The Lion King


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"If you tell me, I'll still act surprised!"
Watch out! This article may contain spoilers.

Scientific Name
Panthera Leo
3 Feet at the Shoulder (Male)
2'5 Feet at the shoulder (Female)
250-330 pounds (Female)
400-800 pounds (Male)
Up to 20 years in captivity
None Natural

"Pumbaa, are you nuts?! We're talking about a lion. Lions eat guys like us!"
Timon protests Pumbaa's sympathy for young Simba

Lions (scientific name Panthera leo) are the main characters in The Lion King film series and franchise (with the exception of the third movie and the first TV spin-off). They are the second largest big cat after the tiger.


Shenzi: "You know, if it weren't for those lions, we'd be runnin' the joint!"
Banzai: "Yeah! Man, I hate lions!"
Shenzi: "So pushy!"
Banzai: "And hairy!"
Shenzi: "And stinky!"
Banzai: "And man, are they..."

The appearance of lions differ within the main pride. There are two distinctive types of lions in the film series: Pridelanders and Outsiders (or Outlanders), who both have their own common appearance.

For Pridelanders, the males are usually portrayed as being bigger and more muscular than the lionesses, and are also identifiable by their manes. They tend to have brightly-colored fur with goldish undertones. Their manes are most often brownish-red. The only exception to this is Scar, who is darkly-colored and has a coal-black mane. The lionesses, meanwhile, are more slender, built for hunting and speed. They tend to have duller and/or paler colors than the males, with the exception of Kiara, who inherits her father's golden pelt.

For Outsiders, there are only two males in the pride, Nuka and Kovu. Both males take on Scar's color scheme, though it is never stated whether they have a direct relation to him or not. Nuka has lighter fur, but makes up for it in his black mane. Kovu, however, is darkly-colored in both pelt and mane. On the other hand, the lionesses are lightly-colored. They share the Pridelanders' dull-colored pelts, but are noticeably lighter. They are also much skinnier, though this could be due to their conditions in the Outlands.


Male Lion

A Male Lion


A female lion.

In the Real World

Lions are found in southern Africa, Asia, and India, though they are considered critically endangered in India. In Africa, they are considered "vulnerable." Lions used to be plentiful in Western Asia and the Middle East, but they have long since decreased in these regions. A lion usually lives around ten to fifteen years in the wild, and have been known to live for up to twenty years in captivity. However, it's rare for a lion to live into old age. Many die from either starvation or injury, as a consequence of other violent lions.


Lion/Lioness Size Comparison

Physically, lions are a tawny golden color, and are the only cats whose sexes can be told apart at a distance. Males bare thick, shaggy manes of either blond[1], black [2], red[3], or brown[4] while lionesses are barren around the neck. Both sexes have a tail tuft, always black in color, though cubs are born without this tuft. Lion eyes are most commonly amber, but brown[5], green eyed[6] and blue eyed lions[7] have been observed. A male lion is roughly twice the weight of a female, at 420 pounds, while lionesses only weigh 290[8]. Rarely, a pair of lions will give birth to a white lion. The age of a lion can be told by examining how dark its nose is.[9]

The average pride is comprised of ten lioness [10], and is protected by anywhere from one to four males.[11] The lionesses are usually related; either mother and daughter, sisters, aunt and niece, or cousins. Outside female lionesses are rarely accepted into an existing pride, and seldom leave their natal prides to start. However, a takeover can prompt them to leave as well as overcrowding in the pride. When a lioness with adult children leaves the pride, her daughters go with her.


A maned female.


A maneless male (Tsavo Lion)

While males can hunt, Lionesses are the main source of the pride's food. While lacking the magnificent mane of the lion or their heavy muscles, she makes up for it with speed and the ability to run longer without being overheated (however lionesses do rarely grow manes [12]). A lioness can run about 40 miles per hour and their cooperative nature, highly unusual among the cat family, allows them to take down large game such as buffalo or wildebeest. Larger prides have been known to fell elephants[13] and giraffes[14].

A group of lions is called a Pride, as opposed to a pack, and indeed is structured differently. There is no hierarchy or true "alpha female" among the females of a pride. Females mate freely, instead of their being a breeding pair. However, if there is more than one male in the pride, there will be a dominant male among them, and he will sire most of the pride's cubs. The strongest, healthiest males have black manes, while weaker, unhealthy males have short blond manes. Lionesses are attracted to darker maned males. A male's mane color is not static, and changes with the state of his health. [15] Among other males, the black mane is seen as threatening and a male will hesitate to attack a lion baring one, even an intruder. Male lions function a barrier between the pride and invaders, marking territory with scent glands and urine, and siring the lionesses cubs. Whether or not the lion is a tolerant sire or a hostile one varies from male to male. Though primarily a male's job, females will not hesitate to defend their cubs from marauding males.[16]


A Coalition of Six Lions

Young male lions reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2 and 3 years of age, in which the male(s) of the pride will begin to see them as a threat and see them off through violence. Along with assuring their power, this also prevents incest within the pride. Males who are ousted together form coalitions and, like the lionesses of their natal pride, are usually related. However, they may be unrelated. Coalitions are typically pairs, but trios, quartets and even sextets have been observed.[17] Male lions are not as fast or efficient as a pride or even a lone lioness, as their manes cause them to overheat faster than a female. As a result, many males die of starvation before they ever claim a pride. If they do manage to beat out a existing male however, they will run off any existing males, kill the cubs that are too young to flee, then mate with the lionesses, completely erasing his bloodline. A males tenure a protector and ruler of the pride generally lasts 2 to 3 years.

Lions are apex predators and the closest thing they have to competition are Hyenas. The real danger to them are their own species, and humans. Rival prides have been known to get into deadly clashes.[18]

In the Universe

"Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era... in which lion and hyena come together, in a great and glorious future!"
Scar letting the hyenas take over the pride

The Lions in the film look and behave markedly different from actual lions on the Serengeti. The Pridelanders are the main group of lions throughout the franchise, though other pride such as Mega and Leo's pride, Malka's pride, and the Outsiders have been lightly touched upon.

The Pridelanders operate in a Monarchy, where the firstborn child of the current ruler sits in line for the throne as the crown prince or princess. This child is anointed, then presented before the animals of the Kingdom in a ceremony that occurs in the morning. Attendance of this ceremony doesn't seem to be mandatory, but missing it is the height of disrespect and reprimand-able by the ruler themselves. Sometime after, the ruler-to-be is pre-assigned a lion or lioness they will marry, at the agreement of the parents. According to Zazu, this is a tradition that goes back generations. Kiara did not have a betrothed, likely Simba making good on his claim that betrothal would be "the first thing to go" when he was King.

As far as looks go, Lions in the Lion King franchise are far more diverse. They range from gold, cream, tawny, tan, brown, and grey. Red and Orange eyes are more common among them, with red and blue showing up far less. Characters, even background, obscure ones, have small nuances that set them apart from each other and make them unique.

Though Hyenas are their sworn enemies and portrayed as such in most material, lions have been known to conspire with them. Scar has been conspiring with the hyenas for years, from young adulthood to late adulthood, when Simba is finally full grown. However, even in this relationship, Scar dominates the hyenas despite being outnumbered.

True to their species, their are rival prides as seen with the outsiders and pridelanders. Power can be stolen through usurpation, as seen with Scar, Simba, and as was the plan with Kovu. The lion Tanglemane was run out by a pair of rogues, losing his crown in the process. However, instead of seeing a threat in their sons, Pridelander Kings allow them to stay with the pride, even if they are slated to rule, as Ahadi did not exile Scar and Mufasa allowed him to hang around, even if he wasn't the best of company.


Female Lion2

Mates are pairs of creatures who have mated and successfully brought forth offspring.

In the Real World

When lionesses come into heat, the male lion will indiscriminately mate with all of them to increase the chance of spreading his genes via offspring. Cubs may be born to different mothers or share a father if only one male is present. Cubs born in the same litter may also have different fathers, especially if the pride that they and their mother are a part of is dominated by more than one male. Even if the litter consists of only two cubs, there is still a chance that they may only be half-siblings, whether their mother mated with a rogue male in addition to the pride male or if the pride consists of two males and the mother mated with them both.

In The Lion King Universe

Male lions are rare in the movies, and only two are known to have mates. Throughout the movies and franchise, the male lions choose one mate and remain loyal to them throughout the movie. Males who have successfully brought forth offspring include Mohatu, Ahadi, Mufasa, and Simba.

At the end of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, it is assumed that a mate ship ceremony is performed over Kiara and Kovu, pronouncing them as both a couple and the future king and queen of the Pride Lands.

List of Known Mates in The Lion King Universe



  • There is a constant error regarding lions in The Lion King movies. At least once in every film, lions can be heard purring. Lions can purr, but only when they exhale. Cheetahs and Mountain Lions are known for purring the most often.
  • If it's hot enough, male lions will completely shed their manes or not grow one at all. This could explain Nuka and Kovu's rather pathetic manes in comparison to lions like Simba, despite Kovu being roughly the same height as the king, as both Nuka and Kovu lived in the arid Outlands.[19]
  • In the first movie, hyenas take on both lions and lionesses. In reality, hyenas only mob lionesses if there is a 3 or 4-1 advantage. However, male lions are avoided at all costs. Even if the hyenas outnumber a male 20-1, the hyenas will give him a wide berth.[20]
  • According to the directors of the first Lion King, male lions were given whiskers and females were without them during finalization. Sub canon material such as comics and books - who are prone to mistakes - have done surprisingly well at mimicking this intention; Kopa, Tojo, Chumvi, and Malka are all male cubs who have whiskers - Tama, Boga and Kula are female cubs who lack whiskers.
  • The Lions in the Lion King may not age like real lions do, as Scar states that he's been denied the Pride Lands throne for decades during "Be Prepared" -- at least 20 years -- when a lion's normal lifespan is 15-18 years (25-30 in captivity)[21]. If he was 20 or older, he should've been dead by the time Simba was an adult ( 4 or 5 years), but shows no signs of graying. This all indicates the lions not only think like humans, can talk like humans, but age like them. Then again, decades to a lion may not be the same as decades to a person, similar to how 1 human year allegedly equates to seven dog years (The Xoloitzcuintle breed having a similar lifespan to a big cat[22]).



  19. [1]

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