Lion, a large meat-eating animal of Africa and India. The lion is one of the largest members of the cat family. Because of its noble, dignified bearing the lion is known as the “king of beasts.” Lions have long been popular zoo and circus attractions and can be taught many tricks. Most lions in circuses and zoos were either born in captivity or were captured as cubs.

LionsLions seize prey with their powerful jaws.

Lions are found in many parts of Africa. They are most abundant in grassland areas where game is most plentiful; but they also are found in rocky, semidesert regions. The once abundant Asiatic lion formerly roamed the northern half of India; today, only a few hundred individuals, virtually all of them living in a wildlife sanctuary in the Gir Forest, survive.

Within historic times lions lived throughout western Asia and in Greece and other parts of southeastern Europe. Before the last great Ice Age they lived in southern Europe and in what are now France, Germany, and the British Isles.

The mountain lion of North America is not a lion, but a cougar.

How Many Kinds of Lions Are There?

Lions that live in Africa are called African lions. Those that live in India are called Asiatic lions. These lions may go by different names, but there is only one species, or kind, of lion.

Thousands of years ago, lions could be found over much of the world. They lived in Africa, Europe, Asia, and even North and South America. Lions probably disappeared from many regions when forests grew too thick, their prey became extinct, and humans overhunted them. Today, the only lions that live outside of Africa are found in one area of India.

Lions that live in Africa and India belong to the same species. But there are differences between them. Lions living in India are smaller than those living in Africa. They also have smaller manes. Because of these slight differences, these two forms of lions are often called by different names.

Facts in brief about lions Names: Male, lion; female, lioness; young, cub; group, pride.Gestation period: About 3 1/2 months.Number in litter: 1 to 6, usually 2 or 3.Length of life: 20 to 25 years, in captivity; in the wild, 15 to 20 years.Where found: Africa south of the Sahara; the Gir Forest of India.Scientific classification: Lions belong to the class Mammalia, and the order Carnivora. They are in the cat family, Felidae. Their scientific name is Panthera leo.