Lions have long been venerated for their majestic looks, physical prowess, and their fierce nature. But do these big cats deserve all the praise they are getting? Recent discoveries seem to suggest we may have been a bit too overenthusiastic in our reception of the maned felines.
Though lions can be spotted in the jungle,
their main habitat is the savanna. They aren't even the biggest or strongest animal in the savanna, that honor goes to the giraffe or the elephant. In fact, lions are probably much more scared of elephants than vice versa. Lions almost always pussy-out of fights with grown giraffes, elephants, hippos and rhinos, instead preferring to prey on the sick, old or young. In all honesty, lions probably deserve a middling aristocratic status, maybe the dukes or barons of the jungle? Certainly not heads of state.
Lions can run up to 50 MPH, but they tire quickly. The lion's great physical strength also results in a huge amount of muscle that's hard to carry and thus slows the cat. Lions, unlike say bears or wolves, can't chase prey over long distances because of that. Male lions are also known to sleep, up to 24 hours a day.
Do you know those cool kids at school that talked a lot of smack when they were in a group but always acted nice when alone? That's what lions are like. They hunt in groups, usually ganging up on the weakest members of a herd and then win by sheer numbers. This makes sense - lions know their limitations and they try to maximize hunting efficiency by targeting the weakest members of the group rather than the ones that would make the best meal. New discoveries point to male lions being solitary hunters, however.
Disney's pro-lion propaganda, The Lion King, is deeply problematic on several levels, but the biggest problem is the depiction of Scar as physically frail and of “the shallow end of the gene pool”. Research shows that lions with traits similar to Scar tend to be more powerful and more attractive to lionesses. Scar's darker mane in particular is a sign of high testosterone and health.
In comparison, the fairer Simba and Mufasa would likely be seen as somewhat unattractive to the females of the pride.
Mating is often painful for females due to the spines on the lion's penis, a common feature in felines and other species.
Some violent species evolve to have this type of spiked organs in order to prevent the female from getting free during intercourse. In other words, the organs of male lions are inherently painful in order to combat lioness resistance.
Now seriously, lions are obviously very fierce, strong animals, on top of being quite beautiful and majestic. But it's still a fact we tend to overblow their importance, and nobody is above ridicule, not even the king of the jungle (or savanna). Like all rare species, lions deserve respect and protection from mankind.