Lions: How do they communicate?
Lions use different calls when communicating with each other: meows, roars, grunts, moans, growls, snarls, purrs, hums, puffs and woofs. Each sound has a different meaning.
The most famous of these calls is the roar. It is one of the loudest calls in the animal kingdom and can be heard from up to 8km away.
The male’s roar is deeper and louder than the female’s. Lions roar to tell other lions where they are, to show how big they are and to warn lions from other prides to keep away from their home territory.
They do this mostly just before sunrise and sunset when they are most active.
When lions greet each other and play together, they make lots of silly noises – like hums and puffs – to show they are happy.
When a mother lioness is looking for her cubs, she will call very softly for them. The cubs recognise this sound and call back to her to show where they are.
Lions don’t only communicate with each other using calls. They also use their faces and body language to show how they are feeling. When they feel threatened, lions show off their biggest weapons – sharp teeth and claws – and try to make themselves look as big as possible by standing on their tiptoes, lifting up their tails and hunching their backs.
If a pride male wants to show another pride member that he is not happy, he will give them a quick swat with his paw or a gentle bite to the neck. He doesn’t want to hurt the other lion; just to let them know that they have stepped out of line.
To show they are happy and relaxed, lions will lick or gnaw softly at each other.
Lions also use their scent to communicate. Animals recognise each other by the way they smell in a way that a human would find very difficult. They urinate (‘go to the toilet’) on the ground and bushes, which is called territorial marking. By leaving this strong smell around their territory, they are telling other lions to stay away from their home.
Each pride has its own particular smell; it’s a mixture of the smells of each individual pride member. As they greet each other, lions rub heads and necks and by doing this they can they recognise each other by scent.