Do Lions have spots? Why are Lion Cubs born with spots?

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Do Lions have spots?

Yes, lions have spots on their fur when they are born. Lions cubs show the highest availability of spots on their fur and as the cubs grow up the spots become light and finally disappear at their adult age as in males lions. However, in adult lionesses spots remain visibly faded and in low count availability in their body.

We all know that lions have a tawny brown to yellow-golden color body fur all-around their body.

We also know that big cats like leopards, tigers, cheetahs, etc. show various markings, patterns, or spots on their body which is lacking in lions.

So, in accordance with that belief, many people still think that it is a leopard cub or a cheetah cub, by just looking at the so many spots present in the body of the lion cubs.

But, in fact, it is also to be noted here that lion cubs do have spots and that the spotted markings are unique to each cub.

When the cubs are born they will show many spots that are dark brown to black colored in the backdrop of their tawny brown to yellow-golden color body fur.

Dark spots are highly visible on the limbs, tail, forehead, and belly portion of the cubs’ body. Looking at the cubs you may think that they aren’t lion cubs.


As the cubs grow from their cub phase to juvenile phase and finally to their mature adult phase the spots appear to be faded becoming light yellow-golden colored and finally disappearing in the adults.

Juveline Lion Cubs sitting on a rock at Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. Here you can clearly see the dark yellow-golden colored spots on the body fur of the juvenile cubs, mostly at the portion of the limbs.

Why are Lion Cubs born with spots?

According to the modern-day classification system, cats fall under the Family Felidae of Class Mammalia of the Animal Kingdom.

And, it has been seen that most of the cat species are born with dark-spotted body fur, and that the spots gradually become faded and disappear when the baby cats (cubs or kittens) reach adulthood.

So, as the lions (Panthera leo) fall under the Family Felidae, they just like most of the cat species are born with dark colored spots.

And these spots fade and disappear in order to change to a uniform consistent fur as the lion cubs enter their adult phase.

Also that, being born with spotted fur is a great adaptation of the lion cubs in order to better camouflage in their surroundings and hide themselves for any upcoming threats.

Due to the various spots, cubs appear as dappled shadow which help them to stay hidden from the predators.

In newly born cubs, you will find that their fur is yellow-golden brown with dark black spots on the body and bar like appearance on their thick tail. Limbs and Forehead show many finely noticeable dark brown spots.

Known to date, almost all of the cat species are born with spots on their body fur, except for a few species like the Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), and Caracal (Caracal caracal).

So, lions (Panthera leo) being considered as one of those most cat species, they are also born with spots.

But, it is also interesting to note here that lions have also evolved themselves to disappear their body spots when they become adults, while other big cats like tigers, leopards, etc. have spots and marking in their body fur during their adulthood.

I hope, that your queries are cleared.

Do Lionesses have spots? What do you think?

Yes, adult lionesses do show various faded spots that are only visible when you will see them from very close. However, female cubs show many perfectly visible dark colored rosette spots.

Lionesses can have faded light yellow-golden brown spots on their limbs and most of the belly portion of the body when they reach adulthood as well.

However, in lions, all of the spots disappear and completely gets faded when the male cubs becomes adult lions.

As the female cubs grow many of these spotted marks gets faded away from their bodies, and most of their fur becomes plain and spotless in appearance.

But, if you watch very carefully, you will find that many of the lionesses will show light faded spots in the underlying portion of the body towards the limbs.

Their thick tail may also show very lightly faded bar-like rounded spots at the base of the tail. Spots on the tail are not always visble even if you watch them from very clsoe.

It is believed that both the lionesses and their cubs having spots help them to better camouflage in the wild, as they both matches with the sandy surroundings appearing as dappled shadows falling on the ground.

This also helps the lionesses to protect the cubs a bit more precisely then they would have done without having any spots.

Do juvenile lions have spots? Let’s Know!

Lions with age below 1 year are considered cubs, and those between 1 to 3 years are considered juveniles.

Between the age of 1 to 2 years old they can be considered as fully juveniles, and between the age of 2 to 3 years they can be considered as sub-adult juveniles.

Yes, Juvenile lions do have spots. But, the spots are not as dark colored as it was when the juvenile lions were cubs.

In fact, the spots in juvenile lions are of light yellow-golden brown faded color and so can be clearly visble from a distance of 7 to 10 meters easily.

All lion cubs are born with dark colored spots, and as they get two years old almost 30% to 40% of their spots get disappeared and rest of the spots get faded away by turing into light yellow-golden brown color.

Between the age of 2 and 3, lions are classed as juvenile sub-adults when they begin to resemble adult lions.

So, during their sub-adult phase female lions show various faded spots in the underlying portion of the body towards the limbs. And as, they enter into adult phase above 3 years of age a few of the spots remain and get visibly faded.

Male lions during their sub-adult phase also do show various faded spots mostly at the portion of the limbs, underlying the belly portion of the body, and a few in the tail as well. And as, they enter into adult phase above 3 years of age their spots disappears completely.

Why do spots disappear when lions reach the age of maturity?

Researchers say that the newborn cubs are vulnerable in the wild, so they need a better way of adaptation in order to better camouflage and protect themselves from any upcoming threats.

So, having spots on their body gives a good boost to their camouflaging abilities by making them match with their surroundings and the body shades.

Researchers also say that, all of the present day cats have evolved from a common ancestor who was a big cat species under the Suborder Feliformia somewhere about 50.6 to 35 million years ago into several families and sub-families.

So, lions, leopards, cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, and many other present-day big cats species have drastically evolved from a common ancestor and so, that’s why it is one of the reason why they all fall under the Family Felidae of the Classs Mammalia of the Animal Kingdom.

And so, lions just like leopards, cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, etc. show various spots on their body during their initial stages of growth from cubs to juvenile sub-adult phase.

And that, over the course of millions of years of evolution, lions have well-adapted themselves to becoming a species that are different from leopards, cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, etc.

So, as per evolution into becoming new species they have well-adapted themselves to not show any kind of spots in their adulthood as in males.

Most cat species are born with a spotted fur. But, big cat species like lions (Panthera leo) and Cougar (Puma concolor) have evolved themselves in such a way that their spots disappear and their body fur change to a uniform fur during their ontogeny.

However, lionesses have evolved themselves to have their spots in the underlying portion of their body close to the limbs in order to camouflage and protect their cubs who are also spotted from the deadly threats of the wilderness.

Newborn cubs are dependent on their mothers and remain in their care for approximately 2 to 2.5 years.

So, there’s a need for both the cubs and the mother to camouflage well, and so, having spots in both of them gives them matching characteristsics and also a good ability to better conceal themselves in the wild.

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