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White Lions: King Of Kings

Updated on September 26, 2014

The king of kings, White Lion, is found in wildlife reserves in South Africa. It is a rare colour mutation (genetic change) of a subspecies of lion of Kruger, Panthera leo krugeri. It has been perpetuated by selective breeding in zoos around the world. White lions are not yet a separate subspecies and they have been said to be indigenous to the Timbavati region of South Africa for centuries, although the earliest recorded sighting in this region was in 1938.

The white lions came in the attention of people in Chris McBride's book The White Lions of Timbavati in 1970’s. Until 2009, when the first white lions were introduced in the wild, it was believed that white lions cannot survive in the wild. This is because a large population of the white lions is in zoo and is bred in the zoo and camps.

Genetics Of White Lion

Mutants are natural variations that occur due to spontaneous genetic changes or the expression of recessive (hidden) genes through inbreeding. Common mutations in big cats are albinism (pure white), chinchilla (white with pale markings), leucism (partial albinism/cream) and melanism (black). The white lions are also called blonde lions. Though they are called white lions, they are not albino (pure white). Rather they are leucistic (partial albinism/cream). Leucistics character is the result of mutation of chinchilla that inhibits the deposition of pigment along the hair shaft, restricting it to the tips. The less pigment there is along the hair shaft, the paler the lion. Hence the colour of white lion ranges from blonde to near white (not pure white). Their pigments are visible in the eyes, paw pads and lips. The eyes of the white lions are same that of the normal yellow lions, that is, golden eyes but bluish, blue-green or greyish-green eyes are also found. At birth, the cubs are snowy white and may be described as resembling polar bear cubs. The birth colour gradually darkens to a pale cream colour known as blonde. The mane and tail tuft remain a paler shade.

Origin

It is believed that the white lions came into existence during the Ice Age when the yellow lions were facing problems to hunt and hide in white environment. Since the nature always support mutation according to the environment in which the species exist for survival, so the white lions came into existence as mutants (having genetic changes) to ensure the continuity of the species of lions. And since then the genes (unit in DNA that controls characteristics that appears in an individual) of white lions are passed from generations to generations and exists till now in some of the lions. This was proved when two white lion cubs were born from a couple of yellow lion. But the present white lions should be considered as man made lion.

Problems In Survival

The biggest problem in their survival is their colour which makes them so special that they are called king of kings. Because of their white colour they are less successful to camouflage (blend or mix) in their surroundings in the wild than the yellow lions. Hence they face difficulties in hunting as their prey easily recognizes the white coloured lions in yellow or green grass because of the reason that like tigers, lions are also short distance sprinters and needs to reach about 20-30 metres to attack a prey. And they are easily seen by the poachers too. Also their cubs are easily visible by other predators like hyenas etc. This makes their survival less successful.

Mythologies

The white lions are considered divine by the locals of South Africa. It has been a part of their folklore since prehistoric times. According to them, white lions are the children of the God Sun who are sent on Earth as gifts. Legends also say that the white lions are the symbols of all the good to be found in all creatures.

It is also believed according to the Oral traditions that the white lions appeared over 400 years ago during the reign of Queen Numbi in the region now known as Timbavati. A shining star was seen to fall to the ground, but when Queen Numbi and her people approached, they found it to be a shining ball of metal, brighter than the sun. Queen Numbi, who was an elderly and infirm woman, was swallowed by its light and received by strange beings. When she emerged again, she had been restored to health and youth. The fallen star remained there for some days and then rose back into the sky. Animals with strange deformities were born in that region - cattle with 2 heads, white impala and green-eyed white leopards and lions. To this day, white animals are born in Timbavati, including a blue-eyed albino elephant that was shot by white hunters. It is now known that radiation can cause mutations such as those described.

White lions were central to an April Fool's joke in 1860. Late in March of that year, numerous people throughout London received an invitation saying "Tower of London - Admit Bearer and Friend to view annual ceremony of washing the White Lions on Sunday, April 1, 1860. Admittance only at White Gate. It is particularly requested that no gratuities be given to wardens or attendants." By twelve noon on April 1, a large crowd had gathered outside the Tower of London in accordance with the invitation. Lions hadn't been kept in the tower for centuries and there were no captive white lions until late in the 20th century. On realising the joke, the disappointed crowd eventually dispersed

Population

There are now around 300 white lions in captivity and they have been returned to the wild.

White Lion’s Facts

The white Lions are currently classified as ‘Panthera leo’ under the general species classification. This classification is likely to change after the genetic research and it may also reveal the important reason for the sub-speciation of this rare phenotype(external appearance). The genetic marker that makes a lion white has not been identified as yet.

The white lions are not albino as pigmentation is present which is apparent in the eyes, lips and paw pads. This condition is termed leucism wherein there is loss of pigmentation in the skin and fur with normal color in the eye which is present in the white lions. However, the mystery as to why this condition is seen only in the lions of the Timbavati area is still not resolved.

Further, it has been proposed that the white lions are scientifically inferior to ordinary tawny lions and also that white lions cannot survive in the wild as they lack camouflage. However, these theories have not been tested scientifically as yet.

White lion is pretty rare and not many people know about it.

Did you know about white lions before reading this article?

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    • damian0000 profile image

      damian0000 6 years ago from Belfast

      Great hub!! beautiful pictures, very well researched and written!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 6 years ago from India

      Thanks damian..... and thanks for following me too...

    • Valeed profile image

      Valeed 6 years ago from Pakistan

      Wow nice hub! It was nice to read about these amazing Big cats. They look shooo cute :)

      Thanks for such a nice hub.

    • profile image

      Reesa 6 years ago

      Beautiful cats but, dangerous. Great hub

    • Susan D Tyndall profile image

      Dianne Tyndall 6 years ago from Sanderson, Texas

      Hello, Thanks for the follow, you have a great hub with good information and photos, voted up and useful, following you now. :o)

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 6 years ago from India

      thanks susan...

    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 5 years ago from The Shire

      These are beautiful, beautiful animals, and your hub is an interesting read. Up and buttons!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 5 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      What beautiful creatures!

      Thank you for telling us all about them.

      Very educational and interesting!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      A wonderful piece on this great rarity. It definitely is hard to hunt with this camouflage difficulty, so it is one of those rare times that I do advocate human care. It is a mystery why it happens, though.

    • geoffclarke profile image

      geoffclarke 5 years ago from Canada

      Great hub! I share your love of animals and we have just got some white lions at the Toronto Zoo which is just minutes from my house! I can't wait to see them.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 5 years ago from India

      I wish I too get the chance to see them in front of me!! :)

    • Faith A Mullen profile image

      Faith A Mullen 4 years ago

      Wow! These are beautiful cats.

    • profile image

      Jane Holmes 4 years ago

      What, what great cats these are. I enjoyed your hub. Keep up the good work.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I have never heard of these lions before. A very interesting hub packed with lots of information! Appreciate the work you put into this. I enjoyed learning something new. Voted up, interesting, and beautiful! Will share with my followers.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      such beautiful photos of cats that you have here

      I really did enjoy the pictures and the facts behind the lions

      really interesting information

      thanks for sharing with myself and others

      Voted up and shared.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting.Thanks for sharing this fascinating and informative hub on white lions. Just love these majestic animals. Great pics and passing this on.

    • vishnujoshi001 profile image

      Vishnu Joshi 4 years ago from Delhi , India

      Thanks for such a nice hub.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Wow what a beautiful hub and I now look forward to so many more by you.

      I vote up,across and share.

      Eddy.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Fascinating creatures; love their color! I guess I'll never have the chance to see one of them at close range but what can you do eh!?

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Wonderful hub! I love your pictures and the great information and history on these beautiful animals. I would love to see a white lion in person. Nature can create some strange and beautiful animals in our world. I did a hub a while back on a rare golden zebra. She has a condition known as amelanosis, which is a lack of color pigments. This is probably a similar condition. I would like to share your article on my wildlife blog, it that is ok with you! Voting this up, awesome and interesting! :)

    • profile image

      Jane Holmes 4 years ago

      An interesting hub. I had not heard of the white lion before. Great information and enjoyable to learn about. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and pinned.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      @Jane... thank you... I'm glad that you enjoyed reading my hub!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      sgbrown.... I'm glad you're here.... I too want to see them in person. It would be great moment, not something you get see everyday! Yes, nature is so beautiful, creative and amazing! I'll surely check out your hub! And ofcourse you can share this hub in your wildlife blog!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      Elias.... that's true. We can't do anything about that. They're beautiful but rare.

      Thanks for stopping by... :)

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      Eiddwen... thanks a lot!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      Gypsy rose.... thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is always appreciated!

      Vishnu... thank you!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      Au fait.. Thanks a lot. They are really fascinating.

      Torrilynn.. Thank you!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting topic...that of white lions. I have written a hub titled Secret Garden in Mirage Hotel ~ White Tigers and Lions ~ Las Vegas, Nevada. People can see both white tigers and lions there as well as other animals. Those are interesting mythologies. Up, useful and interesting votes and I am going to add a link from this hub to mine. Will make a nice addition. Thanks for writing this hub.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      Peggy W.. I'll check out your hub. Thanks for adding a link. :) Much appreciated. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Beautiful lions! Thanks for sharing, Nithya. They are rare and should be protected.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      midget38.. indeed they are very beautiful! Thank you for stopping by and commenting! :)

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      What an interesting article. I had no idea there were white lions. This is the first time I have heard or seen pictures of them, so thank you for writing this. Every animal species has its mutations so it would figure lions would too. Thanks for an informative article!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      suzettenaples.... I'm glad you found this hub useful! Yes, a lot of animal species show mutations, including the big cats.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving comment! :)

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Excellent hub Sneha Sunny! Very interesting facts about those lions! I thought they were albinos until I read your explanations! They are so beautiful animals!

      Voted up, beautiful and interesting!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      kidscrafts.... Thank you so much for the ratings! :) And yes they indeed are very beautiful animals. :)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Enjoyed your hub very interesting. The lions are so beautiful. Voted up and shared.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      moonlake... thank you for reading, commenting, voting and sharing! :)

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Magnificent photos.

    • newgulfjobs profile image

      newgulfjobs 4 years ago

      Great hub.... beautiful pictures. Did you worked a lot for making this hub yar?

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      newgulfjobs.... well, you need to work a lot to make a hub! ;) Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub!

      Voted up, awesome, beautiful, and interesting.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      faceless39..... thank you for stopping by! I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for the voting. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      What a great hub! they are so beautiful aren't they? great info, and photos, wonderful!

    • Subhash Tomar profile image

      Subhash Singh Tomar 15 months ago from New Delhi

      Interesting hub this is the first time I have heard of white lions.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 15 months ago from India

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 8 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Shena,

      Loved this piece. That is natural since I LOVE cats big and small. I would love to pet a Bengal Tiger or even an Amazon Panther.

      I shared this with my other followers.

      You are a very talented writer.

      Keep up the great work.

    • Sneha Sunny profile image
      Author

      Sneha Sunny 8 months ago from India

      Hi Ken,

      I'm glad you liked this hub. I love cats too. Very much!

      Thanks for sharing this with your followers. I'm grateful. :)

      I'm glad you decided to stop by. :)

      Hope you're having a great day..!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 8 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Sneha,

      Believe me. Reading this hub and meeting you was

      ALL My Pleasure. I consider you my New Friend and I encourage you to keep on writing tremendous hubs like this one and you will surely taste plenty of success.

      Write me anytime.

      Your Friend for Life, Kenneth

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