How Do Lions Mate

How Do Lions Mate ?

The Lion 🦁. Panthera leo from its scientific name. The king of the jungle. The King of the animals 👑. There is no shortage of names to describe this imposing and majestic animal ⚜️, easily recognizable with its thick mane, which inspires fear and respect. When you think of Lions you probably have scenes from Walt Disney’s hit cartoon, “The Lion King” come to mind. Did you cry when Mufasa died? By the way, did you know that Simba means “Lion” or “brave warrior” in Swahili, the East African language?

Despite the strength and courage of the Lion, it is not eternal, between 7 and 12 years in the wild. For the survival of the species, it must therefore reproduce.

1) the Basics of Lion Reproduction

lion and lioness mating

Physiologically, the Lion 🦁 reaches sexual maturity at 30 months versus 24 months for females ♀ however, sexual activity begins slightly later at 3 years of age. For comparison, in you, the human reading this, sexual maturity occurs between 8 and 13 years for girls and 9 to 14 years for boys.

Lions live in troops 🐾 composed, at most, of about 30 individuals led by the dominant male, the only one who has the right to reproduce, as he has full authority over the females of the herd 😼.

Lions do not have a defined mating and breeding season. They can reproduce all year round, but are subject to the cycles of the lionesses who are fertile every 2-3 months or so.

A. Jacobson’s Organ Lion

The Lion ⚜️ has, on the palate, a vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ named after the Danish scientist Ludvig Jacobson who discovered it in 1811, which acts as a probe to detect the fertility of females. To use it, the Lion curls its upper lip, mouth open 👅, to capture the pheromones emitted by the lionesses and which are present in the air. This behavior is called flehmen or muser in French.

Pheromones are molecules that condition the behavior of animals and humans. Captured by the Jacobson’s organ, they are interpreted by the olfactory bulb of the animal and influence its behavior, so it can feel aggressive and become violent 😈, recognize its offspring and members of its clan and, of course, check the fertility of females.

B. The Mating of the Lion

The Mating of the Lion

Despite the Lion’s proven dominant status 🔥 about to mate, he can only do so with the female‘s consent. To signify her agreement, the female begins by circling the male and rolling at his feet 🐾. To finish provoking him, she rubs her head against the male‘s neck and lies down in front of him. She then adopts a specific position, called lordosis, which consists for her to raise her rump once lying in front of the lion. This position changes the angle of the female’s pelvis, which makes it easier for the lion to penetrate her. You could remember this whole phase as the “seduction” 😻 of the Lioness.

C. How Many Times Can Lions Mate in One Day ?

The estrus period, which you probably know better as “heat” lasts only four days. So, the Lion and his female of the moment will copulate during his four days at a rate of 40 to 50 times a day, or about 200 times over that period. To give you an idea of the frequency described here, sexual intercourse lasts around 30 seconds and is repeated every quarter of an hour, outside of the rest period 🙀.

mating lion and lioness

The Lion 🦁 on the other hand, takes his place at the back of the female and stands over her which allows him to grab the female‘s neck to hold her still. For what purpose, you will say to me, given that she was consenting? The answer lies in the particularity of the Lion’s sex. Indeed, like many felines, the Lion’s penis is studded with spines. In the impossibility of proving anything, the scientists who studied the question can only imagine the probable utility of the spines on sex of certain species. According to them, they would serve to stimulate ovulation to ensure a higher fertilization rate and possibly clean up sperm from other suitors. This hypothesis is reinforced by the triggering of ovulation at the moment of penetration.

D. Why Do Lioness Roll Over After Mating ?

As you can easily conceive, such spines cause severe pain to the females 🙀 at the moment the Lion withdraws, again, this is speculation, as it would be necessary to be able to analyze the brain activity of the Lioness during coitus. This has not been done to date.

E. Do Female Lions Mate With Multiple Males ?

Yes, a lioness can mate with multiple lions. Most probably, the same lioness can mate with multiple lions of the same herd.

F. Why Do Lioness Mate With Multiple Lions ?

Having multiple mating partners will increase the fertilization rate, the chances of survival of the cubs offspring and their ability to adapt to different environmental and conditions due to the high genetic diversity.

2) Gestation and Education of the Cubs

three cubs in african savanna

Once the female is fertilized, she is put away from the group and hidden from predators. The Lion may be a monster of power 😈 with individuals weighing 250 kg for males and up to 185 kg for females, but it too is a target for some other species, such as hyenas, and females are easy prey during the gestation period. After 100 to 120 days spent growing life inside her, the lioness will give birth to a litter ranging from 2 to 6 cubs 🐱 who will be blind at birth.

As you probably know, Lions are mammals, and like the overwhelming majority of them, are viviparous. In other words, the egg develops completely inside the mother’s uterus, in this way, at birth, the cub appears formed. This method of reproduction is to be contrasted with that of oviparous, which they lay their eggs 🥚 to incubate them or not, and ovoviparous, where the embryos develop, again, inside an egg, but are not laid.

At birth, the cubs 🐱 weigh approximately 1.5 kg and are up to 50 cm tall. They stay hidden with their mother and are always easy prey for predators. Always away from the herd, the mother is often not enough and some cubs are lost at this time. The cubs will open their eyes 👀 and begin to marvel at the surrounding world after about ten days and spend the next five weeks solely nursed by their mother. The Lion 🦁 is not to be outdone, and also sets out to ensure the survival of his offspring. It is him who brings the food so that the Lioness can ensure the production of milk for all this little world. So, what do you think? Do you still find the Lion so dominant?

lioness feeding cubs milk

Next comes the time of social integration of the cubs. The mother and her litter are brought back into the herd so that the cubs 🐱 can get used to the presence of other Lions and lionesses outside their siblings. In rare cases, some cubs are not allowed into the group and eventually die, either from starvation or killed by another member of the herd 🙀. From that moment on, the cubs will continue to be fed by their mother (still lucky you’ll say!), but also by the other females that make up the herd. This phenomenon definitely integrates them into the group and allows the Lions to be educated by the whole group, which strengthens the community bond.

lioness and her cubs in bushes

After six months, the cubs will finally be weaned 🍼 and will feed like all the others. They will continue their learning, including accompanying their mother for the next two years. To learn more about hunting in a lion herd, read this article. During this time, they will spend a lot of time playing and roaming around, developing the agility, skill and muscle power that will be key to their survival. They will follow their mother to hunt, even if they will not participate in the hunt as adults, but will defend the territory. They will lose their spotted coat from birth and a little later their teeth will become permanent 😈.

3) Lions Adolescence, a Time of Wandering

three young lions in savanna

Then the cubs become large 🦁. When the male cubs have in turn reached sexual maturity, they are big and strong enough to pose a threat to the dominant Lion and are driven out of the group by him 😱. Young females will, usually, spend their entire lives within their herd. This mechanism thus allows to keep males and females of the same sibling apart, ruling out at the same time the problems linked to inbreeding. You may find this far-fetched, but in nature inbreeding is common and results in a list of problems as long as a Lion‘s tail, which is between 70 cm and 100 cm long.

In the animal kingdom, inbreeding increases the risk of health problems 💉 including in humans, malformations and diseases. Most often, fertility decreases. Animals are less resistant to diseases, their immune system becomes less effective and their life span also decreases. The mortality rate in babies 🐱 skyrockets and in some cases, brain failures appear. In any case, the long-term survival of a species depends on maintaining genetic mixing.

young lion mane in savanna

Remember the Lions 🦁 who were just kicked out by their father? Here they are, grouping together in what looks like a Lion gang. Observations show that other young males, from other herds, are joining this group. Together, they will cross the savannah 🏞️, cross several territories and some will die of starvation – remember it’s the lionesses that hunt, now they settle for carrion – or in bloody fights with predators or a dominant Lion.

That’s the purpose of their journey. To defeat a dominant Lion, take his place, and become the new top male 🔥 of the herd. This sometimes causes conflicts that last. Indeed, they can quickly be confronted by another group of young males who in turn try to take over the herd.

4) Hybrid Big Cats : This Is Not Science Fiction !

Nature is strange sometimes, isn’t it? If you doubt it, are you familiar with hybrid felines 🦁🐯? Often, people think – wrongly – that Lions only breed with Lions. However, Lions also mate with other species, and not only with Lionesses. Putting aside the few testimonies of Lions mating with other Lions, or of Lionesses with each other, homosexuality is part of many species and the Panthera Leo branch is no exception.

Apart from these homosexual relationships, Lions also mate with tigers, jaguars and leopards 🐆. Hybrids are separated into two categories depending on the branch generated by the relationship of a Lion with another species, or a lioness.

hybrid felines liger

If it’s Lions that are out of the box 🐾 their offspring are called liger, liguar or liard depending on the mother, tiger, jaguar or leopard respectively. If the mother is a lioness, the cubs are called tigron, jaglion and leopon if the fathers are a tiger, jaguar or leopard. According to observations these hybrid felines, which are very rare, are sterile for males. Liger and Tigron females, so of tiger descent 🐅, can breed with a Lion or tiger. Now you agree with me about the strangeness of nature, right?

5) Why Do Male Lions Kill Cubs ?

Let’s get back to our… Lions 🦁. For them, infanticide stems from the dominant position that the breeding male occupies. This position is held for 2 to 4 years depending on the case. During this period, the dominant male has full authority over the harem and the other Lions in the herd do not reproduce. This situation frequently creates tension ⚡ in the herd and causes rivalries. Other Lions, sometimes new to the group (such as the “gang” of young Lions, for example), challenge the Lion at the top of the hierarchy. From then on, there are two possibilities. Either he wins and kills, in most cases, the one who dared to challenge him, in which case his position is maintained and his power over the harem continues. Or the dominant one is defeated, he is therefore chased away if he is not dead and will end his life alone.

The new one then takes his place at the top 👑 of the herd hierarchy. The females are unable to raise more than one litter at a time, the new dominant then has no choice but to kill the cubs of his former rival to thus make the females fertile again and available to ensure his lineage. During the time he spends as clan leader, he will have to ensure a sufficiently large number of offspring and above all do it quickly. His offspring will have to reach a sufficiently advanced age so that, in case of a change of dominant male, they will be spared by this one. All the cubs too young 🐱 will be executed. Then begins a new cycle of dominance in the herd until the next change.

6) the Lion, the King

the Lion, the King in savanna

The Lion 🦁 puts his paw 🐾 all over the savanna. His physical power and his fighting assets make him a master, almost, uncontested. His reproduction is much more complex than what one might think at first sight and sometimes hides frightening secrets.

7) the Lion Also Dominates on Stylish Lion®

If you’ve read this far, you’re terribly passionate about this Wild Predator. And guess what? Stylish Lion® offers many items featuring the Lion Elected King of the Savannah 👑: Sweatshirts, Bracelets, Belts… a whole arsenal to dominate wildly 😻 !

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