Known as the "king of
beasts," the lion (Panthera leo) is the most famous
of all the great cats. A symbol of both beauty and power,
the lion has always been highly regarded by man. Its
distinctive, regal appearance and thunderous roars are
both impressive and frightening. Despite these majestic
characteristics, the lion is surpassed in size by the
tiger. Built for strength, not speed, some lions weigh up
to 500 pounds (230 kgs) and can grow to a length of 10
feet (3.1 meters) from head to tail.
The most companionable of all great
cats, lions live in organized social groups, or prides.
Prides vary in size, from as few as four to as many as
40. Each pride consists of a group of related females,
their young, and one to five adult males who
cooperatively defend the pride against incoming males.
Members of the pride will stay together, like a family,
for many years. Young males leave the pride when they
reach maturity, at which time they search for another
pride to take over, and find a mate.
From Sunrise to Sunset
Day to day, the life of a lion can
be described as restful and sociable. After sleeping or
resting up to 20 hours a day, lions will hunt in groups
for their food. After consuming a large meal, the pride
may spend up to 24 hours resting and digesting. As social
as they are, lions lay intertwined with each other and
after hunting, when reunited, they rub cheeks to greet
The Mane Attraction
The most distinctive feature of the
male lion is its mane, a collar of long, thick fur. An
adolescent male's mane will begin to grow at 18 months,
after which it will continue to grow and darken until the
age of five. A visual indicator of gender and power, the
mane also serves to protect the lion's neck from other
Talk to Me
Another distinguishing feature of
the lion is its thunderous roar, which can be heard up to
five miles (9 km) away. Lions produce numerous distinct
vocalizations that help the members of the pride maintain
contact as they move about. Also a territorial function,
roaring is used to deter the approach of outside males.
In Etosha, your best chance to hear the lion's roar is
after a kill, or at dawn or dusk when they sound off in
response to roars of neighboring prides.