LION, the largest and most celebrated of the cat tribe, forming the widespread species Fells leo. The outward form and appearance of the lion are familiar. The apparently ex cessive size of the head, due chiefly to the great mane which covers the head, neck and shoulders of the males; the uniform, unmarked, tawny color of the skin; the great development of horny papilla upon the rasp-like tongue; the growth of long hair on the elbows and along the middle line of the belly, and the tuft at the extremity of the tail (hiding a horny spine) are distinctive external characters. The length of the lion from nose to tip of tail, rarely, if ever, exceeds 10 feet, and that of the lioness nine feet, of which the tail forms a third. The older books separated a supposed species of maneless lion, especially one in India desig nated the maneless lion of Gujerat; but the development of the mane varies greatly, some lions in all regions having this feature much more abundant than others, and in all cases it is a product of age, appearing fully only when the animal has reached full maturity at the age of five to seven years, so that no dis tinction of this kind is valid; nor can any be made upon color, the mane in certain specimens being very much darker than in others without regard to locality, dark and amply maned and scantily maned individuals belonging some times to the same litter. The period of gesta tion in the lions is five months. Only one brood is produced annually, and from two to four young are produced at a birth. They re main where born for a few weeks; the mother may leave them for 48 hours to go hunting. The mother nourishes the whelps for about a year; their size at birth being about that of a pug dog. In their young state the whelps may be marked with various markings; brown bands upon a tawny body color and a stripe along the spine being most frequently observed. As they grow older, however, the markings disappear, and the uniform tawny hue of the adult is reached. The probable limit of age of the lion has been differently stated by different writers. Buffon fixed it at 22 years. But a lion which died in the Tower of London in 1760 had lived in captivity above 70 years.
The habits of lions have been observed and described by more writers than in the case, perhaps, of any other animal, and they are known to vary constantly with circumstances, locality and the kind of prey available. In general this heavy animal, which is entirely un able to climb into trees, and frequents open rather than forested regions, gains its food by stealth and power rather than by agility and speed, and kills his quarry most frequently by stalking rather than by waiting at watering places. Lions often go abroad by day, wander ing and hunting widely, but are chiefly active at night. Then this great cat goes to some
accustomed lurking place near a spring or by the side of a river, where, concealed among the brushwood, he lies in wait for the animals coming to drink. A single powerful leap gen erally lands him upon his prey which is crushed down by the weight of the attack and mauled and bitten about the head until the neck is broken by a wrench or the veins and arteries are torn open. If no rivals are near and the animal is very hungry, the prey may be de voured on the spot to the extent required to satisfy appetite; and then, after drinking copiously, the beast will usually go away to his lair, leaving the remains for his family, if they have come near (as often happens), or to hyenas and jackals. In most cases, however, the lion, like other great cats, chooses to take his quarry to some retired spot where he may feed upon it unobserved; and amazing stories are told, with apparent truth, of the strength displayed in carrying or dragging the carcasses of large antelopes, cattle and horses; it is not to be believed, however, as sometimes has been asserted, that a lion is able to "fling a bullock over its shoulders' and run away with it. Such a feat is limited to goats and small animals, if, indeed, it ever occurs. Lions sometimes hunt together for mutual support. The lioness hunts by herself, especially when her kittens are young, at which time the father of the family is wandering alone, or with other males, and would be resisted if he attempted to join his spouse. The young remain with the mother until they are full-grown. The lion alone among cats is regularly polygamous, each male having three or four lionesses whose allegiance he gains by prowess in battle over rivals, and keeps by killing or driving off all newcomers. The result of these constant encounters in the arena of the desert is not only a scarcity of males but the continuous selection of the best to become progenitors of the race. One pecu liarity of the lion developed by this incessant warfare among the males is the development of the defiant and terrifying voice which elevates the growl, and enlarges the scream, of other cats, into a tremendous roar a volume of noise beyond that made by any other animal. The statement that the lion roars at stated periods appears to be almost wholly without foundation; in summer alone, and especially be fore storms, the lion roars before dawn. In rage the lion beats his sides with his tail, agi tates his mane and facial muscles, protrudes the tongue and claws, utters the peculiar sharp, frequent growl and altogether presents a very terrific appearance, all of which, primarily, has reference to the savage rivalry of males above described.