The lion has long been a symbol of strength, power and ferocity. Seeing this majestic species up close is a spine-tingling highlight of any African safari.

To celebrate World Lion Day (observed each year on August 10), here are 10 fun facts about the so-called “king of the jungle” (including why that title isn’t especially fitting for this feline): 

  1. African lions are the most social of all big cats and live together in groups, also known as “prides.” A pride usually consists of about 15 lions.
  2. Male lions defend the pride’s territory, while females do most of the hunting. Despite this, the males eat first.
  3. These majestic cats are threatened by habitat loss. The lion is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  4. The lion was once found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe but now exists only in Africa—with one exception. The last remaining Asiatic lions are found in Sasan-Gir National Park in India, which was primarily created to protect the species. Currently, there are approximately 350–400 lions in the park.
  5. A lion’s roar can be heard from as far as 5 miles away.
  6. Lions can run for short distances at 50 mph and leap as far as 36 feet.
  7. Even though the lion is sometimes referred to as the “king of the jungle,” it only lives in grasslands and plains. The expression may have come from an incorrect association between Africa and jungles or may refer to a less literal meaning of the word “jungle.”
  8. A good gauge of a male lion’s age is the darkness of his mane. The darker the mane, the older the lion.
  9. A lion’s heels don’t touch the ground when it walks.
  10. A lion may sleep up to 20 hours a day.

Learn more about lions and the threats they face (plus how you can help!).

See lions and other iconic African wildlife on a Nat Hab safari