Hi, everyone! Are you having a good weekend? I hope you are all taking time to relax, because Saturdays are for just “lion” around…
All bad puns aside, today is World Lion Day! And what better way to celebrate the “the fiercest and most magnanimous of the four footed beasts” (Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1755) than by learning some of their most interesting facts?
There are only two subspecies of the lion – the African and the Asiatic – and there is only a 1.1% genetic difference between the two. Just like house cats, lions use their tails to communicate anything from intimidation to flirtation. A mother lion first teaches her cubs how to hunt by having the babies chase her tail along the ground. Also like your little kitty at home, lions may spend up to 21 hours a day sleeping, often on their backs with their paws in the air, or draped over a shady tree branch.
Lion claws are made in layered sheaths that retract when not needed, and that eventually shed to reveal new claws. Their claws may be up to 1½ inches in length, to any antelope’s dismay. When lions do capture some prey (they will eat nearly any meat, even other lions who have died from old age or disease), they use their back teeth, called carnassals, to cut the meat into chunks that they then swallow without chewing.
They are very adept predators, but can you guess who their main nemesis is?
It’s the porcupine! Even though porcupines are small in comparison to the king of the big cats, a lion who has gotten too close a porcupine will often have to bear the sharp quills in his mouth or jaw for the rest of his life. I hear it is very embarrassing.