Lions are one of the most incredible animals on the planet. They’re not only one of the largest predators in the world, but they also hunt in large groups. We’ve compiled a list of the most mind-blowing lion facts you can find. You’ll discover everything from a lion that survived a plane crash to why lions can be louder than football stadiums. Let’s get started with this list of 13 mind-blowing lion facts!
1.) The largest lion ever recorded weighed 690 pounds!
Ancient lions could reach even larger sizes. The American lion, which went extinct about 11,000 years ago could have reached up to 1,153 pounds!
2.) Lions sleep for more than 20 hours per day!
You might enjoy getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night, but a lion getting that amount of sleep wouldn’t be able to function. Hunting prey is extremely energy intensive, so lions sleep large amounts of time to conserve energy between hunts.
In total, lions sleep about 20 to 21 hours per day! Species like lions that have few natural predators have the luxury of sleeping more. Herbivores generally sleep less, as species like elephants and giraffes sleep as little as two hours per day in the wild.
3.) Lions, tigers, and bears can become best friends!
File this one under heart-warming.
After police raided a house in Atlanta in 2001, they found the criminal kingpin was illegally keeping a lion, tiger, and bear cub that were all malnourished. The three cubs were taken to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, where they recovered from their poor care.
Here’s what’s amazing: the three apex predators had bonded during the experience and became “friends” for life. They lived in the same environment and maintained an incredible bond until the passing of Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger. Today, only Baloo the bear remains. He attended the funerals of both his friends and will be buried next to them so the trio can remain together for good.
4.) A lion’s roar can be heard for more than 5 miles!
Here’s a lion fact that’s sure to impress, lion roars reach about 114 decibels! Big plays during football games average about 111.2 decibels, which makes a lion’s roar even louder than a packed football stadium!
No other big cat can roar as loud as a lion, and their roars ring out for more than 5 miles.
5.) The world’s most famous lion – the MGM lion – survived a plane crash!
If you’ve ever seen a James Bond film, then you’ve seen the distinctive MGM lion roaring at the beginning of the film. MGM trademarked the lion in 1916, and it has been an iconic feature at the beginning of their films since then.
However, you might not know that the MGM lion once survived a plane crash! In 1927, MGM was flying their lion mascot across the country to raise publicity when tragedy struck. In a flight from San Diego to New York the flight carrying the lion crushed.
Amazingly, the MGM lion survived the crash and survived for four days until rescued. During the time it fed on sandwiches and milk from the crashed plane. The lion became known as “Leo the Lucky” and survived a number of other mishaps including a sinking ship, an explosion in the MGM studio, and multiple train wrecks.
6.) The price of admittance to the London Zoo may have been a cat or dog… That would be fed to the lions
Personally, I just prefer paying $20 to enter a zoo, but times were different back then!
Hundreds of years ago, if you lived in Europe there was simply no way to see “exotic” animals like lions aside from pictures that were often poor representations. For that reason, when royals captured rare animals from across the world, they were a significant attraction. The Royal Menagerie in London kept a variety of animals from across the world during its time.
In his book The Ark in the Park: The Zoo in the Nineteenth Century, author Wilfrid Blunt wrote:
In the eighteenth century the public was admitted to the Tower menagerie on the payment of three-halfpence or, alternatively, the provision of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions.
7.) Lions have lost 94% of their habitat and more than 90% of their population
5,000 years ago, lions roamed north of Greece into Eastern Europe, across Iran and into India, and across all of Africa.
Today, lions have lost more than 94% of their historic range. They have just one small population left in a single national park in India. In Africa, they’ve been largely wiped out from West and North Africa. Remaining lion populations live in pockets across South and East Africa.
More troubling is that their decline continues.
- Between 1993 and 2014 the ICUN estimated that the global lion population decreased by 42%.
- In the early 1960s, it was estimated 100,000 lions lived across Africa.
- In the early 20th century, estimates placed the lion population at between 200,000 and one million lions.
Today, the global lion population is estimated at about 20,000. This means the lion population has dropped anywhere from 90% to 98% since the beginning of the 20th century.
8.) Lions are big hunters, but they have tiny hearts
Lions are one of the largest predators in the world, but they do have limitations. For example, their heart weight just 1,175 grams, which is small for their body size. Due to a smaller heart and lungs, lions aren’t endurance hunters. Instead they rely on both stealth and teamwork to surprise their prey. Lions can run incredibly fast – up to 50 miles per hour – but only in short bursts. This means that lions need to get close to their prey before attacking or force prey into other lions waiting to pounce.
9.) Lions are the only big cat to live in social groups
Look among other big cats and you’ll see solitary hunters. Tiger, jaguars, and leopards all hunt individually. Only lions live and hunt in social groups called prides.
Prides are composed mostly of females. A typical pride may have up to a dozen females, no more than three males, and also lion cubs. Males without a pride can form coalitions that hunt and live together. Which brings us to our next lion fact…
10.) An alliance of male lions killed more than 100 rivals and ruled an area 7 times the size of Manhattan!
As just noted, male lions without a pride will often form coalitions that can rule over large swaths of land. In 2006 a coalition of male lions formed in the Sabi Sand region of Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The coalition – known as Mapogo Coalition – came to include 6 male lions which ruled over 170,000 acres. The lions were ruthless, and killed more than 100 rival lions and cubs and ruled over 8 separate prides. As you can imagine, alliances of male lions are tenuous and involve frequent clashes. The Mapogo coalition eventually split in 2010 into two groups. These smaller groups were picked off by rival alliances, with the final member of the group passing away in 2012.
11.) Young lions practice role playing
Once lions age, they tend to sleep all day and conserve their energy. However, young lions are much more playful. Youthful lions will role play with one another, which is more than just playing, but helps them develop their hunting techniques. Female lions will watching this role play and determine whether young lions are best suited to chase, corner, or catch and kill prey on future hunts.
12.) Lions used to have the largest range of any mammal – outside of humans!
Scientists believe that 13,000-plus years ago, lions were the most widespread mammal outside of humans. That’s because in addition to today’s single remaining species of lion, there were two others:
- Cave lions: Which lived across the European steppe across most of modern Europe, Russia, and into Alaska.
- American lions: Lived across parts of Canada, most of the. modern United States, and into Mexico
Both these species went extinct between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago at the same time megafauna like mammoths and woolly rhinos went extinct. In addition to these now extinct species, many subpopulations of lions such as the Barbary lion and Cape lion occupied wider geographic ranges that extended far beyond where lions live today. Make sure to give our full guide on types of lions a read for the background on all types of lions, past and present.
13.) Lions can gorge incredible amounts at meals
Most humans eat about 2% of their body weight per day. Think about how full you’d be eating a two pound steak in just one sitting!
Lions eat more infrequently than people, but when they do eat, they can gorge. Male lions can eat up to 70 pounds in a single meal. This amount of food can be about 10% to 20% of their body weight!