Interesting Fun Facts About Lions For Kids
How many fun facts about lions for kids does your child know? In fact, how many amazing facts about lions do you know? Read on for some very interesting facts about lions.
By Arun Sharma
The lion truly deserves the title ‘King of beasts’ — for, he symbolises royalty, authority, wisdom, courage, honour, strength and ferocity.
Humans have been in awe of the lion since ancient times. The mixed feelings of fear and admiration make the lion an interesting animal. But, have you ever guessed, how many fun facts about lions for kids does your child or you know?
To add to what your child already knows, here are a few fun facts about lions for kids which tell us about this animal’s close association with humans:
- The Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel, an ivory-carved figure, dates to 38,000 BCE.
- In ancient Egypt, the goddess of healing/warrior goddess, Sekhmet, was depicted as a lion-headed woman.
- Greek mythology mentions the Nemean lion — one of the most famous and fearsome beasts.
- In the Indian culture, the fourth incarnation of Vishnu is Narasimha, the man lion, who killed the demon king Hiranyakashypa.
In the modern world too, humans’ enthusiasm to associate with this regal animal remains undiminished. Here are a few fun facts about lions for kids from today's era:
- The lion features on the National Emblem of India.
- The Sikhs and Rajputs use ‘Singh’ (adapted from Simha) as their surname.
- The ethnic majority of Sri Lanka call themselves Sinhalese (lion people) and the Sri Lankan Flag features a sword-wielding lion.
- The island-nation of Singapore derives its name from the Sanskrit-Tamil words Simha (lion) and Pura (city).
One of the many amazing facts about lions is that they once roamed in Europe, Alaska, North America, Africa and Asia. But, now, lions are only found in Africa and India. The man-animal conflict is taking its toll on the lion population, which is steadily decreasing.
To help you and your child learn more about the King of beasts and contribute to saving the lion, here are a few more fun facts about lions.
Fun facts about lion for kids: Lion family
- After tigers, lions are the second largest cats on the planet. Belonging to the family Felidae and genus Panthera, there are two subspecies of lion: (1) The African lion Panthera leo leo and (2) the Asiatic lion Panthera leo persica.
- In the African culture, the lion is considered a symbol of royalty and authority, whereas the lioness represents femininity, motherhood and the moon. In the Indian culture, the lion is considered a symbol of bravery and nobility.
- Until a century ago, there were more than 2,00,000 lions living in the wild in Africa. But, today, their numbers are down to approximately 20,000. In India, the lions are said to number between 600 and 700.
- Yet, the lion continues to be the dominant personality in the jungle and features prominently in everyday conversations and symbols in the public domain.
Fun facts about lions for kids:
Lion physical features: Size
- The African lion is larger than its Asiatic counterpart. The male and female differ in appearance and size. The male measures between 5.6 and 8.2 feet in length, between 3.5 to 4 feet in height, and between 330 to 550 pounds in weight. The female measures between 4.7 and 5.10 feet in length, up to 3.11 feet in height, and between 264 and 396 pounds in weight.
- The male Asiatic lion measures between 5.5 to 6.2 feet in length and weighs between 330 and 440 pounds. The female measures between 4.5 and 5.7 feet in length and weighs between 220 and 352 pounds.
Amazing fact about lion: The female lion is considerably smaller than a male. Also, the female lion does not grow a mane, which gives its fur a uniform colour.
Lion physical features: Mane and fur
The magnificent mane has played a big role in elevating the lion to an iconic status. It makes a male lion look bigger and intimidating — bringing to mind the phrase ‘hairy is scary’! But, is that why a lion is blessed with this impressive characteristic?
Bruce D Patterson reveals the probable reason in his research study, ‘On the Nature and Significance of Variability in Lions’. He suggests that it is primarily climate which influences the development of a mane, together with male hormones of course. In places with cooler climate, especially colder nights, and more availability of water, lions grow larger manes.
So, the mane of an African lion is longer compared to the Asiatic lion. And, due to the shorter mane, the ears of the Asiatic lion are visible. However, Asiatic lions have longer tufts of hair in their tail (tassel) and elbows. Male lions begin growing a mane by the age of one.
While nature has its own reason for giving the lion its mane, the beast uses this gift for various purposes. Through the colour and size of his mane, a lion boasts of his fitness and his fighting ability, and presents himself as an attractive suitor to females. So, the bigger and bushier the mane, the better the lion’s prospects.
Compared to the mane, the lion has a short coat of fur. Its colour varies from tawny yellow to dark brown.
Amazing fact about lion: The colour of the fur helps a lion blend with its surroundings and remain unseen during a hunt.
Lion physical features: Teeth and tongue
The lion is armed to the teeth but does he bite off more than he can chew? Let’s see.
The lion has three types of teeth, which together total 30. These are:
- 12 Incisors: These are small teeth in front of the mouth used for gripping and tearing flesh that need delicate handling.
- 4 Canines: During hunting, the lion uses the canines to grip and choke its prey. They can grow up to 10 cm in length.
- 10 Premolars and 4 Molars: Called the carnassials, these teeth are used for cutting the flesh into pieces small enough to swallow.
Like the tiger, the lion’s tongue also feels rough because of the presence of spine-like structures called the papillae. They act like a brush. So, a ‘slip of the tongue’ serves various purposes such as to remove the hair and tenderise the flesh of the prey, and groom other members of the pride.
Lions also use their tongue to drink water by curling its tip backward and extending it to barely touch the surface of water before retracting it quickly.
Amazing fact about lion: Lions can retract their tongue about two times per second to create a stream to draw the maximum amount of water to their mouth.
Lion physical features: Eyes
Although adult lions are sharp-eyed and don’t turn a blind eye to goings-on around them, their cubs are born blind.
- The cubs open their eyes only a week to ten days after birth. At this time, the colour of the eyes is blue. But, by the time the cubs are 2 to 3 months old, the colour changes to brown.
- Lions have a second set of eyelids. This is called the nictitating membrane and is used to clean and protect the eyes. There is a reflective coating at the back of their eyes to reflect moonlight and help them see better in the dark. There is also a patch of white fur below their eyes to reflect more light into the back of their eyes.
- Being a predator, the lion’s eyes are set next to each other. While this gives them excellent binocular vision and depth perception, it limits their ability to look sideways. So, when a lion want to look sideways, it has to move its head in that direction.
Amazing fact about lion: A major difference between the African and Asiatic lion is that, there are two holes in the infraorbital foramina of the Asiatic lion for nerves and blood vessels to pass to the eye. In the case of the African lion, there is only one hole.
Lion physical features: Nose
Can anybody dare to lead the lion by its nose or put its nose out of joint? Of course not.
- A lion’s cub is born with a pink nose. But, as the cub grows older, small black spots begin appearing on the nose. The number of spots increases with age and their size expands as well. By the time a lion is eight years old, these spots cover the entire nose and make it appear black in colour.
- While airborne odours are detected by the olfactory nerves, moisture-borne odour particles are detected by a special organ located at the roof of a lion’s mouth. It is called the Jacobson's organ or vomeronasal organ. You can call it a nose inside a nose. To pass the scent to this organ, a lion must grimace after smelling anything.
- So, you can very well say that lions have a nose for everything. However, lions do not have a wet nose like a dog.
Lion physical features: Ears
Matching his ability to smell is the king of the beast’s hearing ability. In fact, having movable ears ensures that nothing is out of earshot — the lion can hear a prey from even a mile away.
Amazing fact about lion: Turning his ears in different directions, the lion can gauge the direction from which the sound is coming.
Lion physical features: Legs, claws and tail
Lions have very strong limbs. Although, they look short, they are very muscular; for, the lion needs all that power to run, pounce on its prey and use its paw to swipe at the prey’s legs and throw it off balance. Can you imagine how much force a lion can deliver with its paw swipe? He can break the spine or crush the skull of animals like the deer or hyena. So, if you are thinking of doing a high five with a lion, give up the thought for your own good.
While the lion is a ‘tough-as-nails’ animal, its claws are also as tough as nails made of steel. After pouncing on its prey, the lion uses its razor-sharp claws to latch on to the animal. The claws can grow up to 1.5 inches long.
Every time you watched Wolverine unsheathe his Adamantium claws, I am sure you would have wished that you could do the same too. But, although the lion doesn’t know the Wolverine, it does have claws like him. Yes, the lion can retract its claws and extend them out during times of high-octane action like hunting or fighting. Retracting its claws helps the lion protect his primary weapon from wear and tear while walking on the ground.
The lion’s tail is between 2 and 3 feet long. Among all the members of the cat family, it is only the lion which grows a tuft of hair or tassel at the tip of its tail. The lion uses its tail to balance itself when walking, running or taking sharp turns while pursuing a prey. The tail is also used to communicate with other members of the pride, such as to stay away or follow it.
Fun facts about lions for kids: Lion habitat
The African lion’s habitat extends across a variety of terrains in the sub-Saharan region. They live in the Savanna or the tropical grasslands with high rainfall, dry forests and bushlands. They are also found in the mountains of Ethiopia and Kenya.
Previously, Asiatic lions’ home extended from Middle East to India. However, they are now only found in the Gir forest of Gujrat, India. The Gir is a mixed deciduous forest. It has areas of evergreen and semigreen forests, shrubs, grasslands and rocky hills.
Fun facts about lions for kids: Hunting, feeding and social habits
- Lion’s hunting habits: It is only after sunset that a pride of lions begin moving their muscles and planning on dinner. And, in this task, the female lions take the lead, while the male lions keep a watchful eye from the sidelines. Working together as a group, the lionesses hunt animals like the deer, buffalo, antelopes, crocodiles, and young ones of elephant and rhino.
- Lion’s feeding habits: There isn’t much to draw inspiration from a lion’s table manners except the fact that the entire pride shares the meal. However, there is a pecking order. After the hunt, the first one to march to the food and claim the first cut is the monarch of the pride or the dominant male. Then, it’s the turn of the females involved in hunting the prey and then come the young lions and cubs.
- Lion’s socialising habits: A look at the history of humans would reveal that kings enjoyed their life to the fullest, resting and partying except during times of conquests or attacks on their kingdom. And, when it comes to the King of animals, things aren’t any different either. Lions spend most of the day, around 16 to 20 hours, resting or sleeping in the coolest available spot in their kingdom. This is also the time they indulge in things like grooming each other by licking, purring, and rubbing their heads together.
Fun facts about lions for kids: How lions communicate
Being social animals, lions like to communicate with each other. For this, they use a variety of sounds.
- Roar: The roar is a low-pitched sound that can be heard from as far as 8 km away. Within their territory, the male lions of a pride roar to assert their dominance and to warn off intruder lions. So, when a lion is out of his territory, for example a nomadic lion, he would not roar to keep his presence concealed.
- Snarl: When angry with the behaviour of a member of the pride, a lion would snarl.
- Purr and moan: These sounds are used by the lioness to communicate with her cubs. Other lions use these sounds to indicate to their pride that they are happy.
Lions also communicate using body language such as raising their tails, hunching their back and swatting with the paw.
Fun facts about lions for kids: Daddy lion and lion mom
While there is a lot to read on tiger parenting, nobody talks about lion parents. An amazing fact about lion dads is that they are nonchalant. They aren’t involved too much in raising their cubs. However, whenever there is a threat to the pride, the dad would stand up to protect and defend his family.
The lion mom is actively involved in bringing up her cubs.
- To give birth, she moves away from the pride, coming back with the cubs only after they are around 8 weeks old.
- She nurses the cubs until they are about 8 months old. In fact, a lion mom also takes care of the cubs of other lionesses of the pride.
- Once the cubs are 4 months old, the lion mom begins to train them in the art of hunting and takes them to eat after every kill.
- This way, the cubs are taken care of by a lion mom until they are 3 to 4 years old, after which males are forced out of the pride and must fend for themselves.
Fun facts about lions for kids: Lion population
Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter — African proverb
It is estimated that around 20,000 lions live in Africa in the wild while the number of Asiatic lions living in Gir forest number between 600 and 700.
With decreasing habitat, poaching and trophy hunting, the population of lions is decreasing in Africa, although their numbers have increased in Gir.
To increase awareness about protecting lions among the general population, August 10 has been designated as World Lion Day.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change of the Government of India has introduced the Asiatic Lion Conservation Project. Under this project, a number of steps are being taken to protect and increase the number of Asiatic lions. Some of the highlights of the lion conservation project include habitat improvement, creating wildlife crime cell, GPS based tracking of lions, reintroducing the lion in forests other than Gir. In India, protection to the lion is extended by listing it in Schedule-I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
In Africa too, a number of government projects are directed at saving the lions such as SAVE, Lion Conservation Experience and Meru Lion Heritage Project.
Lion in literature and movies
Although the lion bears no resemblance to humans, it is used as a metaphor to symbolise several human qualities. Books and movies on the lion not only tell us a lot about the King of animals but also how often the paths of humans and lions cross each other’s.
Books on lions
- The Lion King (by Justine Korman)
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis)
- How to Hide a Lion (by Helen Stephens)
- Born Free (by Joy Adamson)
- The Lion Inside (by Rachel Bright)
Movies on lions
- The Last Lions
- Mia and the White Lion
- The Ghost and the Darkness
- Napoleon and Samantha
- The Wild
Save the lion: Why it’s a must
Wandering through the rugged jungle terrain can give us the impression that we are in the midst of a tough environment. But, that is not the case. The jungle ecosystem is fragile and is kept in balance by both the predator and the prey.
While herbivores like plant eaters and grazers keep the vegetation in check, carnivores like the lion keep the population of herbivores under control and prevent overexploitation of the forest. A healthy jungle not only supplies us with natural wealth, but also prevents climate change and ensures our survival.
While you read these fun facts about lions, and the sun sets on the forests of Gir and African Savanna, the lions wake up to once again to claim the jungle for themselves. And, when their punctuated roar breaks the eerie silence of the night and instils fear into our souls, it is time to awaken the lion within to banish fear and thrive again.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 9 December 2019. Last updated on 7 May 2020.
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
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