, including a series of grunts, which may maintain contact between pride members on the move, and roars they make after sundown, a kill, and eating.  African lions are mainly crepuscular (active at twilight, dawn, and dusk) and nocturnal (active at night). They may also be active during the day, especially in areas free of human harassment. On average, they are inactive 20 to 21 hours out of 24. In the Serengeti, nonmigratory lions live in prides with an average of 15 lions. Prides vigorously defend their home territory from other lions. Adult males cooperatively defend the pride from outside males. However, the pride males are eventually displaced by another group of males within three years. The nonmigratory pride is based upon a group of related females and their young. Within the pride, there is a hierarchy among females. A female may lead the group even when a male is present. Females secure most of the food for the pride, but a resident adult male is often dominant above others when feeding at a kill.


African lions are sexually dimorphic (with two distinct gender forms). Males are larger and have manes. Their fur is light tawny, with white on their belly and the inner side of the legs, while the back of their ears and their tail tip are black. The manes of African lions can be tawny to reddish-brown to black. Adult males usually have a dark mane on the head, neck, and shoulders, which offers protection to the neck during fights. Both sexes have a tuft of fur on the tip of the tail.

Status in the Wild

Major threats to lions include habitat loss, disease, and retaliatory or preemptive killing by humans to protect life and livestock.

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