‘Lion’ is considered as the king of the wild. It is a large cat of the genus Panthera native to Africa and India. It has a muscular, broad-chested body, short, rounded head, round ears, and a hairy tuft at the end of its tail. Adult male lions are larger than females and have a prominent mane. It is a social species.
Lions are most active at night and live in variety of habitats. They prefer grasslands, dense scrub and open woodland. Lions range across all of North America, Africa and Anatolia and the Middle East to India. Some studies suggest that the lion evolved in Eastern and Southern Africa diversifying into a number of sub-species- such as The Barbary Lion of North Africa, The Cave Lion of Europe, The American Lion of North and Central America, the Asiatic Lion of Middle East and India.
A full-grown male is about 1.8 – 2.1 metres (6-7 feet) long and weighs 170 – 230 kgs. The female or lioness is smaller with a body length of 1.5 metres and a weight of 120 – 180 kgs.
Lions are unique among cats. They live in a group or pride. The members of a pride typically spend the day in several scattered groups that may unite to hunt or share meal. The group may consist of as few as 4, but about 15 is the average size. Lions attack on a large variety of animals ranging in size from baboons to buffalo, but they predominantly hunt medium to large sized animals such as wildebeests and zebras. They readily eat any meat they can find, including carrion and fresh kills that they scavenge or forcefully steal from hyenas, cheetahs, or wild dogs.
Both sexes are polygamous and breed throughout the year, but females are usually restricted to the one or two adult males of their pride. In captivity lions often breed every year, but in wild they usually breed no more than once in two years. The gestation period is about 108 days, and the litter size varies from one to six cubs, two to four being usual. New born cubs are helpless and blind and have a thick coat with dark spots that usually disappear with maturity. Cubs are able to follow their mothers at about three months of age and are weaned by six or seven months. They begin participating in kills by 11 months but probably cannot survive on their own until they are two years old. In the wild lions live more than 8 to 10 years, chiefly because of attacks by humans or other lions. In captivity they may live more than 12 years.
The Lions have disappeared from North America many thousand years ago. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable and several species have died out. At present the Lion’s main strong hold is in sub-Saharan and the Asiatic lions exists only as a remnant population made up of approximately 500 individuals inhabiting India’s Gir National Park.
Lion is one of the most widely recognized animal symbols in human culture. It has been extensively depicted in sculptures and paintings on national flags and in films and literature. It appeared as a symbol of strength and nobility in cultures across Europe, Asia and Africa despite incidents of attack on humans.
• In sub-Saharan Africa , the Lion has been a common character in stories, proverbs and dances.
• Indo-Persian chronicles regarded the Lion as keeper of order in the realm of animals. The Sanskrit word Mrigendra signifies a Lion as king of animals in general.
• Narasimha, the man-lion, is one of ten avatars of God Vishnu. Singh is an ancient Indian vedic name meaning “Lion”.
• The Lion Capital of Ashoka, erected by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century, depicts four lions standing back to back. It was made the National Emblem of India in 1950.
• A sword-wielding Lion is the central figure on the national flag of Sri Lanka.
• sphinx, mythological creature with a Lion’s body and a human head is an important image in Egyptian and Greek art and legend.
• Lions continue to appear in modern literature as characters including the Messianic Aslan in the 1950 novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
• Lion symbolism was used in cinema, one of the most iconic and widely recognised Lions is Leo, which has been the mascot for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios since the 1920s. The 1966 film Born Free features Elsa the Lioness. The Lion’s role as king of the beasts has been used in the 1994 Disney animated feature film, The Lion King.