lion

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lion

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Male lion (Panthera leo).—R.I.M. Campbell/Bruce Coleman Ltd.

Large, powerfully built cat (Panthera leo), the proverbial “king of beasts.” It is now found mainly in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, though about two hundred constitute an Asiatic race living under strict protection in India. Lions inhabit grassy plains and open savanna. The male is 6–7 ft (1.8–2.1 m) long, excluding the 3-ft (1-m) tail, stands about 4 ft (1.2 m) high at the shoulder, and weighs 370–500 lbs (170–230 kg). The female, or lioness, is considerably smaller. The male's coat is usually buff yellow or orange-brown; lionesses are more consistently tawny or sandy. The male's outstanding characteristic is his mane. Lions are unique among cats in that they live in a group, or pride, often consisting of about 15 individuals. Lionesses are the chief hunters. They prey on animals of all sizes, including hippopotamuses, but prefer wildebeests, antelopes, and zebras. After eating, a lion may rest for a week.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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