After tigers, lions are the second largest cat in the world and can grow to as much as 500 pounds. Lions are found in savannas, grasslands and woodlands in eastern and southern Africa. In the wild, they can live up to 14 years.
Lions range in color from yellow to dark brown, with a long tail that ends in a furry black tuft. The male lion is unique among the cat species for its thick mane of hair encircling the neck and head. Both males and females roar, a sound that can be heard from five miles away.
Unique among large cats, lions form close-knit social groups called prides, which average 15 individuals: 5-10 females and their young as well as 2-3 territorial males. When lounging, lions engage in affectionate head rubbing, licking and purring. A lioness will birth two to three cubs, which will become capable hunters by the age of two and fully mature by the age of six.
Males patrol their territory and protect the pride from intruders. Because females are lighter and smaller, they do most of the hunting. They cooperate to hunt large prey - including zebra, wildebeest, impala and kudu - by encircling a herd from different angles. Lions can run in short bursts up to 40 miles per hour to catch their prey, usually killing it with a quick bite to the neck.
The lion population is rapidly decreasing, estimated at between 16,000 and 25,000, down from an estimated 100,000 in the 1990s. The majority of the population lives in protected national parks. The greatest threats to the lion include habitat loss, limited availability of wild prey and contact with humans.
Interesting Fact: Most lions drink water daily if it is available, but can go without it for 5 days!May 07, 2012