African Lions - Panthera leo
The lion’s strength and ferocity has earned it the title of ‘King of the Beasts’ in many cultures. As one of the largest of the ‘Big Cats’ (second only to Tigers), the lion is built to prey on animals many times its size, its strong jaws and muscular build emanating an image of sheer power.
The males can reach up to ten feet in length, plus a 2 - 3 foot long tail and weigh up to about 550 pounds. Females can reach about 9 feet in length and weigh up to around 400 pounds. Lions generally stand between 3 - 4 feet tall at the shoulder.
Male lions are larger than females and typically posses a mane of hair around their heads, a feature unique amongst the cat family. The rest of the coat is short and tawny in color for both sexes, paler on the underside, without markings. The backs of the ears and the tuft of hair at the tip of the tail are dark brown or black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes that disappear with maturity, although some lions retain faint spots.
Two subspecies are currently recognized : the African lion and the Asiatic lion. The Asiatic lion is slightly smaller than its African cousin, and has a shorter, thinner mane and a fold of skin running the length of the belly. The increasing spread of farmlands has reduced the lion’s habitat and wild prey base, resulting in increased stock-raiding behavior. This makes the lion particularly vulnerable to poisoned carcasses that are put out to eliminate predators. The lion is often seen as vermin and shot on sight, even in protected areas.
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