What Is an Asiatic Lion?

Rebecca Cartwright
Rebecca Cartwright
The Asiatic lion commonly feeds upon deer.
The Asiatic lion commonly feeds upon deer.

The Asiatic lion, also called the Indian lion, is Pantera leo persica, a part of Pantera leo, the species that includes all lions. This lion was originally found from Asia Minor, including Greece, eastward to central India. It also was found in Arabia and the area that is now Iran. Currently this animal is confined to the Gir forest in the Indian state of Gujarat. Slightly smaller than the African lion, the Asiatic lion also differs somewhat in appearance from its larger relative.

Compared to African lions, Asiatic lions have a thicker coat and a shorter, thinner mane. Tufts of hair at the elbows and on the tail are longer than those of African lions. There are folds of skin on the stomach of the Asian sub-species that are not found on other lions. Adult males generally weigh 330 to 550 pounds (about 150 to 250 kg) while females are usually between 265 and 400 pounds (about 120 to 180 kg.)

As is true of all lions, the Asiatic lion lives in prides organized around a group of related females. Males compete for domination of a pride and protect the pride's females and young from outside males. Asiatic lion prides are smaller than those of African lions.

Females of this species do the majority of the hunting. Deer and antelope are numerous enough in the Gir forest region to provide a large part of the lions' diet. Sambar and spotted deer are commonly hunted. On occasion the lions take nilgai, a very large antelope also called the blue bull, as well as goats and buffalo.

At 30 to 36 months of age the females are usually ready to breed. A female will produce a litter on an average of every two years. One to six cubs are typically born after a gestation period of about 3.6 months. Cubs weigh approximately 2 to 4.5 pounds (about 1 to 2 kg) at birth. The cubs are weaned between seven and ten months. They will remain with the pride, learning to hunt, for at least another six to nine months.

The current Asiatic lion population is stable at between 300 and 350 individuals and is fully protected by law against any hunting or other threat. This species is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The listing is based on the size of the population and its concentration in one area, which make the subspecies more vulnerable to a single natural catastrophe or disease.

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    • The Asiatic lion commonly feeds upon deer.
      By: Jorge Moro
      The Asiatic lion commonly feeds upon deer.