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Lion (panthera leo)

Lion ( panthera leo )

Order : Predators (Carnivora)
Subordination : Feline (Feliformia)
Family : Cats (Felidae)
Subfamily : Big cats (pantherinae)
Genre : Real big cats ( Panthera )
Type : lion
Scientific name
Panthera leo
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The lion ( Panthera leo , outdated / poetic / dialect leu ) is a species from the cat family . In contrast to other cats, it lives in packs , is characterized by the mane of the male and is now native to Africa and the Indian state of Gujarat .


Asiatic lion female
Maned male lion from Tsavo East National Park , Kenya

The lion is the second largest cat after the tiger and therefore the largest land predator in Africa. Depending on the subspecies, male lions have a head body length of 170 to 250 centimeters (including the extinct forms), a shoulder height of up to 123 centimeters and a tail length of around one meter. Adult males have an average body weight of 190 kilograms. The fluctuation ranges from 150 to 225 kg, in exceptional cases up to 272 kg. With a head body length of 140 to 175 centimeters, a shoulder height of 100 centimeters and a 85 centimeter long tail, females are significantly more delicate and have a body weight of around 126 kilograms. On average, lions have a higher shoulder height than tigers, but are overall slightly shorter. Today the largest lions live in southern Africa, the smallest in Asia. Males kept in zoos and circuses occasionally reach a weight of over 300 kilograms due to good feeding.

The frequently cited maximum head torso lengths of 250 cm are, however, not clearly attested by today's lions and at best fit the largest lion forms of the Pleistocene, such as the American lion . According to Mazák , the average total length, i.e. the length including the tail, in today's male lions is about 260 to 270 cm, rarely more than 285 cm. The largest credibly traditional length measurements for lions are around 305 to 310 cm total length, measured in a direct line ( between pegs ) from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail on an animal from the area north of Lake Victoria .

Lions have a short, sandy or yellowish to dark ocher colored fur. The underside and the inside of the legs are always lighter. Male specimens also have a long mane, which is usually dark brown, but can also be black, light brown or reddish brown. This mane spreads from the cheeks to over the shoulders, less often over the stomach and chest. The shape and color of the mane varies not only between individuals, but also in the same individual in the course of life, depending on the physical condition.

Particularly long and dark manes are a sign of good shape and fighting strength, as the hormonal status and nutritional status have an effect on the density and length of the mane. Experimental studies with stuffed male lions have shown that females react positively to models with longer and dark manes, while males tend to avoid models with pronounced manes. The mane could be of practical use as protection against swipes and bites in rivalry males. This explains the evolutionary advantage that males have from having a mane, but not females, since they are more specialized in hunting and not in fighting, and when hunting a mane is not an advantage in contrast to fighting. However, recent research has shown that temperature also has an important influence on the size of the mane and male lions in colder areas even develop stronger manes than those who live in very warm areas, regardless of their subspecies. For example, male lions in zoos in cooler regions usually develop stronger manes than their counterparts in warmer regions.

White lions owe their coloring to a color mutation

The mane of Asiatic lions is less pronounced than that of their African counterparts. Young lions completely lack them. It takes over five years for a male lion to have a fully formed mane. In some areas of Africa, for example in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya, numerous males are maneless or have only weak manes. In the Pendjari and W National Park areas in West Africa, almost all males have no or only a weak mane.

In rare cases it also happens that female lions develop a mane. In the Okavango Delta in Botswana several lionesses have been sighted that look and behave like males. The reason could either be a genetic defect in the development of the embryo or possibly a particularly high testosterone level in the mother during pregnancy.

The extinct, prehistoric lions of the subspecies of the Spelaea group (see below) probably had no manes.

Also noticeable is the black tail tassel, in which there is a receding vertebra (horn sting).

Young lions have dark spots on their bodies that fade during their first year of life. In very rare cases these spots remain visible in the adult lion, but always indistinct and only viewed from close up.

As with tigers, there is occasional leucism in lions ; this means the appearance of lions with white fur. However, they are not albinos as they lack the characteristic red eyes. The white coat color is inherited via a recessive gene. While white lions are easier to spot for potential prey, such animals hardly have a harder time hunt down prey. In the past there were arguably more white lions in the wild, but they were increasingly being shot by trophy hunters. White lions occur, currently, only in the subspecies Transvaal lion ( Panthera leo krugeri ). There have also been reports of melanism , i.e. black lions, but no evidence of their actual existence.

Distribution area and habitat

Distribution area of ​​the lion: historically (red) and today (blue)

During the last ice ages , the lions (depending on the division into different species, nowadays mostly only as subspecies of a species) had a large distribution area. In the last glacial period it reached from Peru via Alaska, where the American lion was found, to Siberia and large parts of North Asia and Europe, where the cave lion was found, to India, Arabia and Africa in the south. However, the lions lost a large part of this range at the end of the Ice Age.

The historical distribution area of ​​the lion not only included large parts of Africa, but also southeastern Europe as well as the Middle East and India . In the earliest Holocene, the lion was still widespread in northern Spain, around 5500 to 3000 BC. It is still proven from Hungary and the Ukrainian Black Sea region by bone finds. Numerous contemporary scholars ( e.g. Herodotus , Aristotle , Plutarch , Xenophon ) report that lions still lived in ancient times in the Balkans . It is believed that the lion died out in Europe through human intervention in the 1st century AD. The last fossil finds come from northern Greece. An Iron Age lion find from southern Spain, on the other hand, is attributed to animals introduced for circus games.

Today the distribution is largely restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. North of the Sahara, the species became extinct in the 1940s, and the Asian lion populations were almost completely destroyed during the 20th century. In the 1960s, the skeleton of a lion was found in the Iranian province of Fars , where the lion is knotted as a heraldic symbol in carpets and specimens of the lion, which is considered extinct in Iran , are said to have been sighted later . A small remnant has remained in the Gir National Park in Gujarat ( India ).

Lions are adaptable and can be found in a wide variety of habitats. The lion's preferred habitat is the savannah , but it also occurs in dry forests and semi-deserts, and in earlier times also in the dry and cold mammoth steppe . It is never found in dense, damp forests or waterless deserts. Therefore, the species is naturally absent in the central African rainforests and the driest deserts in North Africa and the Near East. The term “desert king” is therefore incorrect.


As with almost all large animals in Africa, the main threat to lions from humans comes from habitat destruction and direct stalking. However, this has been reduced to a lower level in almost all parts of the distribution area in recent years.

Disease is another problem, especially in South Africa's Kruger National Park . Extensive research has been conducted in Kruger Park since a fatal case of tuberculosis first appeared here in 1995 . The result was that more than 90 percent of the animals in the southern area of ​​the park were infected with the deadly bacteria . The infection comes from buffalos that are hunted by lions and that brought the disease into the park through contact with infected domestic cattle. About 70 percent of cattle suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis, while in lions the disease manifests itself primarily in the digestive system. The animals become weaker, become extremely emaciated and die within a few years. In addition to this tuberculosis, there is a second disease among the lions. Around 60 to 70 percent of lions are infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) , a pathogen very similar to the human HI virus , which weakens the animals' immune defenses and paves the way for tuberculosis. There are no vaccines against either pathogen.

There are still 16,000 to 30,000 lions left in the wild. In 2008, the IUCN estimated that worldwide lion populations had declined by 30 to 50 percent over the past twenty years. The use of the land as pasture or agricultural land has a significant influence on the dwindling population. The IUCN therefore classifies the lion as endangered ( vulnerable ). In West Africa, the lion is now critically endangered . The Asiatic lion ( Panthera leo persica ), whose wild population is now limited to the Gir National Park in India, is considered endangered . The lion population in West Africa, which was recently described as genetically different from Southeast African lions, is also considered to be endangered. In some of the large protected areas in East and South Africa, however, the future of the big cat seems secure so far.

Way of life

Social behavior

Young lionesses in Etosha National Park
Pair of lions in the Botlierskop Game Reserve in South Africa

In contrast to the other, rather solitary big cats, lions live in packs. Such a pack consists mainly of related females and their offspring, who are defended by a “coalition” of a few adult males. Usually there are three to four adult males in a pack, which are in the hierarchy above the females, exceptionally up to seven, only in rare exceptional cases only one. The dominant males are usually (but not always) related to one another. The size of the territory and the number of prey animals correlate with the pack size, which can be between 3 and 30 specimens. The territory of a pride of lions covers 20 to 400 square kilometers . Its borders are marked with excrement and urine, and the roaring, which can be heard from afar, demonstrates the claims of the territory owners.

The young males stay in the pack for about two to three years until they have reached sexual maturity; after that they are expelled. Young males sometimes roam for years and usually join forces with other nomadic males. This bond between related or unfamiliar lions can become very strong. During this time, the nomads cover very long distances, do not respect territorial boundaries, but also do not establish their own territories. In order to conquer their own pack, they must drive away the old landowners or defeat them in battle. Such ranking battles are usually bloody, and not infrequently they can be fatal. Defeated pack leaders are driven away and then mostly lead a lonely life. However, they often die as a result of combat injuries.

After a pack has been conquered by new males, infanticide often occurs, i.e. the new pack leaders kill the young of their predecessors. The biological benefit can be seen in the fact that the females are ready to mate again after a short time and the new male can produce offspring of its own and thus spread its genes. The leading males of the pack can usually only prevail against competitors for a few years until they are driven away or killed by younger, stronger conspecifics. On average, the dominant males in a pack change every two to three years. In contrast to the males, the females usually spend their entire life in the pack in which they were born.

Lions are less clean than domestic cats, for example. Usually only the bridge of the nose is cleaned. Mutual grooming is only possible in the case of coarse soiling, such as blood from the prey.


Lioness fighting a Cape buffalo in the Serengeti
Two males fighting for the prey, Etosha National Park
Male and young animal eating a Cape buffalo

Lions usually hunt in the dark or in the cool morning hours. The prey animals mainly include antelopes , gazelles , wildebeest , buffalo and zebras , but also hares, birds and sometimes fish. In some areas, lions also specialize in atypical prey. For example, lions in large packs with groups of about 30 animals beat half-grown elephants on the Savuti and hippos on the Linyanti (both in Chobe National Park , Botswana ) or giraffes (mostly young animals). In parts of this national park and in the neighboring Hwange National Park , elephants make up about 20% of the lion's diet, with young animals and especially adolescents between the ages of 4 and 11 being killed. In Namibia are in the desert lions and fur seals on the prey. But even large packs are not able to kill full-grown rhinos .

Contrary to the popular belief that male lions feed almost exclusively on their females' prey, in reality they seem to hunt a large part of their food themselves. A study in Kruger National Park found that even pride-owned territorial male lions are very successful and regular hunters. Especially in densely overgrown and confusing habitats, pack-leading males seem to feed less on the prey of their females than in open habitats. Non-territorial male lions, who have not yet been able to conquer a pack, have to procure their prey themselves anyway and hunt them regularly. In contrast to the female animals, who mainly preferred zebras and wildebeest in the investigated area, the male lions hunted mainly Cape buffalo. Cubs go hunting with their mother for the first time when they are three months old. They only learned the art of hunting when they were two years old.

Lions are not persistent runners and cannot keep up their top speed of around 60 km / h for long. Many of the essential prey also have a higher top speed than lions. Due to its physique, however, a lion can accelerate quickly and is therefore able to catch up with a zebra, for example, which, due to its top speed of 65 kilometers per hour, could escape it over longer distances. Therefore, lions normally have to stalk their prey within a few meters. They often sneak up to the prey for several hundred meters while crouching, using any cover. The closer they get to the prey, the more attention is paid to cover. When a distance of around 30 meters is reached, the lion leaps at the prey in several leaps. Each jump is about 6 meters long. Due to the force of the impact, even a prey that is twice as heavy as a hunting lion, like a zebra, for example, is unbalanced. Lions then bite through the neck of small prey such as a Thomsonian gazelle. Larger prey such as a wildebeest or zebra are killed by a throat bite. Because the lion's canine teeth are too short to reach larger blood vessels, they kill these larger prey by pinching the windpipe, cutting off oxygen to the lungs. After the success of the hunt, the ranking in the pack comes into play. The male is allowed to eat first, followed by the highest-ranking females, and finally the young. It is not uncommon for rank fights to occur on the carcass in which the pack members injure themselves.

The success of the hunt depends on the skill of the hunting animals, the time of day, the local conditions and the species being hunted. In the Serengeti, 14 percent of all reedbuck hunts and 32 percent of all wildebeest attacks are successful. The hunting success of lions is therefore significantly lower than that of African wild dogs or cheetahs . Since lions hunt in open landscapes, hunting together increases the chance of successfully capturing prey. According to an investigation in the Serengeti, hunting success doubles when two lionesses hunt together. However, the success of the hunt did not increase significantly in this study if more than two lionesses were involved in the hunt. A study in a semi-desert-like region in Namibia, on the other hand, came to the result that the packs have the highest hunting success in which several lionesses closely coordinate their hunting techniques. In this largely without cover some lionesses landscape circled their prey, while others in an ambush on the Lauer laid. Another advantage of communal hunting is that the prey in the pack can be more easily defended against other predators such as wild dogs and hyenas .

Often lions also eat carrion . In doing so, they often drive away other predators, such as spotted hyenas, from their prey - contrary to popular belief, far more often than vice versa. In some areas of East Africa, this goes so far that the hyenas are hunted away 70 percent of their prey by lions.

Reproduction and development

A pair of lions copulating
Young lions

Lions reach social sexual maturity between two and three years of age, their physiological maturity in 18 months. In order to determine the willingness of a female to mate, the male lion uses the Jacobson organ , which is located on the upper palate. To do this, the lion pulls back its upper lip and slightly opens its mouth. This process is also known as flehmen .

Even if a male is at the top of the hierarchy, it can only mate with a female with their consent. To do this, the lioness lies on her stomach and allows the male to mount her. During copulation, the tomcat bites the lioness on the neck. This instinctively keeps it still. If a lioness allows copulation, they mate every 15 minutes about 40 times a day, with an act of copulation lasting about 30 seconds until the lioness is ready to mate after about five days.

After a gestation period of about four months, the lioness gives birth away from the pack and hides one to four blind cubs, each weighing about 1.5 kilograms and 50 centimeters tall. They are only suckled by their mother for about six to eight weeks and remain in hiding during this time. If this is far from the pack, the mother goes hunting alone. It can happen that the boys stay alone in hiding for up to 48 hours. This is especially dangerous because of hyenas and other predators. After a maximum of eight weeks, the lioness leads her cubs to the pack. There are seldom problems with acceptance.

From this point on, the young lions suckle not only from the mother, but also from the other females, so that the upbringing is the responsibility of all female members of the pack. Lion cubs are weaned at six months of age, and they stay with their mother for about two years.

The lifespan of a lion can be fourteen to twenty years. As a rule, however, only females reach this age. Males are killed or driven away long in advance by a younger competitor, cannot find a pack and starve to death. Often they do not get older than seven to twelve years. However , some lions have lived in the zoo for up to 34 years.

External system

The lion is one of the big cats and belongs to the genus Panthera , which is characterized by a hyoid bone that is not completely ossified . This trait was previously associated with the ability to roar. However, recent studies show that the loud, characteristic roar of the lion (and other large cats of the genus Panthera ) is primarily due to a special morphology of the larynx . Like other big cats, the lion purrs only when exhaling. The purring does not sound like that of a small cat, but rather like a growling or humming.

Tribal history

Skull of a recent African lion
Skull of a cave lion

Lions were once widespread in Africa, Europe, Asia, and America. The oldest fossil record of a cat that closely resembles a lion comes from Laetoli in Tanzania and is around 3.5 million years old. Some scientists regard these findings, which consist only of jaw fragments and a few postcranial bones, as Panthera leo , other researchers deny this identification. Due to the few finds, an exact determination of the species affiliation is hardly possible, and the oldest confirmed finds of lions in Africa are around two million years younger. About 700,000 years ago Panthera leo appeared for the first time in Europe with the Mosbach lion ( Panthera leo fossilis ) at the Italian site of Isernia . A 1.75 million year old lion mandible from the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania shows a striking resemblance to the Mosbacher lions. These are considered to be the largest lions in Europe and hunted during the Cromer warm period more than 500,000 years ago near Wiesbaden in Hesse and near Heidelberg in Baden-Württemberg. Some specimens were almost as long as the largest lions in the history of the earth, the American lions ( Panthera leo atrox ), from California, which had a record length of 3.60 meters (head-trunk length: approx. 2.40 meters, tail length: approx , 20 meters).

Most of the lion finds in Europe come from Ice Age cave lions ( Panthera leo spelaea ), which evolved from the Mosbach lion. Another subspecies lived in Northeast Asia and Beringia with the Beringia cave lion ( Panthera leo vereshchagini ). In Central Europe, North Asia and America, lions are a common element of the fauna until the end of the Pleistocene , but die out there at the end of the last Ice Age.


Numerous subspecies of the lion have been described over the course of time, six of which are recognized in the 2009 handbook of the Mammals of the World , a standard work on mammal studies:

  • The Congo Lion ( Panthera leo azandica ), in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo .
  • The Angola lion or Katanga lion ( Panthera leo bleyenberghi ), found in Angola, Zambia, and the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • The Transvaal lion ( Panthera leo krugeri ), in the northeastern and eastern South Africa and the Kalahari -region
  • Panthera leo nubica , in Northeast and East Africa
  • The Asiatic Lion ( Panthera leo persica ), in Gir National Park in western India
  • The West African Lion or Senegal Lion ( Panthera leo senegalensis ) in Western Africa
The distribution areas of the two subspecies of the lion:
blue - Panthera leo leo ,
yellow - Panthera leo melanochaita ,
light - the original distribution area,
dark - remaining areas

In a revision of the cat system published in January 2017 by the Cat Specialist Group of the IUCN , however, only two subspecies of the lion are recognized.

  • Panthera leo leo includes the West African lions, the lions that live in Central Africa north of the rainforest belt, the Indian lions, as well as the extinct lions of North Africa, the Near and Middle East and the Balkans.
  • Panthera leo melanochaita includes the lions of eastern and southern Africa.

Genetic analysis showed that West African lions differ significantly from those in the south and east of the continent and that the North African Berber lions are the closest relatives of the Indian lions. According to molecular biological studies, North African-Asiatic lions split off from the African lions south of the Sahara about 70,000 to 200,000 years ago. A gene comparison published in August 2016 and a study published in May 2020 on the evolutionary history of lions also show that recent lions consist of two clades that correspond to the subspecies Panthera leo leo and Panthera leo melanochaita . The clade formed by both is the sister group of the extinct cave lions ( Panthera leo spelaea ).

The Berber and Cape lions that have been exterminated by humans are therefore not independent subspecies, but rather populations of Panthera leo leo and Panthera leo melanochaita . Lions were also found in Sri Lanka until 37,000 years ago. They were described as a separate subspecies Panthera leo sinhaleyus .

Spelaea group

European cave lion ( Panthera leo spelaea ) in a reconstruction around 1920

The extinct, prehistoric lions of America and Northern Europe form their own subspecies group (Spelaea group), which is genetically different from the lions of Africa and South Asia (Leo group). These include:

Cryptozoological species

The Cryptozoology deals with the marozi , a supposedly spotted lion with a short mane, shall live in the highlands of Kenya. The fur of such a lion is still kept in the Natural History Museum in London. There have been no sightings since the late 1930s. Claims that such lions are hybrids of lions and leopards are more than unlikely, as these animals are usually hostile in nature. In captivity, on the other hand, hybrids of lions and leopards have already been documented several times, although their fur has a different pattern than the supposed Marozi fur in London.

Lions and humans

During a guided tour with lions in the Botlierskop Game Reserve in South Africa

Lions are among the most famous animals and are part of the “ Big Five ”, the five prominent large game species in Africa. There are still occasional lion hunts, but these have become rare. In the 20th century, the lion hunt was a prestigious event in big game hunting. Today, a so-called "catwalk" is offered in some game reserves . The visitors are usually led by several guides for one to two hours through the wilderness with lions .

Word origin

In German there are two variants of the same word, the common lion , which was adopted from northern Germany, and the ancient, poetic leu . The German borrowed the term from Latin leo , which in turn comes from the Greek leōn . It is also assumed that the word has its origin in the Semitic area ( Assyr. Labbu , Hebrew leva "the lions").

Lions in attitude

Many of the numerous subspecies are found in zoos around the world. Here, conservation breeding is carried out to z. B. to save the Asiatic lion from extinction. Attempts are also being made to regain the subspecies Barbary lion ( Panthera leo leo ) , which is considered to be extinct , by breeding with animals that are very likely to have its genes in them.

Trained lions are also kept in many circuses to perform tricks in the arena. In some countries this is prohibited and in Germany too, keeping big cats in circuses is considered controversial.

Lions in Religion and Mythology

Heracles fighting the Nemean lion (approx. 500 BC)
Lion of Amphipolis on the Via Egnatia , 4th century. v. Chr.

The hunters of the Ice Age in the Aurignacian cultural stage portrayed the lion more than 30,000 years ago. One of the most impressive works of art from that time, which is also one of the oldest surviving sculptures of mankind, is the almost 30 centimeter high figure of the so-called lion man, carved from mammoth ivory, with the body of a human and the head of a cave lion from the cave Hohlenstein-Stadel in Baden-Württemberg. She may have embodied a deity.

The bronze sculpture of the lion of Mari comes from the ancient Babylonian period .

In many cultures the lion has assumed a position as the "king of animals", which can be traced back to the influence of the Physiologus , an early Christian book on animal symbolism which generally had a great influence on Western culture. The fascination emanating from him is evident from the large number of coats of arms on which he is depicted. The lion can be found on the coats of arms of Hesse , Husum , Luxemburg , Zurich , Aquitaine and Montenegro , see also lion (heraldic animal) . The fact that it became known to Europeans at all is due to the fact that lions were once widespread around the Mediterranean. In Greek mythology , lions appear in various functions: The Nemean lion was depicted as a man-eating beast, and killing it was one of Herakles' twelve tasks . In the story of Androclus, the hero, a runaway slave, pulls a thorn out of a lion's paw; When he is later thrown to the lions to eat as a punishment for his flight, the animal recognizes him and refuses to kill the man.

The coat of arms of India shows the representation of an Ashoka column, on the capital of which four lions, sitting back to back, look in the four directions.

The lion was immortalized on the flag of Sri Lanka as a symbol of the Sinhalese . The name of the Sinhalese people comes from the Sanskrit word siṁha , which means “lion”.

The lion played a role in numerous ancient cultures. In ancient Egypt , pharaohs were represented as sphinxes with lions' bodies and human heads. The most famous such representation is the Great Sphinx of Giza . In addition to the lion figure of the Pharaoh, Sekhmet was worshiped as a goddess with a female lion head. Furthermore, Egyptian mythology knew both Dedun , the Upper Egyptian god of wealth, who was also depicted as a lion-head in later times, as well as the lion goddesses Repit , Mehit , Menhit , Mestjet and the lion god Mahes . The word M3ḥs itself is also the name for lion. The Egyptian earth god Aker is depicted with a composition in which two lions sit back to back and hold a representation of the horizon with the sun between them.

The Mark lion is the symbol for Mark (evangelist) .

In the northern starry sky there are two constellations named after this animal : the lion and the little lion . The former is said to be an incarnation of the Nemean lion, while the latter was a 17th century creation.

That the lion still has an image as a powerful, proud, courageous, strong animal is shown by the fact that people have named themselves after him to this day. The most important examples from the Middle Ages are Heinrich the Lion and Richard the Lionheart . In the early modern period, the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf was called the "Lion of Midnight" because of his intervention in the Thirty Years' War. The Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud was called "the Lion of Pandschir" by his followers, the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie called himself "the Lion of Judah".

In animal fables , the lion is also referred to as noble .

The lion in language and advertising

The lion's share means the majority, the mighty lion takes a lot. Baulöwe , Salonlöwe stands for influential, recognized people.

Logos and advertising appearances with a lion figure have / had or do (are) among others Löwenbräu (Munich), Kastner & Öhler (Graz), Hartlauer (Steyr). The - physically large - Josef Wenzl (to his election as Governor of Upper Austria in 1971 and / or regional elections in Upper Austria in 1973 ) made image and canvassing the basis of a lion figure, in the opening credits to films from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (s) yells a lion looking out of a frame backdrop. The Braunschweiger Löwe became the trademark of the truck manufacturer Büssing and - following a complaint from Braunschweig - was taken over by the subsequent manufacturer MAN .

A Hallein stonemason was commissioned by the Nazi regime in 1941 to produce four lions with coats of arms for the (today's) Salzburg State Bridge. Only two were finished and from around 1949 they were installed in front of Linz Central Station .

The lion was also used as a name or part of names, for example in the case of the medieval kings Richard the Lionheart (1157–1199) and Heinrich the Lion (1130–1995) or the last name Löwenthal . The names Leo , Leon and Leonardo are derived from the Latin and Greek names for lion .

Man-eating lions

Man-eating lion-like monster (12th century) at the parish church of Rosheim
Man-eating lion duo from the Tsavo

In Africa, hippos and leopards have a reputation for being far more dangerous to humans than lions. Nonetheless, there are some reported cases in which lions purposefully hunted people. In 1898, two lions in what was then British East Africa , now Kenya , killed between 14 and 135 Indian and African workers who were building a railway bridge over the Tsavo River . In the search for the causes of cannibalism , researchers do still difficult: reports that up to 135 people were victims of the lion, are probably exaggerated. Studies of carbon-nitrogen isotopes show that one of the two lions on display in the museum today ate occasionally, the second mainly ate human flesh. Presumably he was dependent on this easy-to-hunt prey due to a jaw injury. Based on the amount of meat usually eaten by lions, about 35 people are likely to have fallen victim to them.

“Why do some lions develop an appetite for bipeds? Researchers have investigated the case of two famous beasts: According to the results, people have given a lot of help when changing their diet. [...] Careless burial practices during a severe smallpox outbreak and a subsequent famine did the rest to get the big cats used to the taste of human flesh. "

The construction work on the bridge came to a standstill when the lions invaded camps that were surrounded by high thorn walls, killing and eating people there. It took the head of the construction project, British Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson , nine months to track down and kill the two lions. Both lions were found to be healthy males, maneless and of unusual height. They were from the tip of the tail to 2.95 and 2.90 meters long and had a shoulder height of 1.20 and 1.15 meters.

The events during the construction of the bridge on the Tsavo River inspired two Hollywood productions: The first commercial 3D film , shot in 1952 and released in Germany under the title Bwana, the Devil , and The Spirit and Darkness from 1996 attacked this Event on.

The two killed lions can be seen in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago .

See also


Film documentaries

Web links

Commons : Lion ( Panthera leo )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Leo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vratislav Mazák : The tiger. 5th edition (April 2004), unchanged. 1983 edition. Westarp Sciences, ISBN 3-89432-759-6 . P. 178ff.
  2. Marjolein Schoe, Etotépé A. Sogbohossou, Jacques Kaandorp, Hans de longh: PROGRESS REPORT - collaring operational Pendjari Lion Project, Benin. Funded by the Dutch Zoo Conservation Fund, 2010.
  3. Christine Dell'Amore: Rare Maned Lionesses Explained. In: Cat Watch, National Geographic . October 9, 2012, accessed October 1, 2016 .
  4. CR Harington: Pleistocene remains of the lion-like cat (Panthera atrox) from the Yukon Territory and northern Alaska. In: Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences , 6: (5), 1969, pp. 1277-1288, doi: 10.1139 / e69-127
  5. ^ Nobuyuki Yamaguchi et al .: Evolution of the mane and group-living in the lion (Panthera leo): a review. In: Journal of Zoology , Volume 263, Issue 4, 2004, pp. 329-342, doi: 10.1017 / S0952836904005242 .
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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on April 22, 2004 in this version .