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Lions earn the title "King of the Beasts" because they are the top of the food chain in their native habitats. As such, it would be easy to assume they have an easy life and survival in the wild is assured. However, it's not easy being number one. Lions have evolved with many physical features that makes them the King of the Beasts as well as behavioral patterns that have kept them there.
Size and Strength
At over 400 pounds and 9 feet in length from head to tail, few African animals are larger than a full-grown lion and none of the other African predators approach that size. While other predators have to be choosy when selecting their prey, the size and strength of lions gives them the capability of preying upon almost any other animal. Lions commonly prey upon zebras and African antelope weighing twice their weight.
African lions are the only member of the cat family in which the males and females look different. The long mane of mature males makes them look larger -- without adding weight -- and the mantle of hair helps protect the vital neck area when fighting with rival males. The tawny color of both sexes blends well with the often dormant grasses in savanna habitats as well as being a good camouflage color in sun-dappled bush and woodlands. Young lion cubs are spotted for additional camouflage protection until they are old enough to better fend for themselves.
African lions are social animals, unlike most predatory cats. They live in prides consisting of several females, their offspring and usually no more than a pair of adult males. There's a hierarchy among both the female members of the pride and the male members. Working as a unit ensures the survival of the pride.
The males are responsible for defending the pride's territory and protection of females and cubs. The females, being smaller and more agile, do most of the hunting. Once cubs are weaned by their mothers, the entire pride works together to raise and train them. These shared duties makes the pride more efficient in hunting, sharing and surviving in the wild.
Mike Schoonveld has been writing since 1989 with magazine credits including "Outdoor Life," "Fur-Fish-Game," "The Rotarian" and numerous regional publications. Schoonveld earned a Master Captain License from the Coast Guard. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife science from Purdue University.