Ladies I Love: L is for Lioness, badass hunter and watchful guardian! may come to you as no surprise that I am a cat person.  I LOVE cats, big and small.  So today, for this installment of the A to Z Challenge, the Ladies I Love are Lionesses.  Lions as a species (Panthera leo) are incredibly majestic creatures and they are interesting in a number of ways.  Aside from Sumatran tigers, lions are the largest cats on Earth, with males weighing up to 500 pounds, and females weighing up to 300 pounds.  One of the most interesting things about lions is that they live in groups of 3-40 individuals called “prides”, whereas almost all other cats live solitary lives.  While the male lions’ primary role is to defend the pride’s territory and father cubs (and sleeping, ahem, up to 20 hours per day…lazy bums…), the female lion plays a much different role.  Here are a few reasons why I think female lions are such admirable and fascinating creatures:

Hunting.  Female lions do the majority of the hunting for the pride.  However, because they are so muscular and large, they are not well suited for long sprints (like cheetahs, for example).  Lions live in environments that are fairly open, and it is thought that one of the reasons they evolved to live in groups was so that they could hunt prey that would otherwise see them coming and outrun their would-be predators.  However, lionesses are skilled in trickery and found ways of outsmarting their prey by hunting in groups!  While lions hunting by themselves capture prey only about 17% of the time, hunting cooperatively nearly doubles the chances of successfully capturing prey.  Using a cooperative strategy, a few lionesses will sneak behind the targeted prey (whether its an individual or herd), crouching in the grass so as not to be seen.  Then, a couple of other lionesses will run at the prey, chasing them towards the ladies in hiding…but it’s a trap!  And even though lions may not be the swiftest predators, they can jump up to 35 feet in one leap, so look out!  It’s no surprise that lions working together using this scheme are more successful in their hunts than lions working by themselves.

Lioness 2But after the ladies have managed to capture and kill a prey animal, who do you think gets to eat first?  You guessed it – the male lions.  They’ll move in on the downed meal, chasing the females away from the kill.  Only after the male lions have fed do the females and cubs get to eat, and sometimes there’s not much left.  But with a good kill, large lions can eat up to 40 pounds of meat in a single sitting.

Raising Cubs.  Besides hunting, another important job of the females is to raise the pride’s cubs.  Females will often stay behind from hunting to watch over young cubs, making sure they are safe from potential predators.  In fact, lionesses will help raise each others’ cubs, ensuring higher rates of survival among youngsters.  Since cooperative hunting results in more frequent and bigger meals, having many mothers to watch over the cubs increases health and growth rates.

Lions are amazing creatures.  Unfortunately, habitat loss and an increasing human population is putting them at risk.  Lions were once found over most of Africa, southern Europe, and into Asia.  Today, however, they are limited to some areas in Africa and a very small game preserve in India’s Gir Forest, which contains only about 250 lions.  Lions need a large enough territory to support ample prey to eat, and protection from humans.  As human populations encroach on land closer to lion territory, prey populations decrease and lions find themselves having to hunt domesticated animals, which often results in humans killing “problem” lions to protect their livestock.  One of the best ways we can protect lions is to preserve and maintain national parks and other refuges that give lions what they need to survive; otherwise, these magnificent animals may continue to decline until they are simply pictures in books that our children read.

17 thoughts on “Ladies I Love: L is for Lioness, badass hunter and watchful guardian!

  1. 35 feet! Whoa, that’s an impressive long jump. I’m not sure whether the inequality among the sexes is hilarious or just plain unfair. Perhaps neither. Perhaps I should ask: What is the biological advantage of such an arrangement?

    • Hi Tamara! Great question. I’m not an expert on lions, but I can venture to guess the biological advantage to the arrangement that lions have. Basically, in order to have genetic “fitness”, lions of both sexes must successfully reproduce and ensure that their genes get passed on as far as possible. In order to father the most cubs, male lions have to protect the pride from other male lions intruding and impregnating the female lions. The best way to ensure that you can chase other male lions away is to make sure that you are the biggest and healthiest lion…therefore, you need to eat as much as you can. And since the male lions can block the female lions from eating, they get the “lions share” of the kill and eat as much as they want. On the other hand, the primary duty of the lioness is to have cubs and raise them so that they can live on their own, as well as protect them from non-paternal lions. More food means healthier and bigger cubs, who are able to survive better. The best way to get more food is to hunt cooperatively with the other females…it’s been proven to be twice as effective as hunting alone. So even if the males get their share first, if female lions are successfully bringing home ample prey, there should be enough for everyone. That’s my best guess, anyway… 🐱

  2. Completely surprising post and so apropos your topic!!! I have enjoyed the nature series on all animal species and lions are a favorite because my beloved stuffed animal Cubby when I was a baby was a lion cub! Animal species who coordinate hunting and other tasks – how do they know to do that and sho decides who does what – it is fascinating to watch them in action! Very well written post! And awesome photos!

    • Thanks again for reading, Sammy! I love cats, and the pride dynamics of lions fascinate me. And, it’s amazing how skilled they are at strategy in their hunts…so smart! I have no idea how they communicate the specifics of their cooperation, but it’s incredible to watch, isn’t it? As for pictures, I get frustrated because there are so many fantastic images on google, but only a fraction of them have photo credits…and I always feel like I’m ripping someone off when I use a photo without crediting. Bah…one day I hope that I can post my own photos of lions!!! 🐱

      • Yeah, that whole photo (sharing, attribution, watermarking my own) is mindboggling to me as a newbie – it’s in that infinite blogging “to do” list to figure out. In the meantime I much prefer tripping around to my favorite bloggers to see what they’re up to!

  3. Thank you for your comment in my blog/

    I enjoyed reading your post with amazing photos and interesting facts about lions and lionesses. They are beautiful creatures.

  4. I can see why you chose the lioness for your post. Anyway you take it, it’s an “I am woman/female, hear me roar” world. The lioness really does play a vital role in her pride. This was an enjoyable read for me. Thanks for stopping by me earlier.

    • And thank you, Michelle, for stopping by here! The animal kingdom can really be surprising, and pride dynamics and social roles are fascinating to me. I love seeing how your stories are evolving on your blog, Michelle! 🙂

  5. I enjoyed the lioness post. Strong, smart female!
    And on a different note: While I was flipping through my local monthly magazine, I learned that my city has a roller derby team. I had no idea they existed and thought of you as I read the article. 🙂

    • That’s awesome, Elsie! It’s amazing how many teams exist right now, and there are many more being established all the time. I’ve heard that roller derby is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and even some of the littlest towns have leagues now. Hurray! Thanks for stopping by and reading, Elsie! 😀

  6. It’s a pleasure to read about these beautiful animals and see the magnificent photos. Unfortunately the only lioness I’ve seen is in Detroit zoo, where she is definitely the boss.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Bob! Lions are magnificent creatures, and zoos are getting better about providing them with a higher quality of life than they used to get. I hope that some day I get to see them in the wild where they are meant to be! And, I checked out your blog – great pictures of the various dog breeds! Thanks for sharing your experiences with them 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Melanie! Yeah, I am a fan of anything with paws and whiskers, basically (and I know that includes more than cats, but cats are the best). I stopped by your blog too – you’ve got some interesting medical stuff to share! Thanks for dropping in – good luck with the rest of April! 🙂

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