The Different Types of Lions Found in Wilderness

Types of Lions

Lions sit on the top of the animal kingdom with their sheer strength and ferocious hunting abilities. Did you know that these magnificent beasts are found in multiple distinct types depending on their genetics, social behaviors, and physical variations.

The lion, a big cat under the Panthera genus and Felidae family, ranks as the second largest cat species globally, following the tiger. Presently, wild lions thrive across sizable regions of sub-Saharan Africa and India. 

Till 2017, the prevalent lion classification included the African lions, comprising seven extant subspecies in Africa, and the Asian lions, considered a single subspecies dwelling in Asia. The following are a few different types of lions found in different parts of the world.

Northeast Congo variety

The Congo or Northeast Congo species (Panthera leo azandica), also known as the Uganda lion, is primarily located in the Congo or Uganda, though its origin might not be there. Similar to other lions, the ones in the Northeast Congo are large, with males weighing around 420 pounds, often sporting very dark or black manes. 

Notably, they exhibit unusual behavior by climbing, playing, and sleeping on trees, which is unlike their other counterparts. This distinctive “tree climbing” behavior can be observed at the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.

Barbary variety

The Barbary species (Panthera Leo) was native to the Atlas Mountains, spanning parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Maghreb. Adapted to cold weather, they developed dark, thick, long-haired manes. Regarded as the “royal” lions, they were owned by royal families and possibly fought gladiators in ancient Rome. 

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Unfortunately, over-hunting, habitat loss, and a severe respiratory disease led to their complete extinction in the wild. Now environmentalists are discussing the possibilities of reintroducing this species into the wild.

West African variety

Also known as Senegalese lions, Panthera Leo senegalensis (West African lions) are distinct and smaller, classified as critically endangered. Approximately 350 of them inhabit a UNESCO heritage site spanning Burkina Faso, Niger, and Benin, facing threats due to their tendency to wander and hunting activities. Conservation organizations like Panthera are diligently striving to safeguard and boost the population of wild West African lions.

Lions behaviors

Asiatic variety

The Asiatic variety (Panthera Leo persica) is slightly smaller than African lions, with shorter, darker manes and a distinctive belly fold which is absent in African lions. With only a few hundred remaining, they exclusively inhabit India’s Gir Forest, a relatively small wildlife reserve, making them exceptionally rare and endangered.

Katanga species 

Panthera Leo melanochaita (Katanga lions) are found in east and southern Africa, often referred to as Transvaal or Cape lions. Despite being distinct, they closely resemble other Sub-Saharan African lions. Once nearly eradicated due to trophy hunting, their slow recovery is attributed to managed reserves established in locations such as Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

European cave species

The European cave variety (Panthera spelaea) was an extinct species, with at least two to three subspecies known to have lived during the Ice Age. They were formidable prehistoric mega predators, similar to the Beringian cave lion, and were larger than contemporary lions. Both the European and Beringian cave lions became extinct approximately 14,000 years ago, sharing similar behavior and characteristics.

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