Why Are Lions King Of The Jungle? [7 Reasons Explained]

Photo: Michal Ninger / Shutterstock

If someone were to ask you who the “king of the jungle” was, your answer likely would be the lion. 

The idea that lions are the ultimate rulers and symbols of power in the animal kingdom has been portrayed in cultures throughout the world.

Even though lions do not live in today’s definition of the jungle, they are hailed as kings for a variety of characteristics. Lions are apex predators that demonstrate incredible hunting prowess with bursts of speed and strength. The force of their muscular bodies, loud roars, and swipe and bite forces are threatening and effectively fatal. Lions live in social groups with a male overseeing and protecting the pride.

This article will take a closer look at why lions are revered as the leaders, or kings, of their habitats.

Lion: Facts And Size

Lions belong to the Felidae family, which consists of 37 cat species such as the cheetah, leopard, jaguar, puma, tiger, lynx, and the domestic cat. 

They are large and muscular, sandy in color, with short and coarse fur. While some male lions may be maneless, they typically have longer hair, a mane, up to 1-foot long, around their neck, ranging in color from blonde to black. 

Lions have long tails, sharp claws, and large mouths with sharp teeth. Males are referred to as “lions”, females as “lionesses”, and young ones as “cubs”. 

Males are bigger than females. Yet, surprisingly, lions are not always the biggest feline out in the wild and can be out-sized by tigers. 

This table offers a brief comparison of male lion and tiger sizes:

Even though tigers can be the biggest cat, lions still hold the title of “king of the jungle”. 

In this article, “king” refers to an adult male lion.

Lion Habitat: The Meaning Of Jungle

Lions can live in a variety of habitats, such as open plains, grasslands, savannahs, thick brush, deserts, and dry, thorny forests. Today, lions live primarily in Africa from the southern Sahara Desert to northern South Africa. 

These environments are not considered jungles. By today’s common definition, a jungle is wild, swampy land that is overgrown with thick and dense tropical vegetation or a tropical rainforest. 

Lions have two subspecies: Panthera leo Leo (African lion) and Panthera leo Persica (Asiatic lion). The African species live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Asiatic lives in India in the Gir Forest National Park.

Some Ethiopian lions live in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve, a highland plateau region with dense forests, bamboo thickets, and wetlands. These lions are not where the majority of these felines live.

Hindi Translation

However, in the Hindi language, the word for jungle means “not an inhabited place”, emphasizing “emptiness”. 

This meaning can apply to forests, wilderness, or any part of the world without human civilization or habitation. Jungles in India refer to steppe (grassland) or desert areas.

Therefore, a lion may be called “king of the jungle” due to its powerful leadership and dominance in an open and uninhabited area.  

7 Reasons Why Lions Are Called “King Of The Jungle”

The lion’s status and strength contribute much to making them feared leaders in the animal kingdom.

1. Apex Predators

Lions are at the top of the food chain, stalking and preying on large animals. They are carnivores consuming animals such as zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, buffalo, and antelopes.

These prey animals are faster and have more running endurance than lions. So, lions will stalk to get close enough, approximately within 98 feet, for the kill.

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Generally, lions will hunt alone or with prides. When they work together, a female initiates the chase, and then a hidden male will leap and take it down.

Lions create fear since no other creature hunts or takes them down easily, if at all. Typically, hyenas will go after cubs with the risk of coming head-to-head with an adult lion.

2. Social Order

Lions socially live together in a group called a “pride”. The family consists of lionesses and their cubs. There may be some unrelated males, but one male is always the dominant leader, or king, of the family. 

The king protects the pride from other male lions and any threats. The male will mark the territory with urine, roar menacingly, and chase off encroaching animals on their territory. 

They will protect their pride to keep any injured or sick lions safe, as well as cubs.

Competing males may attempt to take over another pride’s territory to gain increased territory for abundant prey sources, water, and denning sites. 

If the new king is successful, they will often kill male cubs that are not from their lineage or drive them out from the pride.

This sense of family offers order and security within the pride, much like a kingdom.

3. Loud Roar

Only five species of felines can roar: tigers, leopards, jaguars, and lions. The anatomy of their bones and voice box allows them to create deep and loud roars. 

The vocal folds in lions’ anatomy are square-shaped (instead of triangular, like other creatures), with fat deposits within the ligaments. 

This stabilizes the vocal cords to stretch as air passes them, allowing the air to create a loud and deep sound effectively, up to 114 decibels

This is as loud as a live rock concert, and anything over 110 decibels is above the human pain tolerance level. A lion’s roar can cause damage to hearing function. 

Male lions’ roars can be heard up to five miles away. Lions will roar to communicate with other lions, to display power, or to warn intruders. The lion’s roar shows he is a leader and prepared to defend his territory.

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Painful and loud sounds will create fear in other creatures, making the lion dominant.

4. Strength

Since a lion weighs 330 pounds or more, it can use its weight and strong muscles to take down prey. They can have an average strike force of 22,000 pounds per foot/second when moving at a speed of 50 miles per hour.

A swipe from a lion with a paw around 5-inches in size can deliver a punch of 4,500 pounds or more per foot/second. 

5. Speed

Lions’ prey is typically faster than them, which is why they attempt to stalk prey in closer situations. 

However, in short bursts, they can reach speeds up to 50 mph and leap up to 36 feet, when chasing animals.

6. Bite Force

Lions have an average bite force of 650 up to 1000 PSI (pounds per square inch). 

They can open their mouths up to 11-inches wide, allowing them to take a big bite. These powerful jaws, with sharp canines up to 4-inches long, can tear through flesh.

7. Cultural Or Iconic Use Of Lion Symbolism

The use of lion imagery and symbolism in cultures, mythology, and society has elevated them as magnificent beasts worthy of the title “king”. 

Lions are seen as symbols of majesty, strength, bravery, power, and more depicted in stories, movies, art, coats of arms, and logos.

In Conclusion

Lions represent power and leadership in many global cultures, seen in story-telling, symbolism, art, and more.

This powerful creature demonstrates strength as it protects its territory and hunts for its pride. 

While lions are not commonly found in jungle settings, “jungle” can represent a wide, open space uninhabited by man. 

Lions demonstrate powerful forces when they leap, strike, and bite, making them an animal to fear as apex predators.

For these reasons, lions have earned the title “king of the jungle”.

Read More About Lions:

  1. How Strong Are Lions?
  2. Why Do Lions Lick Their Prey?
  3. Can Lions Climb Trees?
  4. Can Lions Swim?
  5. Are Lions Friendly?

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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