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Known as the “king of the jungle,” the lion is a symbol of strength and is mentioned in the Bible at least 154 times. Jesus is called the “lion of the tribe of Judah,” symbolizing His strength, and one of the most-recognized stories in the Old Testament is Daniel in the lion’s den. Lions once inhabited Europe, southern Asia, central India, and all of Africa. The common perception of the lion is that of the male with his long, dark or light-colored mane.
Unlike most big cats, lions live in “prides,” numbering as many as 30 animals. They prefer the open plains as opposed to other cats, which mostly live in forests and swamps. A pride includes one or more males and a number of lionesses with their young. The males also form bachelor groups. Lions spend the day in the shade and sleep up to l8 hours.
When hunting, a lion can run a short distance at 40 miles (64 km) per hour, leap 40 feet (12 m), and jump 12 feet (3.7 m) high. These cats hunt at dusk, but the lionesses do most of the work. They surround the prey and drive it downwind to a trap set by the other lionesses. The male lion gets first choice of the kill even though he had no part in bringing it down. After gorging himself, he will allow the others to eat what remains.
Lions are mainly carnivorous and kill only what they can eat. They get their vitamins from the entrails of the herbivores they kill and will eat anything from mice to elephants. If a lion is hungry enough, it will attack larger animals, risking death.
Female lions have cubs every two years. Before birth, she selects a hiding place safe from predators, sheltered, and close to water. After a gestation period of about 107 days, a lioness gives birth to between two and five cubs. For the first 2 months of their lives, they drink only their mother’s milk. At six weeks of age, they begin to accompany their mother hunting and acquire a taste for meat. They follow their mother for up to 15 months and learn to hunt and capture small prey. After two years, when their mother is pregnant again, the cubs are forced to leave her.
Man has hunted the lion for centuries. The lion is protected by law in many countries. The lion was a favorite animal of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians and continues to be a favorite zoo animal today.
Carnivora • Felidae • Panthera leo.
Weight: 550 pounds (250 kg)
Length: 9 feet (2.7 m)
Life Span: 10 years
Special Design Feature: This animal is best known for its strength and bravery. It is called “king of the jungle.”
Did You Know? A lion can run 40 miles (64 km) per hour, leap 40 feet (12 m), and jump 12 feet (3.7 m) high.