Clive James and Sylvester Stallone both cleaned out lion-cages before they were famous.
A lion's life expectancy is much lower than that of the antelopes it chases.
Lions don't sleep in the jungle, the mighty jungle at all. The word 'jungle’ means dense, tropical rainforest. It covers just 6% of the Earth’s land but 57% of its species live there. Lions, however, are not among them. Almost all lions live on the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa.
10,000 years ago, lions were the most widespread large land mammals after humans. Today, there are fewer than 20,000 in Africa – down from 200,000 in the 1980s – plus (at the last count) a mere 411 of them in Gir Forest National Park in India. This is not a ‘jungle’ either: it is dry scrubland and open deciduous forest.
Not only do lions not live in the jungle, ‘tonight’ is the least likely time for them to be sleeping. Outside the mating season, they spend 20 hours a day lying down and snoozing, two hours walking and just under an hour eating. However, what hunting they do generally takes place at night. Lions can run at 50mph for short distances. During the mating season, lionesses have sex up to 50 times a day for four days and nights in a row with as many as five males – but each bout lasts only ten seconds. Up to 8% of lion mountings are thought to be homosexual.
At one stage in its development, The Lion King was called King of the Jungle, until somebody noticed the gaffe.
Like other cats, lions have backward-pointing spikes on their penises. This is supposed to cause slight trauma to the female's vagina and trigger ovulation.
Lions' tongues are huge, pink and covered with sharp papillae, they are rough enough to scrape meat from bones or make human skin bleed.
Male lions check whether a female is on heat by sniffing her reproductive organs; when the females enter oestrus, they do so for four days, and mating will occur several times an hour. If the female doesn't conceive, she goes back into oestrus two weeks later. During a mating bout lions have sex 20 to 40 times a day for a couple of days.
Female lions will sometimes sneak out and have sex with a lion which is not in their pride. When they mate with an unfamiliar male, the new male believes his coalition is the owner of that territory and this will cause a fight between the two coalitions. By doing this, females will always end up with the larger or more healthy males; but what if she mates with an outsider who is then driven away? The female deals with this by a peculiarity of her fertility cycle: after mating with an unfamiliar male she won't conceive for three months - by that time she will know who has won the fight.
Entrance to the Tower of London used to be free if you brought a dog or a cat to feed to the lions.
An ostrich can kill a lion with a single blow.
A pride of lions usually consists of between one and four males and five to 10 females. While females will mostly stay with the same pride throughout their lives, young male cubs are thrown out when they become large enough to compete with the pride’s alpha males. They form groups with their brothers or cousins, find another pride to take over, and kill all cubs that cannot run away in time. This infanticide, and sometimes cannibalism, encourages the females to come into season and ensures that only the alpha males’ cubs are present in the pride. Males rarely rule a pride for more than three years before being chased away by new males.
In East Africa, a Masai tribesman is traditionally not considered a man until he has killed a lion: conservation laws and the general shortage of lions means that there are now some extremely elderly Masai ‘boys’. Lions are threatened by the Chinese medicine market, their claws and bones are worn in the country as pendants to increase the wearer's virility. Lions were most probably considered sacred in ancient Egypt. A recent discovery of a mummified lion in the tomb of Tutankhamen’s wet-nurse seems to back up this theory.
Lions can roar but not purr.
The lion and the calf will lay down together, but the calf won't get much sleep.
Crossbred big cats take the first part of their name from the father, the second from the mother, so a 'Liger' has a lion father and a tiger mother. In 2007 a Mexican zoo bred a tiguar. The other way round would have been a jagger.
The Turkish for lion is aslan.