How does a lion defend itself and its young ones? What are Lions’ defense mechanisms? And more things to Know

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How does a lion defend itself?

Lions use a lot of tactics to defend themselves and their loved ones. They are highly territorial animals and have well-defined territories for the lion pride.

They (mostly the adult males) are often seen inspecting and scanning their territorial boundaries by roaring, marking it with urine, and also by chasing off the unknown intruders.

Their territory has both a large core area and a fringe area. They have well-defined boundaries for their core area which is strictly defended against intruding lions and other animals. Their fringe area is where some overlapping is tolerated.

Lions’ urine contains pheromones which specify olfactory signals to the intruders and the lion itself declaring the territorial boundaries. The significance of mane in the lion is also a very well-recognized source of pheromones.

The male lion has his organ of Jacobson to get the scent of the pheromones from the female’s and other male’s urine which also indicates the territorial boundaries for protection. This organ is located at the base of the lion’s nasal cavity.

Lions due to their hunting habits characterized by stalking and hunting make them hidden for as long as possible while they approach their prey. This helps them to stay unnoticed from the prey and prey’s group which may attack the lion if seen hunting.

Also that, Lions can camouflage very well by hiding in the tall grasses and dry scrub forests due to their external appearance and tawny coat coloration just in order to blend in with the surroundings perfectly.


This also gives them a boost in their hunting skills when they try to attack very powerful prey like Wild Buffaloes, Zebras, etc.

Also that, Lions and hyenas both hate each other, and the lions being more masculine, bigger, and aggressive attacks the hyenas and make them flee away.

Lions can only fight and protect themselves from a group of 5 to 7 hyenas only because of their more masculine nature.

However, a group of 10 or more hyenas can be just enough to make a lion flee away and severely wounded as reported in the wild.

Lions due to their strong muscular hindlimbs can also run extremely fast when chased by a more strong animal like elephants, hippopotamus, etc.

Their teeth and powerful claws are so strong and deadly that most of the animals including wild buffaloes fear them and so often avoid chasing a lion until and unless the need arises.

Their powerful jaws are well-packed with 30 teeth in total. The deadly ones include the four fang-like canines and four carnassial teeth that are perfectly designed for slicing through flesh.

It’s because the lions’ powerful claws and jaws can cause death or instant paralyzation to the animal if gets caught.

Also that the lions stay in pride (group of lions) with at least one dominant lion and a few lionesses, and this strength in number gives them the ability to defend themselves when other non-apex (bottom) predators or other large mammals try to attack them.

It is to be also noted in the wild that lions are the most dangerous apex predators, or so-called alpha predators or top predators.

Meaning that they do lack natural predators who can prey upon the lions, and so they remain protected very often from other animals.

How does a lion defend its young ones?

Lions live in a group, or pride with at least one dominant male who is the father of the young cubs of the pride. He whole-heartedly and aggressively defends his young ones from other males and intruders like hyenas, leopards, etc.

It has also been seen in the wild that the virgin male lions or other nomadic male lions may often try to kill the cubs of other female lionesses if the cubs are not well secured by their father lion or mother lioness. This also makes these intruders take over the pride.

Single nomadic males are always in a chance to mate with the females and take over the pride. And, for doing so, they attack the alpha male of that pride and kill the young cubs there just in order to win over the females, the pride, and reproduce his offspring.

Under such a case, it has been seen that the lion fights very aggressively with the intruder just in order to protect his lionesses and his cubs.

It has been also seen that the male lions can also kill the cubs that are not closely related to them, such as say the offspring of their brothers or cousins.

So, in such cases, it becomes the utmost responsibility of the mother lioness to protect her cubs and such an act can sometimes become deadly for the mother and the young ones as well.

However, the females are known to act very wisely when they see that a new intruder male has taken over the pride. They somehow hide their cubs, and opt to better mate with the new males, and bring their cubs out later making the male think that these are his cubs.

This wise act by the female saves the cubs from getting killed by the new alpha male.

Both lions and lionesses roar, urine, chase off the intruders, rubs their bodies against the trees, and dedicatedly inspect their territorial boundaries in order to secure their cubs and the territory well from any unusual danger.

Lions also do care for their cubs. When the lionesses go for the hunt, lions sincerely and aggressively secure the cubs of the pride.

In the wild, the most prominent job of the lions is to protect their cubs along with the territory, while the lionesses will perfectly nourish the cubs and care for them until they reach the age of two or three.

It has been often reported in the wild that the mother lion hides the cubs as they are born completely helpless. And, when the cubs are about eight weeks old, she finally introduces them to her pride.

Not only the mother but also other lionesses too take care of each other’s cubs at the same time. They also breastfeed each other’s cubs and well protect them. It is truly communal care.

It is not only the responsibility of the father to best protect the cubs but also of the other male lions of the pride as well.

The responsibility of the mother also lies in training them just in order to teach them all about hunting and surviving.

What are Lions’ defense mechanisms?

Actually, the lions being an apex predator doesn’t need that much to fear from other animals. However, they may need to fear from other lions.

So, lions have very powerful roar to signal their enemies about his strength and dominancy over his territory.

He also uses pheromones excreted through its urine, body surface, fur, and mane to send olfactory signals to other lions in order to stay away from his territory and pride.

Lions being apex predators have adapted themselves to having large paws, with sharp retractable claws of 1.5 inches in length at the end of each toe. This helps them in grabbing, snatching, and ripping the flesh off the animal’s body.

The paws of the forelimbs are extremely strong with a lot of bones and strong muscles, and these are what the lions use the most in their lifetime for walking, jumping, and even while hunting and defending themselves.

The paws of the males are larger than the females, and this is an advantage to their strength and dominancy as well.

Their forelimbs do provide them with sufficient upper-body strength to fight. This also allows them to run at a speed of about 33 to 50 miles per hour.

They use their hindlimbs to support the back of their body while maintaining their balance while chasing, hiding, and leaping as far as 36 feet distance at a time.

Their awesome ability to camouflage and remain hidden in the bushes can’t also be ignored as well.

Their body appearance and twany to yellow-brown coloration match them well with their surroundings and this helps them to better camouflage.

Mostly due to this property, the lion cubs remain hidden in the bushes and the rocks away from the eyes of the attackers. And as such, they get better defended from other animals.

Also from the physical appearance like having a bulky and heavy body along with large dark-colored manes are notable characteristics of an alpha male lion.

And, this indicates his greater dominancy over the pride, the territory, and also that he gets his hands first on food before any other lion or lioness, and is also loved the most by the females.

Lion’s mane can protect their neck and is also used to show their leadership during a fight.

The larger the pride, meaning that the higher the number of adult lions and lionesses in the pride, the more dominant and protective is that pride and their territory from being attacked by any intruder.

Lions are predominantly nocturnal. This also helps them to stay away from the majority of the other animals like hippos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, etc. However, conflicts occurring between lions and these large animals is really very rare during the other times of the day as well.

What do Lions need to survive?

Adult lions need to eat at least 5 to 8 kgs of meat per day just in order to survive. They are seen to hunt at all locations nearby their territory and prefer a place with open grasslands and also with more bushes and other vegetation for performing their sneaking attacks.

They need at least 2 to 3 liters of water every four to five days. And that they can go without drinking any water for a continuous four to five days.

This is because they fulfill most of their water requirements from the blood of the animals and the meat contents. So, they do need to eat everyday in order to survive healthily.

The larger the pride the more perfect will be their hunting strategies by surrounding a large prey for a kill.

They stalk and walk very slowly near their prey, and then they do chase their prey with a maximum speed of up to 33 to 50 miles per hour, and then leap for as far as 36 feet distance in order to catch the prey.

Just in order to survive their daily dietary requirements, they must include meat with at least 37% proteins, 40% fats, at least 2% fibres, and 42% of moisture.

In females, during gestation times it is a must that they get at least 50% protein and 45% fat from the food they eat, as during this time their energy requirements are 40% higher than the usual normal rates.

So, all of these dietary requirements must fulfill their healthy energy requirement of at least 12,000 to 14,000 kcal per day.

Researchers say that Lions need arachidonic and linoleic fatty acids, proteins with increased levels of cysteine and methionine amino acids in order to survive healthily. Carbohydrate is needed in low amounts.

Mostly about 85-90% of the hunting is done by the lionesses in groups, and the lion only takes charge of a kill when the prey is very stronger than usual.

They are nocturnal, and so they are often seen resting for about 13 to 16 hours during the daytime and come out for the hunt very often at night. This helps them to keep their body temperature stable during the hot daytime.

They can see clearly at night time because they have more rods than those of the cones. They have 25 rods per single cone in each of their eyes.

This gradually minimizes their color-detection power as compared to that of the humans and thus they can see fewer colors. This better helps them to detect the movement and shape of their prey better at night, including the dawn and dusk time as well.

Also that it is very mandatory for them to camouflage in such harsh conditions basically during the dry hot season of the year just in order to precisely hunt and find protection within their preferred natural habitat.

So, their adaptation of being nocturnal hunters, male lions having manes that are less long and thick, having a quick digestive system, and also by sleeping a lot during the daytime, they do naturally increase their chances of survival a lot.

Why do male lions back off when the lionesses try to attack them?

In the wild, it has been seen that if a lion tries to kill the cubs then the lionesses will try to defend the cubs by attacking the lion.

In such a case, if the alpha male is present, then he will fight his best against the intruding lion who want to kill his cubs and take over his lionesses and the whole pride.

Later, after such a case, if the alpha male dies then it becomes really hard for the females to protect their cubs, as the new dominant male will want to remove the offspring of the former alpha male so that he can instantly reproduce with the females to produce his own offsprings.

So, it has been very well reported that during such a case the lionesses will hide the cubs from the vision of the new alpha male, or if somehow the male identifies the cubs then the lionesses will try to fight back just in order to protect them from getting killed.

When the lionesses are higher in numbers in the pride then they get their strength in number. In such a case, the male will prefer not to attack the cubs, or else he better knows he may be severely injured by the lionesses.

But, such back-off is not a characteristic of a dominant alpha male. So, such cases of backing off are rarely reported in the wild as the new alpha male will always try his best to impart his dominancy over the females.

It is to be also noted that the alpha male will always get the chance to feed first after a successful hunt by the lionesses.

So, in fact, lionesses and cubs often have to wait in order to get their meal after the kill, until the male has completely finished eating.

And so, in some instances, it has been also reported that if the lionesses are incredibly hungry they get very aggressive, and then the chances are there for the male lion to back-off if there are more than 10 lionesses there.

So, it can be well-stated that the male lions can choose to back off when the lionesses are more in numbers with at least 10 lionesses per single male.

Thus, giving the lionesses their dominancy due to their strength in numbers to make the male rethink about backing off from the lionesses.

What are lions afraid of? Let’s Know!

Lions are afraid of animals in large groups and they often avoid interfering with them. They are mostly afraid of large mammals like giraffes, hippos, adult rhinos, adult male wild buffaloes, and adult elephants as these are really very strong animals as compared to the lions.

If lions choose to attack these animals then they will usually avoid the adult ones and will likely attack the youngsters only by well-planning just in order to make the young ones separate from the herd and kill them.

Lions are often afraid of large groups of hyenas and wild dogs who due to their strength in numbers can easily make a lion flee away.

As seen in the wild, 10 to 30 adult hyenas are enough to defeat a lion, while a large clan with at least 50 wild dogs can easily make a lion flee away.

And adult elephant is just enough to crush the lion and break his bones due to its massive weight. Elephant attacks can lead to instant paralyzation or death to the lion.

Lions fear giraffes because of their taller size and height. A giraffe is so tall that a lion can never reach its throat for a bite, and so during the attack, an adult male giraffe can easily kill the lion with just one kick with an impact of 2,000 Pounds-of-force Per Square-inch (PSI).

And also that giraffes have thick skin on their neck and front that is difficult for the lions to penetrate and bite off. This makes it really very hard for the lions to attack giraffes for a kill without getting themselves severely injured.

So, lions mostly avoid giraffe other than the young giraffes if they get a chance for the kill.

Lions also avoid preying upon adult rhinos due to fear. It’s because an adult rhino can easily hit the lion with its large horns and send it flying into the air making the lion severely injured.

But instances of preying upon the injured and old adult rhinos have been well-reported in the wild, even though they rarely attack adults.

On the other case, young rhinos are more vulnerable to getting killed by the lions if left unnoticed by the mother rhino.

Lions also fear attacking hippos, because adult hippos due to their large teeth can easily break the skull of the lion just instantly. However, lions do attack old, injured, and young hippos if they are not well-protected by other hippos.

Hippos due to their massive body weighing 4,000 pounds can get very dangerous for the lions. Although, lions in groups might be able to scratch the hippo up, but it’s not likely for them to manage to do much damage.

In the case of buffaloes, it is very very rare for an individual lion to attack a fully grown buffalo, or else the lion itself will be severely injured. So, they when not in groups avoid attacking an adult buffalo.

However, when in groups of 5 to 6 lionesses and at least 1 lion, they can easily manage to kill an adult fully grown buffalo with little to no injuries to themselves at all.

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