Why is the lion king of the jungle and not any other animal? This is a common question in many people’s minds, considering that the lion is not even the biggest animal in the wild. Also, it rarely lives in the jungle but in the savannah and grasslands. Read on to find out.
We have all heard the saying that the lion is the jungle king. But is he the king?
For thousands of years, lions have taken all the credit for being the strongest, bravest, and fiercest animals in the wild. And, for the longest time, “King Lion” has dominated not only the wild but also human society.
For instance, most symbols of strength and power are represented by a lion’s image. Most governments even have lions representing their national emblems and coats of arms.
So, what makes this cat so unique? Also, considering that they don’t even live in the jungle, why are lions the king of the jungle?
Why is the lion King of the jungle?
A lion is a large, muscular cat, usually tawny or sandy in color. Its fur is short and coarse, and its mane (the long hair around the head) is black. It has a long tail and sharp claws.
Lions are the second-largest big cats after tigers. I bet not many of us knew this! They can weigh up to 550 pounds (225 kg) and measure up to nine feet (three meters) in length. An adult lion weighs about 250 kg.
Male lions are called “lions,” while females are called “lionesses.” Their young ones are called “cubs.”
Lions are the only predators who hunt using their sense of smell — meaning they can spot prey before it spots them. They have fantastic night vision, enabling them to see up to 30 times farther than other cats. Lions also have superior hearing, allowing them to track down prey even in thick brush or dense foliage. This allows them to easily catch smaller animals such as antelope, hares, and wildebeest.
A group of lions can fight off a larger prey because each individual has their own role. For instance, they attack from the front line while other lions attack from behind. This makes the whole package more effective at hunting.
Their size alone gives them an advantage. They are big enough to control large herds of antelopes and strong enough to knock down adult giraffes. Their sheer mass means they don’t have to move around very often, making them faster than other hunters. In addition, lions don’t eat meat exclusively, which helps conserve energy. All of these traits give the lion a considerable edge over other species.
Lionesses take the role of hunting and feeding the pride. On the other hand, the male’s job is to protect the pride from other male lions and predators. The males are known for their loud roars that can be heard up to five miles (eight kilometers) away.
They use this as a way to communicate with each other and also to warn off intruders in their territory. Lions mainly live in Africa and Asia.
Lions can be found in Savannah’s open woodlands scrublands and areas covered with tall grass in sub-Saharan Africa and India Tigers inhabit taiga open grasslands and mangrove swamps of Siberia, China, India, and Southeast Asia as a result of accelerated habitat loss, uncontrolled hunting, and conflicts with humans both lion, Asian lion, and tiger are on the list of endangered species.
Since Christians regard Jesus as the king of kings or lord of lords, the only animal symbol that befits him is the lion.
Currently, the lion is considered the national animal of several countries like Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, and Singapore.
There’s no denying that lions are some of the most majestic animals in Africa. Their unmatched strength among its competitors gives lions the title of jungle king.
The lion is called the king of the jungle not because it is the strongest but because the lion possesses kingship abilities that the tigers do not.
A king must have leadership abilities the lion is the head of his colony he oversees the affair of the group lioness and the Cubs ranging from decision-making to hunting when there’s a need for food, and the lion gives the command for hunting.
They will not shirk killing an intruder or a threatening pride member so they can retain their throne and keep peace in their “kingdom.” This includes killing prey, like antelope, to prevent overcrowding or disease from destroying the balance of power.
Lions have been the symbol of strength, nobility, and power for many cultures.
The top 5 reasons why lions take the king of the jungle title. Some of the main ones include:
1. Raw Power
There is no doubt that lions are impressively strong. These beasts can take down almost any animal in the wild when they want.
A lion weighs around 330 pounds, which is quite large. And when it charges at an animal, its speed and force are unmatched. Lions will reach top speeds of up to 50 mph when pursuing prey.
Also, it exerts around 650 psi bite force and can comfortably lift around 2,300 pounds. And that’s not all! A lion’s paw swipe is one of the strongest, delivering a force of around 400 lbs.
Now, that’s quite strong.
This raw strength gives lions a clear advantage over other animals in the wild. They don’t have to worry about being preyed on by other predators. Lions don’t have natural enemies except for hyenas, which mainly prey on their cubs.
2. Fearlessness and Courage
Lions do not fear any animal in the wild. While it’s certainly not the largest animal, its bravery is incredible.
This aspect allows the lion to hunt almost every animal in its habitat. It can hunt small prey like gazelles, average ones like zebras and wildebeests, or even larger ones like buffalos and giraffes.
Generally, lions hunt in groups known as the pride. The pride usually comprises around 15 lions, though there can be more or fewer. The hunting squad mainly comprises female lions (lionesses), like the pride’s breadwinners.
The size and strength of the lion give it a clear upper hand over most prey it goes after. And since these animals hunt as a group, they become even more fearless.
3. Leadership and Social Structure
Unlike many other animals, lions are pretty social animals. They can live in pride of up to thirty individuals. But within the pride, there is a clear social hierarchy, with one dominant lion as the king of the pride.
This leadership and social structure give lions an edge over other animals. It ensures the group works together to kill prey and survive in the wild.
The male lion maintains order and offers security for the pride. While the females perfect their hunting skills, the male lazes behind. It acts as the source of protection for the group, ensuring the pride’s continuity.
The alpha male will fight any male that tries to take over his pride. And if a new male does manage to take over, he will kill all the cubs in the pride. This allows him to mate with the females and produce his own cubs.
Infant killings are quite common with several other animals. It is among the cruelest acts against other animals. However, lions will always try to create a new generation to maintain their bloodlines.
4. The Mighty Roar
A lion’s roar is the loudest among all the cats. It’s pretty loud and can reach up to 114 decibels.
When a lion roars, you can hear the roar even if you are 5 miles away. This is one aspect that helps it instill fear in other animals.
The lion’s roar is that loud because it has a unique larynx and hyoid apparatus. This allows the animal to make a much louder sound than other animals.
The roar can also help it communicate with other lions over long distances. That way, if a group of lions is hunting and one of the members gets lost, the other lions can follow the sound of its roar to find it.
Such a roar can make a human go deaf if the lion roars near your ears.
5. They are Feared
Lions are among the most feared animals in the wild. And, being an apex predator, this means that it usually has no natural enemies. In other words, no animal hunts lions.
The only predator that dares to joke with lions is the hyena. And this is because hyenas also hunt in big groups of around 20 individuals.
Hyenas will kill and eat lion cubs if they come across them. Also, they sometimes snatch prey from lions, resulting in deadly fights. However, they can only do so if they outnumber the lions.
This fear factor gives lions an edge over other animals in the wild. And it ensures that they have less competition for food.
Lion species are currently classified into two subspecies: The African lion (Panthera leo Leo) and the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo Persica).
The African lion is found in Sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, the Asiatic lion is restricted to India’s Gir Forest National Park.
These two subspecies are different in appearance. The African lion has a more robust mane and darker color, while the Asiatic lion is relatively smaller and has a light golden color.
White lions have been regarded as sacred animals across Africa, and there is a common misconception that they are albinos.
White lions have a regressive mutation called Leucism, which means they have a reduced volume of melanin – the pigment controlling the color of the lion’s fur and eyes.
The color of the eyes is the way to differentiate between white and albino lions.
White lions have blue eyes, while albino lions have red or pink coloring.
The African Lion
These lions live in Sub-Saharan Africa in only 27 countries. They are usually the largest cats in this region since there are no tigers.
African lions have been vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1996. This is because their populations have declined by more than 30% in the last two decades. And, in the last century, their numbers have decreased by about 90%.
Currently, only around 20,000 lions are in Africa, which continues to decrease with time. The lion is enlisted as a critically endangered species in West Africa.
The African lion has been used to symbolize strength and power in more instances than we can count. Their iconic bodies grace the covers of magazines, adorn logos of organizations, and are present in numerous paintings.
Many governments have also used these lion images on their coats of arms. This is a clear indication of how respected the lion is.
In the past, the African lion species lived in most parts of Africa. However, only a few areas present human encroachment and habitat loss.
They mostly live in woodlands, savannas, scrublands, and grasslands. And they avoid dense forests and deserts. Currently, the lion is only found in 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, having been extinct in 26 of them.
This lion subspecies lives in the Gir Forest National Park, located in Gujarat, India. They number around 400 individuals and appear critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Asiatic lions are smaller than their African counterparts and have a light golden color. According to National Geographic, it’s believed that these lions split from the African lion somewhere around 100,000 ago.
Unfortunately, these lions almost went extinct. Due to human activities and hunting, their numbers decreased to as low as 20 in the early 1990s. Thankfully, conservation efforts have increased their population to around 400 individuals now.
The Asiatic lion lives in a forested area known as the Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat, India. This is the only place where they are currently found. The park covers an area of about 600 square kilometers.
The lion’s habitat is primarily dry deciduous forests, but there are also areas of thorny scrub and grasslands. The park is open to the public from October to June. Outside of this time, it’s closed due to monsoon rains.
Are there Better Predators than Lions?
The wild is full of predators of all sizes. But are there bigger ones than the kings of the jungle?
Well, the answer is yes. A tiger weighs more than a lion at full size. A full-grown tiger weighs up to 800 pounds, but a lion only weighs around 550 lbs. While some tiger species are smaller than lions, two tiger species are bigger. These include the Siberian tiger and the Bengal tiger.
Generally, while a lion might be big in stature, a tiger weighs much more. Additionally, a tiger has more fighting and hunting capabilities than a lion.
For instance, it has denser muscles, wider legs, and a lower center of gravity. It also has bigger and stronger paws and can leap higher when attacking.
Tigers also have strong, flexible hind legs, making them quite good at rearing. In contrast, lions are not made for rearing and usually use their teeth as the major weapon. In essence, if a tiger and a lion get in a ring, the tiger has a better chance of winning.
However, when it comes to hunting, lions do a better job. And since they also hunt in large groups, their hunts are more successful.
So, why is the lion the king of the jungle and not the tiger? Fearlessness and dominance are key factors in why a lion is considered king.
Also, tigers are more reserved and solitary hunters, having no prominent family structure. The social aspect of the lion’s family makes them stronger and invincible in the wild. It’s rare to see one lion on a hunting mission – they prefer working as a group.