Lions and tigers are the two largest big cat species in the world. African lions, which are the largest among lion types, could never meet tigers in the wild.
However, Asiatic lions can sometimes share the habitat with Bengal tigers. Who would win a fight?
Generally, lions are smaller than tigers. Tigers are also heavier than lions and physically stronger. Both species can reach similar speeds. The bite force of lions is almost two times weaker than tigers’. However, lions are social mammals, while tigers are solitary. In a one-on-one, a tiger would win. When facing a pride, the winners would be the lions.
The table below shows a comparison and strength facts between tigers vs. lions*:
|Classification (species)||Panthera leo||Panthera tigris|
|Geographic range||Africa, northwest India||Asia|
|Habitat||Plains, savannas, forests, scrub forests, semi-arid areas||Grasslands, swamps, rainforests, taiga|
|Body size||8.5 to 10 feet||7.1 to 10.75 feet|
|Weight||240 to 550 pounds||52 to 670 pounds|
|Teeth size||3.2 inches||3.6 inches|
|Bite force||650 PSI||1,050 PSI|
|Speed||50 mph||50 mph|
|Strike force||27,500 lb.-ft./s||33,500 lb.-ft./s|
|Behavior||Social; aggressive||Solitary; aggressive|
*Data in the table includes minimum and maximum ranges, as well as averages for all lions and tiger subspecies. Actual factors and strength facts can vary from one subspecies to another. All data was sourced from scientific publications, research papers, magazines, and other official sources cited throughout the article.
Strike forces were calculated considering the maximum weight for each species and multiplying it by the top speed of 50 miles per hour.
12 Differences Between Lions vs. Tigers
Lions and tigers are closely related cats. They are both members of the Panthera genus, which also includes other roaring felines like the jaguar and leopard.
Lions are part of the Panthera leo species, which includes two recognized subspecies: the African lion (Panthera leo leo) and the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica).
However, biologists observed some differences between lion populations living in different parts of Africa, even if there aren’t other recognized subspecies.
Similar to lions, all tigers are part of the Panthera tigris species.
Although a controversial study claims that there are only two tiger subspecies, the scientific community currently recognizes six extant tiger types: Bengal tiger, Siberian tiger, South China tiger, Malayan tiger, Indochinese tiger, and Sumatran tiger.
2. Geographic Range
Both lions and tigers live in different geographic ranges, depending on their subspecies.
The vast majority of lions live in Africa, their range expanding from sub-Saharan territories of West Africa to the southern tip of the continent.
Lions also used to roam the Asian (and even European) continent in the past. Today, however, the only population of Asiatic lions left in the world lives in the Gir Forest Preserve of Gujarat in northwestern India.
Bengal and Indochinese tigers are the most common of all extant tiger species.
Bengal tigers occur in numerous geographic areas, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, and Bhutan. Indochinese tigers occupy areas including Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
All other tiger subspecies mostly exist as isolated populations confined to small geographic areas.
Siberian (Amur) tigers, the largest in the world, are only found today in a small part of Russia.
Similarly, South China tigers are only found in three isolated areas in southeast China, whereas Malayan and Sumatran tigers only occur in Malaysia and Sumatra, respectively.
Different geographic ranges come with different habitat preferences, and this goes for both lions and tigers.
African lions are typically found in savannas, open woodlands, dense bush areas, plains, and grasslands where prey is abundant.
Asiatic lions are found in the forests of Gir National Park in India. Bengal tigers can roam the same forests, but they are also found in mangroves and wetlands.
All other tiger subspecies have similar habitat preferences, except for the Siberian tiger that lives in the Siberian taiga.
4. Body Size
Tigers are known to be the largest species of cats in the world. However, this is only true for Siberian tigers.
Amur tigers can reach body lengths up to 10.5 feet (the females are typically smaller, up to 8.5 feet long). They are definitely larger than African lions that only grow to lengths up to 10 feet. Asiatic lions are even smaller, around 8.5 to 9.5 feet long.
However, other tiger species are smaller than Amur tigers and closer in size to lions.
Bengal tigers, for instance, are about the same size as Asiatic lions – between 8 and 9.5 feet in length. Other species are even smaller, with Malayan tigers ranging in size between 7.1 and 8.6 feet.
Similar to the size, only Siberian tigers are truly advantaged by their weight – all other species can be lighter than lions.
Siberian tigers typically weigh between 200 and 670 pounds. Bengal tiger males, which are heavier than females, can reach top weights of 570 pounds.
However, all other tiger species weigh less than 430 pounds.
African lions typically reach hefts between 260 and 550 pounds, which makes some of the largest lions about the same weight as Bengal tigers. Asiatic lions are lighter, but they still weigh between 240 and 420 pounds.
6. Teeth Size
Another similarity between the two species is the cranial shape and size of their teeth – but tigers have the upper hand.
Their canine teeth can grow up to 3.6 inches long. Comparatively, lion canine teeth are about 3.2 inches long.
7. Bite Force
The first real advantage tigers have over lions is the bite force: tigers can exert a bite force up to 1,050 PSI, whereas lions have a bite force of only 650 PSI.
These bite forces were calculated based on the bite force quotient (BFQ) scientists measured for each of these species.
However, a peculiarity is that lions have a greater bite force than tigers when measured on the canine teeth alone.
In this case, a tiger’s bite is only 1,525 Newton, whereas the bite force measured on lions’ canines is 1,768 Newton. Despite this difference, tigers still have a more powerful bite overall and can take down a lion.
Declaring a real winner when it comes to speed is somewhat challenging since members of both species can reach top speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
African lions are known to run very fast in short bursts, reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour and leaping up to 36 feet into the air. However, they have little stamina and can only run this fast in short bursts.
Siberian tigers can run as fast as African lions and even top their speed, going up to about 60 miles per hour for very short distances.
However, when considering all tiger species, their average speed is lower than that of lions, at only 40 miles per hour. Their leap is also lower, at only 33 feet into the air.
9. Strike Force
There are no actual studies on the strike force of lions or tigers, but we can calculate their force at the moment of the impact by multiplying their body mass by speed.
This means the actual strike force will be different in each instance. For strength comparison purposes, we considered the top speed of 50 miles per hour for both species and the top weight for the species as a whole (considering all subspecies).
According to these parameters, tigers are more powerful than lions, striking with a force up to 33,500 lb.-ft./s. – which turns out to be around 1,040 pounds of force.
Lions have a strike of 27,500 lb.-ft./s, which is about 855 pounds.
Like all other strength factors discussed above, which is stronger between lions and tigers comes down to the actual size of the animals involved in the fight and their speed at the moment of the impact.
Both lions and tigers are carnivore mammals and apex predators. They are both territorial species that can become aggressive when feeling threatened or when hunting.
The main difference between the two is that tigers are solitary, like all other big cats. Lions, on the other hand, are social animals that live on prides.
Prides can include anywhere from two to 40 lions and are formed by male coalitions of two to four lions. All other members of the pride are related females.
Lionesses are typically responsible for hunting, but male lions often intervene to take down large prey, including baby hippos or elephants. Prides also collectively defend the territory against other lions.
Within the pride, male coalitions are dominant and can become very aggressive towards other pride members.
There is no social hierarchy between females; instead, they synchronize reproduction and raise their cubs together.
Asiatic lions are also social, but prides typically consist of up to 12 lionesses. Males form loose coalitions, but they live separately from females and don’t get to share the prey they catch.
Both lions and tigers are predatory carnivores, even though both species can become scavengers in periods of scarce food availability.
Lions take advantage of group hunting to take down large ungulates that are typically big enough to feed the entire pride.
Asiatic lions typically choose smaller prey, including small mammals and invertebrates. As opportunistic predators, the mammals also feed on cattle.
Similar to African lions, tigers prefer large ungulates, including sambars and chital. However, they also eat birds, fish, and reptiles.
12. Conservation Status
Lions and tigers alike are threatened with extinction, but their conservation status varies from one species to another.
The table below shows the conservation status and estimated extant population of each lion and tiger species*:
|Species||Conservation status||Adults left in the wild|
|Siberian tiger||Endangered||Approx. 500|
|Bengal tiger||Endangered||Approx. 5,500|
|Indochinese tiger||Endangered||Approx. 250|
|South China tiger||Critically endangered||Approx. 30|
|Sumatran tiger||Critically endangered||Approx. 400|
|Malayan tiger||Critically endangered||Approx. 150|
*Data in the table was sourced from IUCN, WWF, National Geographic, and other official sources and is correct as of August 2022.
Who Would Win A Fight?
The only two tiger and lion types likely to meet in the wild are Bengal tigers and Asiatic lions.
These two mammals are about the same size, growing up to 9.5 feet long. However, Bengal tigers can be heavier and more powerful than Asiatic lions.
Tigers have a stronger bite and could possibly run faster than lions. However, lions usually live in coalitions or prides.
Who would win the fight would largely depend on the circumstances. In a one-on-one, the tiger is more likely to come out victorious. When faced with a pride, it will likely lose the fight.