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| Earth on Nov 28, 2009

Why are lions sometimes called the king of beasts?

A male lion’s long, thick mane not only softens an enemy’s blows, it also makes his head look bigger – perhaps giving it an appearance of being crowned.

Horses are regal. Gorillas are fearsome. But lions are often called ‘the king of beasts.’

People have made the association of lions with royalty for at least a couple of thousand years. Lions are not the biggest of animals. They’re not the strongest, either. A lion would fit into the mouth of a blue whale. Even among cats, the tiger is more powerful than the lion.

One reason may be that adult male lions look kingly, with flowing manes framing their faces. Not only does this long, thick fur soften an enemy’s blows, it also makes a lion’s head look bigger – perhaps giving it an appearance of being crowned.

The lion’s roar is impressive, too. Lions roar to define their territory – and the thundering sound can be heard from several kilometers away.

And some might say that a lion lives a life fit for a king. Lions typically sleep for about 20 hours a day. Unless it’s provoked, a lion’s leisure is usually only interrupted by the hunt for food – most often, a zebra or wildebeest. After a fierce battle, lions will feast until full, sometimes eating up to 75 pounds of meat at one meal!

And here’s another way lions are king. They’re pretty much at the top of the food chain in the plains of Africa where most of the wild lions live today.