Roaring In The Wild: Lions
Which are the first words that come to your mind when thinking about a lion? The first words that come to my mind are predatory, carnivore, maned, powerful, tawny, fierce, feline and last but not least important courageous. And, as at some point I mentioned something about a portrayal or sketch I shall start doing this right now. As you probably guessed I will be sketching word by word the portrayal of the kings of the jungle as they are generally called, lions. Despite their naming they do not live in the jungle but rather in the savannah. As for the king part, indeed they can be considered being some sort of kings defending their territory no matter the situation and being feared by most of the other animals. Another possible explanation may be the fact that they are considered to be pretty scary and they may eat you if you do not show them some respect. As such let’s show them some respect and see what is it that makes them so feared.
A journey amid them may prove to be quite dangerous and as such we should perhaps watch them from a considerable distance. Even so, this does not prevent us in any way from seeing their magnificence, does it? It all lies in the mane, some may say, it all lies in their heaviness, others may say – after all is there any recipe for courage and royalty? When it comes to Mr. Lion apparently there is and it lies in its largeness, in its feline movements, its beautiful mane spreading itself around its neck and head, and above all I’d say in the hunting tricks he skillfully makes use of to put down its long waited for game.
No matter the case I find it delightful to watch them either sitting down in a relaxed position, taking care of their lionets or embarking upon what looks to many of us like the hunt of their lives (and they may be not far from reality since they largely depend on the food they hunt in order to survive). Their scientific name is Panthera Leo but I shall now refer to them using their Swahili name, meaning Simba. Isn’t this just the right name for them? In my opinion it is. Or would you rather like to call male lions tom? To be honest with you I think that only daring this, or having the audacity to do this would make the powerful lion frown at you and scare away any possible intruders with its loud, resounding roar. Do they look like some regular toms to you? If you join me in my opinion, you’d most certainly say that they don’t and that they rightfully deserve the proud name of lion. In case you did not know they happen to be the second biggest cat in the world, being lowered in its social position by another giant of the felines’ world, namely the tiger. Considered to be some sort of epitome of courage, royalty, power and strength, it is the lion that has been represented on numerous coats of arms, flags and whatever was related to royalty. For real, I mean to say in flesh and blood can be met in areas like Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, in the savanna or in the grasslands and even in the woodlands.
You most surely happened to see a lion, if not for real then in documentaries for sure and as such you know something about their looks. I most of all tend to like their movements and I happen to find a lot of grace and nobility in these moves. But did you know that the grace is due mainly to the fact that they have large muscular bodies rather than bony ones? They have been endowed by Mother Nature with rather powerful forepaws just to put down even the heaviest game. Rumors say that in order not be heard when approaching their prey they happen to have been equipped with soft padded claws and just in case you did not know up to now they walk on their toes. Much like the cat’s claws but to a higher level, if I am allowed to express myself this way, the lion’s claws are very sharp and retractable (not by means of any remote control but rather by natural laws). The thing that crossed my mind right now was the picture of a lion ready to attack and somewhere in the fog a person handling a remote control and moving him backward and forward in slow and fast movement. It would be a real tragedy to see someone doing this, don’t you think so. Funny but nevertheless making the majestic lion loose its stateliness and as such somehow tragic. It is precisely these retractable claws that allow them to play as they wish without ending up hurting each other. Interesting enough the dewclaw on the front limbs is being often used as some toothpick. Few of you could have imagined this looking at the lion, isn’t it true? Not only that they do not need to borrow toothpicks but they also happen to have their own personal one.
Most of the lions out there are the proud wearers of that well known sandy brown coat but there may be some among them that rather enjoy white clothes and as such have decided to put on such a coat. Surprisingly enough some of these lions, a rare part of them indeed, have made up their mind and decided to wear a dark brown coat. No matter the coat they do not loose their majestic looks.
You may have wondered at times what the role of the lion’s mane is. Is it just to fulfill a beauty purpose or there is more to it than just this? And since not everything resides in look such is the case of their mane. It has been discovered that since males happen to spend most of their time safeguarding the prides in which they live and since they may end up fighting in order to protect their females and cubs as well as their territory they needed this mane in order to protect him during these fights. But if you tended to think that this is the only purpose of the beautiful mane then evidences clearly prove that you are wrong. I say this having in mind the information according to which female lions happen to find more attractive the males that come well equipped with darker and bigger manes. Nice, don’t you think so? After all, ladies out there came to find out that they are not the only ones preferring dark-haired guys, are you? As far as length is to be taken into consideration they may happen to have their own tastes, not the same as yours maybe.
If eyes matter to a great extent in the mating choices one makes then if you were a lioness you would most probably look at the male’s eyes. By doing this you would be able to see that they have big eyes with round pupils, eyes which are perfectly adapted to be used at night. This must be the reason for which they seem pretty determined to hunt at night.
Like any king they happen to have a very good sense of smell. Now do not think that they happen to be capable of detecting their lioness’s new perfume, but rather that they are helped by this in their hunting. This keen sense of smell is due mainly to the so called Jacobson’s organ, an organ that happens to be located on the roof of their mouth. You may be terrified by their teeth, and indeed these ones help the lion hold better onto its prey but even so they do not chew their food but rather swallow it in chunks. And believe me that if he happens to be eating a zebra then these chunks can be pretty massive. Massive for you but not for the king! After all he needs to do something to owe his name.
And he does quite a lot of things. What is there more representative for them if not their manes and roars? “Monkeys chatter as they play, / Lions roar, and horses neigh. / Donkeys hee-haw; wolves may howl; / Dogs will bark, and sometimes growl. / Kittens mew, and piglets squeak – / That’s the way the creatures speak!” In case you did not know there are only four cats out there roaring, namely the lion, tiger, jaguar and leopard. And out of all these cats, the lion roars the most. Most often they do it to announce the presence of an intruder and as such to defend their territory. If you ever happened to hear a lion roaring then you most certainly know that they do their job to the best, meaning they are at times ready to deafen you. Even so their roaring cannot but be deemed as magnificent. They seem to be putting all their force in that roaring and rumors say that such a roaring can be heard up to five miles away and that it can even make dust raise. Despite their force and dreaded looks they are as evidences prove it some of the laziest cats out there. I am referring here to the big cats of course. Apparently they love to sleep and they do it for 16 sometimes 20 hours. Quite a long time, I’d say! But it may not be a long time when thinking about the fact that they spend their night hunting down games. But apart from sleeping you may see them either preoccupied to defend their territories or too busy to court the lioness they happen to find attractive and as such worth receiving all that attention. They gather together in groups called by scientists prides. They clearly had in mind the proud attitude lions happen to display in front of us, when calling these groups prides, don’t you think so? It’s just a supposition in my case and perhaps you happen to have another explanation, a more scientific one, who knows?
They practice teamwork when it comes to hunting. It may be because they have discovered that it is this that ensures them a higher success rate and that they have bigger chances to enjoy a good meal. Talking about meals I have to mention what is there on their menu, do I? By taking a glance at their daily menu you would be able to notice that they like it yummy and juicy and as such their menu includes such animals as the rather large giraffes, hippos, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, zebras or the tortoises, mice, lizards, antelopes, crocodiles and even warthogs. Yummy!
Why did I say that they prefer juicy meals? Mainly because it has been discovered that they can survive without water for as long as for four or five days at times and that in arid areas they take the necessary moisture from the stomachs of their prey. So, the juiciest its meal happens to be, the better!
Since I mentioned prides I have to say that these prides gather together at times even 15 individuals, most of them females. Lionesses usually go hunting and while doing this lions spend their time patrolling around their pride just to make sure that there is no intruder, anyone to bother their private life, if I may say so of course.
Since I mentioned courtship too, I shall talk about cubs as well. Are lionesses good mothers? Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. At times they may take good care of their babies but at times they may end up abandoning them. It all depends on the amount of food they manage to find in the area they inhabit. If the food happens to be scarce then the cubs will be left starving. Unlike what takes place in most homes, where parents neglect themselves and favor the children when it comes to feeding, in the case of lions, the first ones to get a bite of the game are the males and only later on females and cubs. Even so, this does not prevent lionesses to allow other cubs than her own to suckle and as such give them a chance to survive. Unfortunately lions taking over a pride and becoming the next leader of the respective pride will not show the same mercy as lionesses and will usually kill the cubs. Rumors say that they prefer having their own flesh and blood cubs and this is how their cruelty can be explained in the above mentioned situation.
Now do not hurry judging too harsh the poor lions! They may be quite territorial and wish to hold everything under control (but who doesn’t after all! And this comes as no surprise since after all they have a reputation to defend, being widely known as the kings of the jungle!), but despite their apparent cruelty they may prove to be better parents at times. Surprisingly or not the male lion, or Simba as I like calling them, will end up many times sharing his food with the cubs, whereas lionesses will certainly not show the same tolerance and will force the poor cubs wait their turn.
If you tended to think that your baby was noisy when his teeth grew up, then you most surely do not know what teething represents for the cute cubs. It is said that in this period cubs experience terrible pains and this comes to weaken them to such an extent that at times they end up dying. And if you happen to be a good, caring mother or at least envisage yourself as being one such mother, then most surely you will tend to blame lionesses of ignorance and lack of involvement when it comes to taking care of their babies; they may at times have more important activities to do than sitting next to their recently born cubs.
I’d say that in this way takes place the natural selection process in the animal world, this time in the world of lions, as such a royal world. However, if baby lions survive their first weeks of life they make quite a show while being watched playing. But even so, if you imagined that it is nothing but mere playing there then evidences clearly prove that you are wrong; cubs may as well play the hunting role just to be sure that they will be able to survive later on in their lives. What is the age they are considered prepared to take part in hunting? Soon, relatively too soon I’d say: their presence is required in hunting games when they reach the age of one year. Being two years old they will be able to bring down quite large preys all by themselves. Amazing, don’t you think so? And if you wondered why male cubs lack the mane when they are born then this is just the moment for you to find out that when being two years old their mane will begin to grow. They may need it since they become sexually mature at this age and it is precisely that mane that makes them even more attractive and handsome in the eyes of lionesses.
Have you ever been interested in finding out if lions have their own language? Apart from roaring they may have other ways to greet each other, don’t they? Yes, they do have their own way of greeting and they do it as if to convince themselves that they have just the necessary strength to do this. In case you happen to see lions rubbing against each other in what may resemble a rather forceful affectionate embrace, then you should know that they do not intend to fight but rather say Hello to each other. A really special way of greeting each other, I dare say, a royal one I think! Even so, they seem to be doing this with a very good reason, namely they wish to mark their relationship to say so. Much like men do when meeting and affectionately boxing each other’s back; the only exception here resides in the fact that men to not have any scent glands in their palms whereas lions have such glands on the corners of the mouth. Or, am I wrong and scientists managed to discover such glands…! Unless we happen to be some felines looking to enhance the bonding, the chances are pretty scarce for this to happen.
In case you did not know…but I guess most of you already knew this, lionesses being suppler and more flexible in their movements are the ones that go hunting. As such lions happen to rely quite heavily on the food brought to them by females. Even so, despite being quite heavy and bulky and graceless, male lions do a great job when it comes to patrolling and guardian the well-being of their pride and can still be considered skilful hunters. I’d say that being pampered when it comes to nourishing supplies, they god used to this. Not necessarily that they do not handle hunting matters, but why mind doing this when there are others to do it for you? They do this activity for fun (I guess, more like a hobby), being at times too busy to strengthen their forces sleeping. Am I mean to them? By saying all these things, you may think that I do not like them, but I do. How can anyone not like members of the royal family? Of course I am referring here to the bigger family of animals.
Lions happen to be largely territorial animals and they will be usually caught in such activities as the already usual marking of territory. They will do this using such weapons as: scent glands or scratching the bark of the trees with its claws. Not only will they manage to mark their territory by doing this, but they will also manage to sharpen their claws and get rid of all that meat dirt placed on them. Two rabbits shut at once!
(As some of you may rightfully say!)
But if you tended to think that lions are quite predictable and that they can not surprise you in any way then evidences clearly prove that you are wrong. Did you know that there are some prides out there in which female and male lions have somehow reversed their roles? In these prides females usually stay home with their cubs and males are the ones going hunting and ensuring the food for their pride. As I said previously: Lions can do this too, meaning they can hunt! It looks to me that lionesses prefer seeing them as bodyguards and studs rather than as hunters, don’t you think so?
Talking about hunting skills, skilled and less skilled hunters, I should also say something about the end of their prey’s life. You have most probably already noticed that they go directly for the poor victim’s throat and as such manage to suffocate it. What a death! But what a trophy for the lioness or the lion involved in the hunting process! Have you ever been interested in finding out what organs lions prefer eating when tearing apart a large prey? In case you have been interested in such things the answer implies such organs as the heart, the kidneys and the liver. What is not on their list of preferences is the stomach. There is no way I could explain you why they do this! It must taste awful, don’t you think so? This is the only reason that crossed my mind right now; perhaps your imagination can go further on with its creativity…
Have you ever watched a lion eating? If you have then you most certainly know that they happen to lack good manners and at times they will even start fighting over a piece of meat (Just too good to let it go! Yummy!) As such it should come as no surprise to you the fact that they may end up getting wounded just trying to eat dinner. They do have some serious issues there, don’t they?
What is rather funny or cute is the fact that once dinner is over (it has to be quite a considerable dinner too! One to fit their size!) they may end up sleeping for as long as 24 hours. As such, if they happen to be lucky enough to catch a big size prey then they may be spending the next five days in lethargy, contemplating the beautiful surroundings and thinking about the immortality of the soul. Having their stomachs full they will show little if not no desire to hunt. They had the chance to gorge themselves and they may not desire to see any food in front of their eyes for the next few days. What a life!
And just to reveal the mystery of lions being referred to as “kings of the jungle” I shall now quote a poem I happen to find very nice, a poem entitled “The Lion Cub”: “The leopard covered himself with straw, / The tiger gave a yawn. / And in the peace of the afternoon, / The lion cub was born. / He opened his big blue eyes so wide, / The lion cub so small, / And only his parents really knew / That he was there at all. / He tried to sit up and look around- / He even tried to talk, / So just for a treat, his mummy said: / “I’ll take him for a walk.” / She carried him through the jungle / Till she met an elephant, / But he was cross at being trickled, / By a very naughty ant! / Just then the baby cud mewed and gave / A squeaky, baby sneeze. / But this was enough to blow the ant / Away into the trees. / The elephant was so pleased he said: / “That lion cub will be / The kin of the Jungle one day, / For helping a chop like me!”
And if this was just not enough to convince you, perhaps the following poem, entitled “King of them all” will: “I am the Lion, the King of the beasts – / They all are my subjects, you see. / I say what I mean in a very loud voice, / And everyone listens to me. /I call to the monkeys who swing in the trees: / “Don’t chatter so much, or so loud.” / It’s fine to give orders which others obey – / No wonder they think I am proud! / But when I am at home with my wife and my cubs, / I’m gentle and loving; I’m glad / To play with my children and hunt for their food, / And to be, not a king, but a Dad!” Now all things being said, what do you think: do they really deserve this title? If it were for me to answer this question I’d say that they do adopt a somehow royal attitude and that they do possess the power to be dreaded and respected as kings happen to be sometimes.11