Why Do Lions Roar? (4 Reasons Why)

Photo: Kelsey Neukum / Shutterstock

A lion’s roar is a very distinctive sound. You may have heard it from a lion at the zoo, in a video online, or at the beginning of a movie created by MGM Pictures.

Lions use their roars to communicate in a variety of ways.

Lions roar to scare off intruders, share a warning with the pride, display dominance, and locate other pride members when it’s dark out or they are far away. Humans can hear a lion’s roar up to five miles away, and it can be as loud as 114 decibels, thanks to the animal’s square-shaped vocal folds.

Read on to learn more about the purpose of a lion’s roar, when lions roar most frequently, and how lions create the sound of a roar.

Purposes Of A Lion’s Roar

A lion’s roar has multiple functions, including scaring away intruders, sending warnings to the pride, displaying dominance, and locating members of the group.

1. Scare Away Intruders

Male lions use their roar to effectively scare away intruders on their territory. Lions are extremely territorial, and prides are known for living in the same area for generations at a time. 

The males protect the pride from intruding coalitions, while the females defend the territory against other females. Sometimes, prides roar as a group.

2. Send A Warning To The Pride

Another way male lions utilize their roar is to warn the rest of the pride if there is any kind of potential danger approaching.

This could be another coalition of lions intruding into the territory, or it could even be humans approaching.

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Lions’ prides are extremely important social groups that provide members protection.

They can contain as many as 40 lions and complete various activities together, such as hunting, raising cubs, and defending their territory.

Roaring to send a warning to the rest of the pride is an important form of communication that sends a clear message to the other members of the group and helps to keep them safe.

3. Display Dominance

Males also use their roars to display dominance and show their power over other males.

When coalitions (groups of males) take over a new pride, their roar is part of the way they show how powerful they are. 

4. Locate Pride Members

Roaring isn’t just a way to scare away intruders, warn the pride of danger, and show dominance. It’s also a method of locating pride members that are far away. 

Prides are tight-knit groups that stick together for much of their lives, so it’s important for them to have a way to communicate even if they’re spread out over large distances to hunt or defend their territory.

It’s also a way to locate pride members during the night, when light is scarce.

When Lions Roar

Lions mostly roar at night, and one study found that the exact time they roar the most is dawn. Interestingly, when acoustic conditions are ideal for sound to travel, lions roar more.

This means that lions roar more when the temperature is cooler, the humidity in the air is higher, and the wind speed is low.

Lions don’t usually roar outside of the boundary of their pride’s home range. They’re most likely to roar repeatedly near water sources.

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How Lions Roar

Lions have extremely loud roars, thanks to their uniquely-shaped vocal folds. Unlike most other cats and animals, whose vocal folds form a triangular shape, lions’ vocal folds form a square.

This square shape creates more stability for the vocal cords. As a result, they can respond more effectively to the air passing through them.

This enables lions to produce loud roars without putting excessive pressure on their lungs.

Lions also have fat deposits deep inside their vocal fold ligaments, which is what gives them their square shape and makes them appear flattened.

When a lion roars, it creates a sound that can be as loud as 114 decibels, which is the same volume as some rock concerts! Lions’ roars can be heard as far as five miles away

Male lions have a louder and more powerful roar than females.

In general, a lion’s roar has a duration of 30 to 40 seconds. It starts with multiple long groaning sounds followed by several shorter groaning sounds.

Learn more about how lions roar in the video below.


Lions roar for multiple reasons. First, they roar to share a warning of potential danger with the rest of the pride. Next, they roar to scare away intruders and protect their territory.

Another reason for a lion’s roar is to show dominance. Finally, lions roar to locate other members of their pride when they’re separated by distance or can’t see each other well in the dark.

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Lions’ roars are extremely loud, have a maximum volume of 114 decibels, and can be heard as far as five miles away. Lions can create this incredible sound without having to put in much effort because of their square-shaped vocal folds.

Read More About Lions:

  1. Why Are Lions King Of The Jungle?
  2. How Strong Are Lions?
  3. Can Lions Climb Trees?
  4. Do Lions Hibernate or Migrate?
  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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