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Animals in Combat: The Lion King of Beasts
The lion is one of the rather most famous wild animals in the planet. They belong to the genus Panthera of the Family Felidae, and are the second largest member of the cat family next to the tiger.
Among the cat family, only lions have sexual dimorphism, males looks obviously different from females. Males are easily recognized by their manes; the often thick cumbersome hair covering the neck down to the chest. It is something female lions or lionesses do not have. Their skulls are very similar to that of a tiger. Their jaws are that of a fierce predator. They have a muscular yellowish sometimes reddish, or dark brown colored bodies, powerful legs of a typical running animal, retractable claws and a long tuft ended tail. Lions can grow up to 8 to 12 feet long and can weigh up to a range between 330 to 550 lbs.
Though known to be the king of the jungle, lions most likely dwell in savannas and grasslands and seldom in jungles where they find less prey.
Lions are socially oriented animals; though there are a little some of them who choose to live a solitary life, most of them often live together in a group of 3 to 30 individuals including closely related females and at most 2 related or allied males. This group is called a pride; organized, kept and protected by all capable members under the supremacy of a strong male lion who most likely earned it all from a deadly battle.
In this pride, the superior male leads territorial defenses and aggressions, while the lionesses are in charged to do the majority of food hunting.
A fully grown male needs approximately 7 kg of meat for a meal while an adult female needs 5 kg, though lions can gorge themselves up to 30 kg at a single sitting. Their prey varies depending on availability, ranging from small deers, zebras to wildebeests, cape and water buffaloes and sometimes, elephants.
When a prey is down, the superior male lion often gets to eat first before the lioness. This is so because the pride ruler needs to be well fed, strong and in good shape at all times. The same reason why he rarely participates in food hunting, that is in order to avoid petty injuries from defending preys; he reserves much of his health for facing territorial threats. He is the ultimate expression of his pride and thus he needs to keep himself in maximum battle prowess to be able to make clear statements against anyone who challenges his preeminence.
Male lions showing the world who's the boss
A dominant male defending his pride
Lions also take opportunities for easy meals by scavenging; stealing the kills of smaller predators like leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and their chief competitor, the hyenas.
Lion cubs are born blind, weak and totally helpless in thick bushes or in caves far away from the pride. They are born in litters of 1 to 4 cubs, weighing at around 2 to 4 lbs. The mother transfers her cubs to several safe hiding places each time so that the cub’s scent will not accumulate in only a single area preventing stronger predators from detecting and killing them.
During this time, the mother also goes hunting all by herself. She has to be nearby her cubs all this critical period to feed and protect them. She introduces them to the pride on their sixth week. Here, they are fed and protected until they become strong enough to take part in pride responsibilities.
It is an interesting thing that lioness cares and allows to suckle even cubs other than her own. With this, cubs gets better chances of nourishment, though sibling competition starts at this early age. This competition grows even more intense the moment they start eating meat because they compete for only leftovers of the highly capable adults. Sadly, nearly 80% of lion cubs die out of starvation in the wild.
A terrible food competition for lion cubs
Lions reach sufficiency after a year and become fully grown hunters at nearly 2 years old. When this time comes, adolescent females stay and serve as useful additions to the pride’s hunting forces. Adolescent males on the other hand often have to leave their home pride to grow stronger in a solitary life, until they decide to beat a superior male from another pride somewhere, and eventually lead a pride of their own.
Aside from predators and starvation, pride rule endangers the cubs. When a new male lion succeeded in overthrowing a pride ruler, he will kill all months old cubs of the defeated ruler, to make sure only cubs of his own will grow in his claimed pride. This dreadful attempt often ignites another battle, as mother lionesses stand and fight for their helpless cubs. This means that if a new male lion wants to take over a pride with cubs. He must defeat not only the ruling male, but also the coalition of the raging protective mothers of the cubs. If there are non-mother lionesses in the pride, they often take the side of the new ruler because they desire to mother his future cubs. After sides have been taken, war becomes inevitable and if the new ruler proves supremacy, cubs get killed and the new generation of the pride reigns.
The fate of cubs having weak fathers
Living in the wild is a continuous unforgiving battle. Only the strongest survives and so everyone must fight for his right to live.
Lions are highly capable creatures naturally gifted with special battle competence that enabled them to rise to the top of the food chain and earned such impressive reputation among all beasts. Here are the king of beasts’ battle arsenal.
The adult male lion’s mane is their unique signature characteristic. It grows fuller and darker as the lion matures and gets age. This rather cumbersome heavy hair protects the lion’s neck and chest from fatal damages during fights. It also serves as an excellent intimidation display as it gives the lion a larger fiercer appearance to its enemies.
Lions when hunting alone stalk and crouch patiently to cut as much distance as possible without getting noticed. In these cases their yellowish brown color serves a great advantage as it camouflages them effectively with the colors of the dry grasslands. When they get close enough, they launch a short burst powerful attack catching and instantly killing a prey in an unguarded surprise. Power pounce proves effective as to how a 36mph running capable lion catches preys which are capable of running up to 50mph, though these success cases against speedy preys are rare, especially when a lion attacks all alone.
The lion uses its powerful forelegs to grab and smack a prey or an opponent. What make their forelegs even more lethal are the claws on it. These sharp claws can kill smaller species in an instant. Lions are able to retract these claws or hide them off ground when not in use providing a safe keeping mechanism that maintains these claws’ sharpness.
Lions roar in deeply unique patterns. Their roars are usually heard during sunsets as it marks the prides night long hunting activity. Lion’s has the loudest roar among cats reaching an approximately 5miles or 8 kilometers, this enables them to communicate signals in great distances such as when the pride ruler calls to round up members of his pride. They also roar to make known their presence and to inflict fear into enemies during territorial confrontations.
Lion’s jaws are short but strong, holding pairs of long canine teeth which are highly capable of inflicting instant fatal damages to misfortunate victims. A bite to the neck can quickly immobilize or kill a prey.
Lion’s socially oriented nature is greatly evident during hunting activities. Lionesses though swift and agile are not particularly successful at taking down large preys alone, but doing it with a team stands a better chance. Team hunting usually commences by encircling a herd from different points and running their casual short burst attempts on the closest prey. If they don’t get a kill at the first attack, at least it sends the herd into disorientation and thus displays even more vulnerable targets. Oftentimes they get a successful kill on the prey that gets separated or left behind by the herd. This teamwork proves successful in cases where a pride is able to takes down large and powerful preys such as a fully grown male cape buffalo. They are even capable of taking down even a fully grown elephant when driven by severe hunger; in which case the attack was successfully carried out at night where elephants experience extremely poor vision.
Teamwork vs a grassland heavyweight superstar
Hunting and Battle Fury
Lions are naturally born warriors. Their killer physique are well supported by their furious intent to prove supremacy whenever necessary.
A Tribute to the Kings of the African Savanna
More interesting facts about lions
- Lions do not like to swim for no good reasons but are actually excellent swimmers, like in the case of the Okavango Delta Lions.
- Male lions are highly capable of killing lower predators such as leopards, wild dogs and hyenas especially when they mess up around his territory or harm members of his pride. Though lions rarely eat kills they make from territorial battles.
- Rivalry clashes between male lions rarely end up in death. Oftentimes it ended only up to chase off and serious injuries. Only very few male lions are capable of killing other male lions.
- Lions take water as much as everyday if supply is available but are also able to stand as long as a week without it.
- Male lions have the tendency to become more relentless upon the sight of a weak or dying animal, attacking and instantly killing it.
- During mating, Lion couple copulates up to an amazing twenty to forty times a day and are likely to miss their meals.
- Male lions mark the territorial borders of his pride by mixing urine and glandular secretions and spraying it into tree trunks or bushes in the area.
- Lionesses are actually more aggressive than male lions.
Lion’s greatest weakness is their stamina. Though they have the build and features of a strong running hunter, they are actually only capable of running short burst attacks. They cannot last long stressful pursuits. This is so because they have an incredibly small heart for their bodies. This causes them to get exhausted and overheated easily during exertions. The male lion’s mane also causes him to suffer greatly during hot seasons because it prevents body heat loss in the neck. This makes exertions even more exhausting.
Lions live for only about ten to fifteen years in the wild and nearly 30 years in captivity. But Male lions rarely reach 10 years in the wild as damages sustained from unending territorial battles greatly reduce their longevity.
The unstoppable expansions of human activities had also caused tremendous shrinkage to the lion's wild habitat proving once again and for all, that our improvements diminished the worlds of other dwellers. We all deserve a space in this beautiful world and as the supreme thinkers among all creations, we better be thinking of ways to make room for every species rather than ways of taking those of others for our own.
Lions are magnificent creatures, let's not allow it that somewhere in the future, our sons and daughters will only see them in movie clips, flags, logos and not in the grassy plains where they used to roam and exhibit their unique admirable splendor.