A large, powerful cat, second only in size to the tiger, the lion has been given the title, “king of beasts.” They can live in a variety of habitats, but they like grassland, savannah, and scrubland the most.
A full-grown male is six to seven feet long and stands about four feet high at the shoulder. They can weigh as much as 500 pounds. The female, called a lioness, is typically five feet long and stands about three feet at the shoulders. She can weigh up to 400 pounds.
The coat is short and can be a buff yellow, orange-brown, silvery gray, or dark brown. The males have the shaggy mane around the neck just behind the ears, but the females do not. The mane can make the males look larger and more intimidating to rivals and more impressive to a potential mate. However, the mane is a product of high hormone levels in the lion, and if the hormone level decreases, he will lose the mane.
Lions live in prides made up of several generations of lionesses, breeding males, and their cubs. One might find a pride with as many as 37 members, but the average is around 15. They live in well-defined territory. If prey is abundant, that territory can be about eight square miles, but if prey is sparse, the territory could expand to as much as 250 square miles. That involves a lot of walking to find some lunch. Lions lay stake to their territory by roaring and scent marking.
Did you know? A lion’s guttural roar can be heard five miles away.
Living in an open savannah, the lionesses of a pride will do most of the hunting, and the males will take their meal from the lionesses’ kill. But don’t let that fool you, or make you believe that the male lions are lazy. They are actually adept hunters and in the scrubland or wooded habitat, they will spend less time with the pride and hunt their own food. Lions eat medium to large-sized animals such as zebra, antelope, and wildebeests, but you might find them taking on a hippo or elephant if the victim is young or sick. They often steal carrion or even fresh kills from hyenas.
A hunting pride is potentially nature’s most formidable predatory force on land. Once they have acquired their meal, they tend to gorge themselves and then rest for several days before hunting again. A male lion can consume more than 75 pounds of meat at a single meal and then rest for a week before resuming the hunt. If prey is abundant, both the lion and lioness will only hunt for two or three hours per day, spending the remaining hours of the day resting.
Lions are polygamous (meaning more than one lioness), but the lionesses typically stay with the one or two adult males in their pride. Breeding is a busy time, and once pregnant, a lioness will give birth in about 108 days, with a litter of one to six cubs.
Cubs are born helpless, blind, and wearing a thick coat marked with dark spots to provide camouflage. Once they reach maturity, the spots disappear. They begin to follow their mothers at three months, are weaned by the sixth or seventh month, and are participating in the hunt by 11 months. However, they probably cannot live on their own until about two years of age. They are considered fully mature at three to four years old.
The Bible identifies both Jesus and Satan as lions, though with entirely different characteristics.
“We are approaching the end of this earth’s history, and Satan is working as never before. He is striving to act as director of the Christian world. With an intensity that is marvelous he is working with his lying wonders. Satan is represented as walking about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He desires to embrace the whole world in his confederacy. Hiding his deformity under the garb of Christianity, he assumes the attributes of a Christian, and claims to be Christ Himself.” Last Day Events, 155
“Once again the Saviour was presented to John, under the symbol of the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah,’ and of ‘a Lamb as it had been slain.’ These symbols represent the union of omnipotent power and self-sacrificing love. As the Lion of Judah, Christ will defend His chosen ones and bring them off victorious, because they accepted Him as ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ Christ the slain Lamb, who was despised, rejected, the victim of Satan’s wrath, of man’s abuse and cruelty—how tender His sympathy with His people who are in the world! And according to the infinite depths of His humiliation and sacrifice as the Lamb of God will be His power and glory as the Lion of Judah, for the deliverance of His people.” The Home Missionary, November 1, 1893
Christ’s representation as a lion ready to defend and protect His children should give us all comfort in times of difficulty, fear, and discouragement.