LION VS TIGER This is probably the most legendary fight in the animal kingdom! Who is the real king? This ultimate cat fight has happened more times than you might expect. The Romans pitted African lions against Asian tigers in the Colosseum, to the rip-roaring pleasure of the Plebeians. A few fights were also staged in the early decades of the 20th century, and on several modern occasions, accidental cross-species encounters at zoos have quickly developed into gruesome scenes. Lions are imposing cats that exhibit unrivaled teamwork among felines. These magnificent predators are world renowned, and for good reason! The lion is called the King of the Jungle and its majestic mane gives it a regal look. Throughout history, the African lion has represented courage and strength. Tigers are the largest and most powerful felines in the world and as such, many cultures consider the tiger to be a symbol of strength, courage and dignity. They are also among the most recognizable of cats due to their distinct orange coat, black stripes, and white markings. Size and Description The lion is the only cat exhibiting sexual dimorphism, which means that male and females lions look different from each other. Males are larger than females. A lion’s body ranges in length from 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 metres), with a 26 to 40 inch tail (0,6 -1 meters). Weight runs between 250 to 450 pounds (120 – 200 kilograms). Adult lions range in color from buff to gray to various shades of brown. Both males and females are powerful, muscular cats with rounded heads and ears. Only adult male lions display a brown, rust, or black mane, which extends down the neck and chest. Only males have dark tail tufts, which conceal tail bone spurs in some specimens. Tigers vary in color, size, and markings according to their subspecies. Bengal tigers, which inhabit the forests of India, have the quintessential tiger appearance, with a dark orange coat, black stripes, and a white underbelly. An average male Bengal tigers weigh around 490 pounds (220kg). The Bengal tiger has a body length of 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 metres) and a tail length of 3 feet (1 meter). Siberian tigers, the largest of all the tiger subspecies, are lighter in color and have a thicker coat that enables them to brave the harsh, cold temperatures of the Russian taiga. Males can grow up to more 10.5 feet (3.3 m) from head to tail and weigh up to 660 pounds (300 kilograms). Range and Habitat Lions prefer grassland and savannah habitats in close proximity to water sources, such as rivers. They also prefer hunting in open areas, rather than densely packed forest. Lions are absent from all rainforest habitats in their range. African lions have a number of subspecies separated by large, lion-less expanses. Historically, lions could be found across the vast majority of Africa, but their current range has been restricted to a smattering of locations in Central and Southern Africa. Outside of Africa, lions used to be found from Greece all the way to India. Humans slowly decimated these populations over the centuries. Currently, only a small population of the Asiatic lion subspecies can be found in the Gir Forest National Park in Western India. Tigers historically occupied a range that stretched from the eastern part of Turkey to the Tibetan plateau, Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk. Today, tigers occupy only about seven percent of their former range. More than half of the remaining wild tigers live in the forests of India. Smaller populations remain in China, Russia, and parts of Southeast Asia. Tigers inhabit a wide range of habitats such as lowland evergreen forests, taiga, grasslands, tropical forests, and mangrove swamps. They generally require habitat with covers such as forests or grasslands, water resources, and enough territory to support their prey. Diet Lions are hypercarnivores, which means their diet consists of more that 70% meat. African lions prefer to hunt large ungulates, including zebra, African buffalo, gemsbok, giraffe, and wildebeest. They avoid very large and very small prey, but will take domestic livestock. A single lion can take down prey twice its size. In prides, lionesses hunt cooperatively, stalking from more than one direction to capture fleeing animals. Lions kill either by strangling their prey or by enclosing its mouth and nostrils to suffocate it. Tigers hunt using ambush, and will quietly stalk their prey to get close enough to capture it. Successful hunting requires skill and precision. Tigers prefer medium and large prey items, especially ungulates, or hoofed mammals. They normally hunt animals that are 200 lbs. or more. Behavior Lions sleep for 16 to 20 hours a day. They most often hunt at dawn or dusk, but can adapt to their prey to change their schedule. They communicate using vocalizations, head rubbing, licking, facial expressions, chemical marking, and visual marking. Lions are known for their fierce roar, but may also growl, meow, snarl, and purr. Adult tigers are solitary creatures, and rarely interact with other tigers. They maintain territories, but will travel outside of these territories regularly. The territories of females will commonly overlap with males, but the territories of two males will not. Tigers swim frequently, and will bathe in ponds, lakes, rivers, or streams. They also use water sources as an escape from the heat, and thoroughly enjoy swimming. Now, let’s get back to our big question! In a head-to-head fight, who will win? The lion enjoys the title of undisputed king of the jungle. So the answer to “who would win lion vs tiger” is obvious. Lions are the kings right? But I don’t think so! No animal can lay greater claim to being king of any jungle than the tiger. Many tiger species’ natural habitat is, in fact, a jungle. So it already has an unassailable lead over the lion in the race for jungle royalty supremacy. But before we can definitively conclude which of these carnivorous cats would be victorious in a fatal feline fight, we must cast an objective eye over their respective strengths and weaknesses. Keeping in mind that Siberian tigers are significantly bigger than their closest tiger relatives, this may be a fight that even the most fearless lion would not want. Instead, we nominate the brutish Bengal tiger as the ideal adversary for the lion. Larger than most but a little closer to a lion’s overall size, the Bengal will more than hold its own. It’s big enough to brawl, but not so over-sized that the bout is over before it begins. A Bengal tiger vs a lion could be the perfect combination, to make sure that a massacre is avoided and the event goes past the first few rounds. Let’s assume that the combatants in this make-believe battle are male. Naturally constructed to stalk and stride across all terrains for tens of miles at a time, the tiger could probably be fight-ready tomorrow. In complete contrast, the lion’s short supply of stamina means it will have to do everything to make a tiger vs lion fight a quick knock out. Lions sleep or doze for 16-20 hours a day. In comparison to tigers they have small home territories. They don’t needto roam as their territory provides great food to attract grazers. However, lions can withstand the sun, so maybe if lion vs tiger took place in the midday heat they would gain an advantage. The social nature of lions may ultimately be their biggest weakness in a brawl with a tiger. According to the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, coalitions of two to three male lions usually fight as a group against territorial rivals, but tigers always go it alone. This difference affects the two cats’ instincts. Considering what I said before, it’s likely that a tiger would win. Tigers have a higher average bite force than lions, they are bigger, and they have larger brains than lions relative to their body size. Offhand mentions in the historical record imply that tigers usually came out on top in ancient Rome, and modern fights in captivity typically go that way, too, but not every time. Lions and tigers each have their strengths, and “the outcome of a given fight completely depends on the individuals: their history, fighting style and physiology.