Lion (Panthera leo)
It seems that no animal has inspired the imagination of man more than the lion. Characterized as fearsome, courageous and majestic, the lion’s strength and ferocity has earned it the title of ‘King of the Beasts’ in many cultures. As the largest African carnivore and rivalling the tiger (Panthera tigris) as the largest of the ‘big cats’, the lion is built to prey on animals many times its size, its strong jaws and muscular build emanating an image of sheer power. Males are larger than females and typically posses a mane of hair around their heads, a feature unique amongst the cat family (Felidae). The rest of the coat is short and tawny in colour for both sexes, paler on the underside, without markings. The backs of the ears and the tuft of hair at the tip of the tail are dark brown or black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes that disappear with maturity, although some lions retain faint spots. Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica), the only subspecies found outside the African continent, are slightly smaller than their African cousins, and have shorter, thinner manes, clear of the ears, and a fold of skin running the length of their belly that is rare in African lions.