Scientific Name: Panthera Leo
Lions are large cats with short, tawny coats, white underparts, and long tails with a black tuft at the end. They are sexually dimorphic and male lions are the only cats with manes. Three year-old male lions grow manes that vary in color from black to blond. Manes tend to be fuller in open habitats. Cubs have brown spots on a grayish coat until the age of three months; spots may remain on stomach, especially in east Africa. Albinism does occur in some populations, but there are no published records of melanism (black fur) in lions. Adult lions have 30 total teeth and adult females have four mammae. The lion is the second largest feline after the tiger. With powerful legs, a strong jaw, and 8 cm (3.1 in) long canine teeth, the lion can bring down and kill large prey. Lion coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard. Although these fade as lions reach adulthood, faint spots can still often be seen on the legs and underparts, particularly on lionesses.
African lions live in plains or savanna habitat with a large prey base (mostly ungulates) and sufficient cover available. In these optimal habitats, lions are the second most abundant large predator, after spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta. Lions can also live, with wider ranges, in most habitats except in tropical rainforests and in deserts. Lions can live in forested, shrubby, mountainous, and semi-desert habitats. They are capable of living at high altitudes. There is a lion population in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia at 4,240 m.
African lions (Panthera leo) live in most of sub-Saharan Africa except in desert and rainforest habitats. Lions were once exterminated from South Africa, where they remain in Kruger and Kalahari Gemsbok National Parks and possibly some other protected areas.
Head and body length is 170-250 cm (5 ft 7 in – 8 ft 2 in) in males and 140-175 cm (4 ft 7 in – 5 ft 9 in) in females; shoulder height is about 123 cm (4 ft) in males and 100 cm (3 ft 3 in) in females. The tail length is 70-100 cm (2 ft 3 in – 3 ft 3 in).
Weights for adult lions generally lie between 150-241 kg (330-530 lb) for males, and 123-182 kg (270-400 lb) for females.
Female lions typically live longer than males. Males reach their prime between five and nine years but few males survive past ten years of age. Some males have survived until 16 in the wild. Females normally live until 15 or 16 years.