Terry has a master's degree in environmental communications and has taught in a variety of settings.
King of the Jungle?
You have probably heard lions being called the 'King of the jungle', but the funny thing is they don't even live in jungles! They do look regal and any other animal that lives nearby has good reason to respect them, but they live in open grasslands and savannas (a mix of grass and scattered trees). Way back, they lived in much of Africa and parts of Europe and Asia. Now they live mostly in the middle of Africa, and a small group of Asiatic lions live in India.
Compared to a cat you might have at home, lions are giants. Full-grown male lions weigh between 330 and 500 pounds, and can be anywhere from 5 to 8 feet in length. They might also be as tall as you at 4 feet tall standing on all fours. Even though they are big, they can spring into action with surprising speed. For short distances they can run 50 miles per hour (that's almost highway speed) and can leap farther than an Olympic long jumper.
Why are Lions Unique?
There are a few ways lions are unique in the cat world. They live in groups called prides. Most cats live alone. A pride of lions usually has a bunch of females that are related to each other, their babies (called cubs) and a few males, for a total of about 15. When a young male grows up, he leaves the pride and looks for another pride to join, often fighting off the other males in the pride. Each pride has its own territory, which can be 100 square miles in size. The males stick around for a few years and then look for another pride to join.
Another way lions are unique among other cats is that males have furry manes around their necks. Scientists think this helps protect their necks when they are fighting other males. Their mane darkens with age so it's a good way to tell a young male from an older male.
Sharing Dinner Duties…Sort Of
Despite the bigger size of the males and the mane that helps protect them in battles, it's the females that do the hunting. They team up and stalk their prey, but once they catch something the males are the ones to eat first! Lions are predators, which means they eat other animals. They eat some pretty large creatures, too, like zebras, giraffes, buffalo, and sometimes even an elephant.
When a lion roars, it's with a loud voice that can be heard for miles. But don't get the impression that because lions are loud, are good hunters, and will fight with others that they are busy. In reality, they sleep 20 hours a day!
Lions live mostly in the grasslands and savannas of Africa. They are very large and are unique among the cats because they live in groups (called prides) and because the males have a mane. They are predators, but it's only the females that team up to hunt for their prey, while the males are the first to eat what they catch.
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