From the Nemean lion slain by Hercules to Maahes the lion-headed Egyptian god of war, the timeless image of a lion has inspired myths around the world. Along with the species’ starring roles in human legends, the lion has collection of a few myths of its own over the years. Let’s talk about a few of those myths.
Despite what Disney’s classic movie would have you believe, prides don’t have a Mufasa or Simba in charge of all other lions or all other African animals for that matter. Rather than a king or queen, lions live in an egalitarian society without ranking.
KING OF A TREELESS JUNGLE
Lions have famously acquired the title of ‘King of the Jungle’. However, the title is a little misleading as lions don’t actually live in the jungle. Their habitats include scrubland, grasslands, savannahs and rocky hills, but not jungles.
White lions have been regarded as sacred animals across Africa and there is a common misconception that they are albinos. While albino lions do exist, white lions are a separate subset of lions. White lions have a regressive mutation called Leucism and this means they have a reduced volume of melanin. The color of the eyes is the way to differentiate between white lions and albino lions. White lions have blue eyes while albino lions have a red or pink coloring.
Mane means successful male
A lion’s mane is usually seen as a way of calculating the sexual appeal of a lion to potential mates. The more voluminous the mane, the greater the appeal of the male. However, recent evidence refutes this as a universal rule. Maneless male lions in Tsavo were shown to be able to attract mates as well as being able to successfully defend a territory against other males.
Manes don’t always mean male as well. Mane lionesses have been observed, particularly in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. These lionesses engage in activities normally associated with male lions and have a greater probability of being infertile.
FEMALE LIONS DO THE HUNTING
The common perception of a lion pride is that the female lions do all the hunting. However, emerging evidence suggests that isn’t completely true. The primary role of the lioness is to hunt, whereas the lion guards the territory, but lions are able to hunt for themselves. Not only that, but research suggests that the success rates of both sexes is equal.