Male lion and cub
A father lion and young cub

Lions are social animals. They are the most social species of cat. They form close-knit, long term social groups called prides.

A typical lion pride consists of three to 10 related females and their cubs and one, two, or three males. A pride lives together, hunts together, and shares their prey. Female lions help to raise each other’s cubs. Male lions defend the pride’s home territory and protect the pride from rival males.

The female members of a pride tend to remain together from birth until death–about 15 years. Male members of a pride belong to the pride for about 3 to 5 years, during their peak mating years. When a male lion gets older, he is expelled from the pride and replaced by a younger male who will father new cubs. Because the same females are constant to a pride, a pride is considered to be a matriarchal social structure. All the mature females in a pride commonly birth their young at the same time. Each female will bear two or three cubs in a litter.

Three female members of a pride with two cubs

When young or old male lions leave a pride, they band together to form a coalition with several other males. Coalitions roam together looking for prides they can take over and lead. When a male finds a pride he wants to take over, he will fight the dominant male in the pride for control. Commonly, the largest male wins and gets to mate with the most females. This natural selection nearly ensures that new cubs will inherit the strength of their father.

A mature male lion has a thick, long mane. A male’s mane will range in color from golden to very dark. A lion’s mane tends to darken with age; the darker and thicker the mane the more attractive a male lion is to females. Female lions do not have manes. Female lions have smaller heads than males and lighter builds. A mature lion will be 5 to 9 feet (1.6-2.7 m) long and weigh 330 to 550 pounds (150-250 kg). A lion reaches maturity at 3 to 5 years old.

Lions are found in two parts of the world. The African lion (Panthera leo) is found south of the Sahara desert living mostly in grasslands and temperate forests, not tropical forests. They hunt large prey such as zebra, wildebeest, impala, and buffalo. The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) lives in the Gir Forest region of northwest India. The Asiatic lion eats wild pigs, cattle, antelope, and deer.

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