African lion

The African lion is bigger than the Asiatic lion and it’s the second largest big cat, after the tiger.

The name for lion in Swahili, an African language, is ‘simba’.

In the wild they live for between 10 and 14 years. You can see our family of lions in the Pride of Pembrokeshire enclosure.

Conservation

The number of African lions in the wild is declining and they’re now thought to be at risk of extinction. Over the last ten years their numbers have gone down by 30%. The main threat facing African lions in the wild is being killed as part of organised hunts.

Lion questions and answers

Impress your friends with everything you know about lions!

Where do lions live?
African lions are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa. They used to be found all over Africa but now they have mostly disappeared from North Africa and are at risk of extinction in West Africa. Lions live in savannahs and grasslands, where some cover and plenty of water can be found.

What do lions eat?  
Lions hunt for food every few days. They will feed from their kill and then rest until they hunt again. We follow this pattern in zoos, as our lions have two “starve” days out of seven. They usually kill medium sized mammals, such as zebra, deer and wildebeest. They often eat animals which have been killed by another hunter, such as hyenas. At Folly Farm we feed our lions chunks of meat. We also give them whole dead animals to eat. It’s good for them to eat the whole animal, as the fur, skin and bones give their teeth a good clean. It also helps with ‘enrichment’, which means getting our animals to act as they would in the wild.

What is a group of lions called?
The name for a group of lions is a ‘pride’.

What noise do lions make?
Both male and female lions roar. They usually start off with a few long, deep roars followed by shorter, faster ones. Lions also make other noises. They meow, hiss and snarl, like domestic cats, but louder.

Do all lions look the same?
Male lions are much bigger than females and they have large manes, or hair, which covers their head and neck and stretches underneath to their belly. Lion cubs have light spots on their fur when they are born. These fade when they grow up and they help camouflage, or hide, them when they’re young.

How many big cats are there?
There are five types of big cat - tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard and snow leopard.

How many types of lion are there?
The main two types of lion are the African and the Asian but there are thought to be eight in total. Here’s a list:

  • Barbary lion
  • Asiatic lion
  • West African lion
  • Masai lion
  • Congo lion
  • Southwest African lion
  • Transvaal lion
  • Ethiopian lion

How long do lions sleep for?
Lions are the laziest of all the big cats, and can sleep for 16-20 hours each day.

How many babies does a lion have?  
A lioness usually gives birth to between one and four lion babies. Our lioness Luna, had four female cubs with our male Hugo when they lived at Longleat Safari Park.

Zoo Membership

We're proud to be members of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Our membership means we share knowledge with leading zoos across the UK and Europe, and we learn from them too.