Lions vs Tigers – 5 Key Differences (And Who Would Win in a Fight)

lion vs tiger

Written by Heather Ross

Updated: October 26, 2023

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Key Points:

  • Lions and tigers, both termed “big cats,” have overlapping ranges but seldom live in the same habitats.
  • Tigers are burnt orange with black stripes and lions are sandy brown with faint, darker spots.
  • When a female tiger and a male lion mate, their offspring is called a “liger!”

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! This classic quote may come to mind when you think of two of the world’s largest cats – the lion and the tiger. How can you tell these big cats apart? What happens when you cross a lion and a tiger? Do lions and tigers ever get in fights? Would tiger vs lion size be a factor in this epic battle? Who would win? Let’s find out.

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Lion vs Tiger

There are several key differences between lions and tigers. The most apparent difference is their appearance, which we’ll discuss in detail. Also, while their ranges overlap, lions and tigers don’t usually live in the same place.

Other differences include the tiger vs lion size and strength. If you’re here because you want to know which animal would win in a fight, these are the factors to consider.

Comparing Tiger vs Lion

ColorationSandy brown; occasionally reddish, tinged black, or whiteWhite or orange with black stripes
RangeAfrica, southern Europe, and AsiaAsia
Max Length208 cm (6.8 ft)390 cm (12.8 ft)
Max Weight225 kg (496 lb)300 kg (660 lb)
SociabilityPride of up to 30Solitary

The 5 Key Differences Between Tigers vs Lions

young lion playing with tiger cub

Even as cubs. the lion and tiger have distinct coloration differences, especially the stripes versus the solid color.

©Borkin Vadim/

For this discussion, we’ll be focusing on the African lion (Panthera leo) and the tiger (Panthera tigris). Note that there are a number of subspecies, some of which are smaller than the animals discussed here.

Tiger vs Lion: Coloration

Coloration is the easiest way to tell lions and tigers apart. Tigers carry a distinct striped pattern, while lions are solid-colored. Male lions also sport a thick, furry mane around their necks; female lions and all tigers do not.

Variations do occur within each species. Tigers are commonly either orange or white with black stripes. Rarely, white tigers may have brown rather than black stripes. The “snow tiger” morph has very faint stripes and reddish banding on the tail. Golden tigers are blonde with reddish-brown stripes. Black tigers have extremely thick stripes with little of the other colors showing through.

Lions may also vary in color. Most lions have brown, golden, or yellowish fur, and others are pure white. A male lion’s mane can have black or reddish tinges or be completely blonde. Manes, which are shaggy and thick around a lion’s face, can range in size based on age and genetics. As the male lion ages, his mane grows darker as well as the tip of his tail. Cubs are a light color with brown spots, which will eventually fade.

Siberian tiger with its tongue out

Tigers are twice as long as lions, a great deal heavier, and can instantly be recognized by those black stripes against orange fur

©Thorsten Spoerlein/

Tiger vs Lion: Range

Most of the lion’s range is in Africa, and most of the tiger’s range is in Asia. This geographic distribution may help you to determine which animal you saw.

There is, however, some overlap between the ranges in Eurasia. Historically, this overlap was larger, and confrontations between wild lions and tigers did occur. Today, lions and tigers share habitat only in small portions of India and the Middle East.

Male Lion, Kalahari, South Africa

Lions are tawny in color and their males are known for their characteristic mane


Tiger vs Lion: Length

Tigers are generally longer than lions – nearly twice as long. Male lions max out at nearly 7 ft, head, and body, while male tigers max out at nearly 13 ft.

Tiger vs Lion: Weight

The larger tigers also weigh more than lions. Male tigers can reach a whopping 660 lbs, while male lions max out at just under 500 lbs. Tiger females typically weigh between 200 and 370 pounds. Female lions usually weigh from 265 to 395 pounds.

Tiger vs Lion: Sociability

Lions typically live and hunt in groups known as a pride. Females do most of the hunting and prides typically contain just one adult male. These prides may sustain as many as 30 individual lions. Young males may travel and hunt in small groups of three to five individuals before founding their own prides.

Tigers, on the other hand, are generally solitary. Young tigers establish their own territories as they near adulthood. The territories of young females may overlap with their mother’s territories for a time, but the animals do not hunt together.

Both species are known to be capable of extreme, dangerous aggression. It has been estimated that tigers, on average, kill about 1,800 people per year worldwide. There have been accounts of lions slaying prey, such as hyenas, and not even bothering to eat them. Apex predators, like lions and tigers, sometimes use hostile acts to maintain dominance and remind other animals in their ecosystem of who sits atop the food chain.

pride of lions

Lions’ social nature distinguishes them from other felines

©Teresa Moore/

Tiger vs Lion: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Tiger vs Lion - Who would win in a fight

Tiger vs. Lion: Take your bets


As the two largest big cats, a common question is whether a tiger or lion would win in a fight. Today, the ranges of the two animals don’t overlap. Tigers live throughout Asia, while only a small population of lions still exists in the continent and is confined to a single national park in India.

However, with tigers having recently been spotted near this national park for the first time in 27 years, the question of “who would win in a fight between lions and tigers” might finally have a standoff in the wild!

Most conflicts between lions and tigers have occurred in captivity. One famous incident at the Ankara Zoo in 2010 saw a Tiger enter a lion’s exhibit. The battle didn’t last long, with a single swipe from the tiger severing the lion’s jugular. Another conflict between a lion and a tiger occurred at New York City’s Bronx Zoo in 1914. The battle lasted much longer but had a similar result with the tiger eventually breaking the back of the lion.

So, the short answer is that in battles between lions and tigers, tigers have generally held the upper hand and won fights.

However, bear in mind that these fights are in captivity, and in the wild where tigers are solitary and lions have group structures, the results could be far different. One group of six male lions nicknamed the Mapogo lion coalition banded together in South Africa and controlled an estimated 170,000 acres. The coalition killed more than 100 rivals before they met their demise. In a battle between tigers and a group as ferocious as the Mapogo coalition, our money is on the lions.

Can Tiger and Lion Get Along?

Considering lions and tigers have the same ranges but don’t necessarily cross paths means they can easily coexist in the wild. Believe it or not, lions and tigers can actually reproduce! The offspring of these felines have separate terms depending on which sex of lion and tiger mated.


A liger is a term for the hybrid offspring of a male lion with a female tiger. Characteristics of each parent are shown in ligers. They love to swim, like tigers, and are very sociable, like lions. Surprisingly, ligers grow larger than either of their parent felines does. The coloration of ligers has faint stripes like a tiger’s and possibly faint spots from their lion genes. Under colors include tawny, sand, or gold. In some cases, white tigers have been bred with lions to produce white ligers, who have faint stripes or lack them completely.

Strongest cats - Liger

Ligers inherit the sociable nature of their fathers and their mothers’ fondness for water



On the other hand, a tigon is the hybrid offspring of a male tiger with a female lion. Tigons can have spots resembling their mother lion’s and stripes from their tiger genes. Male tigons have shorter and less noticeable manes than typical lions do. Growth-inhibitory genes are passed down to these offspring, so tigons do not grow larger than their parent species.

Originally, both ligers and tigons were considered sterile, meaning they were unable to reproduce. However, there have been certain instances where a tigress reproduced with a tiger to produce litigon offspring. Another case proved that a liger and lion mated, producing liliger offspring.

Although male tigons can grow manes, theirs are by no means as luxuriant as male lions

©Igumnova Irina/

Are Lions Really the Kings of the Jungle?

Female lion roars

Female lionesses do most of the work in a lion pride, yet didn’t get the credit when the phrase “King of the Jungle” was created.

©Seyms Brugger/

You’ve heard the statement your whole life–“The lion is the King of the Jungle!” Obviously, this was built around the obvious strength, ferocity, and dominance the lion exhibits as an apex predator in the wilds of Africa and Asia.

However, the misstep in that phrase lies in the location “jungle.” Lions aren’t typically found in jungles. They inhabit desert regions in countries like Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, and India. Their preferred habitats are open plains, dry forests, and thick brush. 

Another faux pas in that description lies with the fact that female lions do the majority of the hunting, as well as protecting their young from outside threats. While males definitely have a more fearsome and majestic appearance, the females do most of the grunt work, yet, they were passed over when it came to the title of “queen.”

The main job of male lions is to defend the territory the pride roams in, but often abandon the pride once they are fully grown. The female lions, in essence, are the glue that holds the pride together and ensures its survival. The lion being the “King of the Jungle” probably needs revamping, as it is derived from patriarchal ideals when truthfully, the lion pride is more of a matriarchal society.

Summary: Tiger vs Lion

ColorationGolden, sandy colored with faint spots
Males have thick, sometimes dark manes
Orange with black stripes
Some overlap Eurasia
Some overlap Eurasia
Length7 ft long2x length of lion – 13 ft long
Weight500 lb males660 lb males
SociabilityPrides – 30+ lions
Females hunt
Young, male bachelor groups
Female territories may overlap with mother’s
Hunt alone

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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