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Lions are large cats that live on grassy plains (savannas) in Africa and a some grasslands of India. These golden-colored felines grow to be up to 6 feet (1.8 m) long and weigh up to 420 pounds (190 kg). Lions live for about 15 years in the wild. The scientific name for lions is Panthera leo.
Lions live in permanent groups, called “prides.” These prides have up to 25 lions in them. The home territory of a pride can cover 100 square miles (260 square km). The females do most of the hunting, often hunting in groups.
Lions are nocturnal (more active at night). Lions hunt antelopes, zebra, wildebeest, warthogs, and other large, herding animals.
African Lion Profile
Lions are the only cats that live in groups, which are called prides. Prides are family units that may include up to three males, a dozen or so females, and their young. All of a pride’s lionesses are related, and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age. Young males eventually leave and establish their own prides by taking over a group headed by another male.
Only male lions boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads. Males defend the pride’s territory, which may include some 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) of grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands. These intimidating animals mark the area with urine, roar menacingly to warn intruders, and chase off animals that encroach on their turf.
Female lions are the pride’s primary hunters. They often work together to prey upon antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals of the open grasslands. Many of these animals are faster than lions, so teamwork pays off.
After the hunt, the group effort often degenerates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill, with cubs at the bottom of the pecking order. Young lions do not help to hunt until they are about a year old. Lions will hunt alone if the opportunity presents itself, and they also steal kills from hyenas or wild dogs.
Lions have been celebrated throughout history for their courage and strength. They once roamed most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. Today they are found only in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, except for one very small population of Asian lions that survives in India’s Gir Forest.
After the tiger, the lion is the largest cat. A typical lion group, or pride, consist of about 15 animals. Two or three are males and the rest are females along with their young.