While other big cats choose to live alone, lions are very sociable animals and live together in a family group called a pride. A pride usually has about 13 lions in it, but there can be as many as 30; mums, dads, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, all living together. They don’t stay together all of the time together though. Often individual lions or small groups spend days away from the pride, particularly when looking for food or water.
Although they can be fierce towards lions they don’t know, pride members are very playful and affectionate together. They say hello by rubbing heads and licking; just like we hug and kiss the members of our own family. Male lions rub so hard, they sometimes knock each other over!
The head of the family is the pride male. He’s the king of the pride and it’s his job to protect the female lions, called lionesses and their young cubs. Sometimes there can be three or four kings who share this responsibility. Unlike females, male lions have a mane; long, thick hair around their head, neck and shoulders. No-one really knows why, but it could be to help them look bigger and more fierce and also to act as protection during a fight.
Lionesses have a lot of work to do. Not only do they look after their cubs, they also have to go out to hunt for food to feed the rest of the pride. They are smaller and quicker than the males and don’t have a mane that will make them easy to spot. When a mother lioness has to leave her cubs to go hunting, another lioness in the pride will babysit them while she’s away. It’s called a crèche; just like the one you may have gone to when you were little.
It’s a cub’s life
Life as a lion cub is much easier if you are a girl. Female cubs normally stay with their family pride forever, but life for their brothers is much tougher. At the age of around two, male cubs are forced to leave the pride when their family members chase them away. A lot of them end up living alone for the rest of their lives, but some join together in groups, called bachelor prides.
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