How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained (2023)

How long do lions live?

On the surface, it’s a simple question. The simple answer is around 10-14 years, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, because a lion’s lifespan depends on many factors.

As an apex predator and symbol of strength, you might not expect lions to struggle for survival. Yet a lion’s life is difficult, dangerous, and – sadly – often cut short in its prime.

Wild lions have a much shorter lifespan than their captive counterparts, and few die peacefully in their sleep. That’s if they even make it to adulthood, which is something of an achievement.

In other words, the questions “how long do lions live?” and “how long can lions live?” have very different answers. But, if you dig a little deeper, you can find some context behind the numbers.

Join us as we explore all aspects of lion life expectancy, while learning all about this magnificent creature.

How Long Do Lions Live in the Wild?

How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained (1)

Lions that make it to adulthood have a life expectancy of around 10-14 years, though estimates usually range anywhere from 8-18 years. Some lions may live longer, while many don’t reach this age.

Although adult lions have no natural predators, many still die violent deaths, either at the hands of humans, each other, or from hunting injuries.

A violent life

Male lions are constantly striving to either gain or maintain territory – fighting off outsiders or trying to win the throne (ruling over a pride) themselves.

These fights can be fatal, or cause injuries and infection that the lion eventually succumbs to.

The strongest specimens could rule for several years, yet even the fiercest lions can’t fend off challengers forever.

Older males that survive a pride takeover are chased away and may eventually die of starvation, malnourished and unable to hunt prey.

Even the mightiest kings rarely get a happy ending.

A tough start: lion cub mortality

How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained (2)

Lions are by far the most vulnerable as cubs.

Baby lions are born blind and helpless, and don’t even open their eyes until they’re a week old. At this stage they must rely on their camouflage to avoid detection by predators like leopards or hyenas.

Perhaps the biggest threat to lion cubs is other lions. If the pride male/s are defeated by outside rivals, these new males will likely kill any cubs they come across so they can sire their own offspring.

It sounds brutal, but killing the cubs ensures the lionesses will come back into estrus, so the new pride males grab the chance to pass on their genes.

With all these risk factors, only around 1 in 5 lion cubs will reach two years of age.

Leaving the pride

If a young lion beats the odds and makes it through these early years, there are still plenty of dangers ahead – especially for males.

Young lionesses often stay with the pride, but once males approach maturity at two or three years old, they’re forced out. Reigning pride males don’t want rivals threatening their supremacy – even their own blood.

Juvenile males are forced to fend for themselves, biding their time until they’re strong enough to challenge for leadership of their own pride. They’ll frequently team up with siblings or other relatives, forming coalitions.

These nomadic males are still vulnerable. Pride males will want to attack them, and without females to help with hunting, finding enough food is far from guaranteed.

Male vs Female Lion Life Expectancy

How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained (3)

On average, female lion life expectancy is higher than males’. Male lions rarely live much longer than 10 years, but females commonly reach 15 or 16.

Why do lionesses live longer? There are several reasons.

For one, females usually integrate into their birth pride.

While young nomadic males roam the savanna either alone or in a small coalition, juvenile lionesses have the support and cooperation of the pride, which includes many of their close relatives. This is a big boost to their hunting success and survival chances.

Male lions can hunt, but they’re not as stealthy as the females. Nomadic males don’t have a pride to provide for them, so must rely on catching or scavenging their own food.

Meanwhile, they’re watching their back for pride males who won’t take kindly to their presence.

If a nomadic lion coalition does succeed in taking over a pride, there’s still the neverending job of maintaining territory and seeing off threats.

Male lion life expectancy is relatively low because there’s always a younger, hungrier rival waiting in the wings. And even the biggest, strongest lions can be outnumbered by a larger coalition.

Female lion lifespan: old age not guaranteed

That’s not to say female lions have it easy. They may live slightly longer, but they have their fair share of challenges.

Bearing the brunt of the hunting burden means more chances of serious injury. A kick from a zebra or a buffalo’s horn could bring an abrupt end to a female lion’s lifespan.

Lionesses aren’t immune to hostile pride takeovers, either. If the reigning male/s are overthrown by rivals, females may risk their lives protecting their offspring from the newcomers.

How Long Do Lions Live in Captivity?

Assuming a decent standard of care, lion life expectancy in captivity is higher than in the wild, with a lifespan of around 16-22 years.

Why do captive lions live longer? With most threats removed, the chances of a lion’s life ending suddenly and violently are much lower.

Yet there’s something to be said for “quality vs quantity”. Captive lions don’t have much to fear, but they also don’t have much to do in general. Lack of space and stimulation can contribute to a decline in mental health.

Wild lions may have the odds stacked against them, but at least they’re in their natural habitat, living as nature intended.

Asiatic Lion Lifespan

How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained (4)

So far, we’ve been focusing on the African lion lifespan – but there’s also a small population of lions surviving outside of Africa.

The Asiatic lion once roamed much of southwest Asia, but today it only lives in and around the Gir forest in Gujarat, India.

Some sources suggest the Asiatic lion’s life expectancy is longer than its African counterpart, at 16-18 years.

This is a population of only several hundred individuals in a protected area, so it’s hard to directly compare to the African lion’s lifespan.

What is the Oldest Lion?

We’ve explored the average lifespan of a lion, but sometimes there are outliers who live much longer. So, who is the oldest lion ever?

The winner of this accolade is Arjun, a captive Asiatic lion at an animal rescue centre in India. Arjun lived to the age of 29.

As for the oldest wild lion, one possible contender is Loonkiito, a Kenyan lion who recently died aged 19.

Sadly, Loonkiito was speared by herders after preying on livestock – something that often happens when lions become too old and frail to feed on their usual prey.

Threats to Lion Life Expectancy

How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained (5)

Sickness and disease affect lion life expectancy both in the wild and captivity.

Parasites like ticks and tapeworms afflict the big cats. Severe outbreaks of blood-sucking stable flies have also reduced lion populations.

Despite the name, Canine distemper virus can be deadly to lions as well.

Human impact

We can’t ignore the human impact on lion populations.

Once plentiful across Africa and Asia, lion numbers have dropped drastically. The African lion population has decreased 90% in the last century, and lions are now extinct in many countries where they once thrived.

Humans are responsible directly, through hunting and conflict with farmers, and indirectly, through habitat loss due to human population growth and agricultural expansion. Inbreeding and disease are further side-effects affecting today’s scattered lion populations.

Lions are classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. With the current trajectory, it won’t be long before they’re endangered.

Average Lion Life Expectancy? It’s Complicated

As you can see, there’s no single answer to the question: “how long do lions live?”

Lion life expectancy varies based on many factors, from sex to food availability, stage of life, and more.

Most wild lions don’t even make it to adulthood. If we consider cub mortality, the average lion lifespan would be much lower than the figures given.

Lions in captivity can live for over 20 years – and some have reached almost 30 – yet that’s with significant help from humans. Wild lions don’t get injections, blood tests, or dental check-ups!

Captive lions also don’t have to worry about finding food or fighting off rivals, but boredom and mental health issues often take their toll.

Wild lions may have fewer years in their lives, but they certainly have more life in those years – hunting, fighting, and raising families of their own in their natural habitat.

Lions still thrive in certain protected areas of Africa, though humans need to do more to ensure the king of beasts survives on the continent.

Check out some of Africa’s top safari destinations, where you can see this majestic animal on its own terms.


How Long Do Lions Live? African Lion Lifespan Explained? ›


Maximum life span (or, for humans, maximum reported age at death) is a measure of the maximum amount of time one or more members of a population have been observed to survive between birth and death. › wiki › Maximum_life_span
: The average lifespan of the African Lion in the wild is 15 to 18 years, and 25 to 30 years in human care. Color: The African lion has a golden tan coat that blends well with Savanna and grassland surroundings. Habitat: These felines live in the savanna and grassland, although they may take to bush and forest.

Why do lions only live for 15 years? ›

In the wild lions seldom live more than 8 to 10 years, chiefly because of attacks by humans or other lions or the effects of kicks and gorings from intended prey animals. In captivity they may live 25 years or more.

Can a lion live for 100 years? ›

Longest Lifespan

Female lions have an average lifespan of about 15-16 years in the wild, while males live 8-10 years.

Why do lions have short lifespan? ›

Males live for 8-12 years while females have a lifespan of 10-15 years. Because lions are apex predators, they aren't threatened by any other animals, but the abundance of food and fights with other lions can have a dramatic effect on a lion's life expectancy.

What happens to old male lions? ›

Wright explained that an old lion gets arthritis in its joints. It no longer has the strength or speed to catch its prey. Slowly the lion becomes malnourished. The lion grows weak and dies.

Why do lions never give up? ›

Lions never give up. They can pick up a fight with animals bigger than them and lose too, but that does not bring them down. After all, it is about their survival, their pride's existence, their territory.

What happens when a lion dies? ›

The pride that has lost the male lion will usually scatter and individual find new families or just wonder off in the wild. The lions will scatter because they have lost their leader who was the glue putting them together.

Which animal can live 1,000 years? ›

It is possible some may live for over 1000 years. The Greenland shark had been estimated to live to about 200 years, but a study published in 2016 found that a 5.02 m (16.5 ft) specimen was between 272 and 512 years old. That makes the Greenland shark the longest-lived vertebrate.

How many lions 1000 years ago? ›

Around a hundred years ago there were likely as many as 200,000 lions living wild in Africa. Recent surveys put the number of wild lions at around 30,000 or even as low as 20,000. Around a third of African lions are thought have disappeared in the past 20 years.

Do lions give oral? ›

Oral sex also occurs with some frequency throughout the animal kingdom. It's been observed in primates, spotted hyenas, goats and sheep. Female cheetahs and lions lick and rub the males' genitals as a part of their courtship ritual.

How long can a lion go without eating? ›

How long can a Lion go without eating? Lions can go without food for more than a week and then tear into prey, eating up to 50kg of meat at a time - that's almost a quarter of the animal's body weight.

How long do lions sleep? ›

Lions Can Sleep 20 Hours Per Day. This Is How And Why. African Wildlife Report. (n.d.).

Why do lions sleep all day? ›

They have few sweat glands, so they wisely tend to conserve their energy by resting during the day and become more active at night when it is cooler. Lions have terrific night vision.

Is there an alpha lion? ›

When a lion takes over a pride it kills all the cubs fathered by the previous alpha male. Thus he ensures that only his gene pool survives. Having taken over a pride he rests, leaving all the hunting to the lionesses.

Why do male lions not like their cubs? ›

Infanticide by males

When a new coalition of males takes over a pride, they almost always kill the prides' cubs, since they are not biologically related and do not want to spend energy ensuring that other lions' genes will be passed on.

Why do male lions kick their sons out? ›

Wild male lions will also typically chase off any male cubs when they grow up to ensure they are alone with the pride lionesses. Sometimes the lions will kill cubs - usually when they take over new territory from another pride - to stake their claim on the females.

What do lions fear most? ›

Lions have few predators to fear other than humans. A very young or sickly lion might fall prey to hyenas. Cubs may be attacked and eaten by adult male lions. Lions are most threatened by humans who hunt them and encroach on their habitat.

Will lions eat you if you raise them? ›

No. Lions are not domesticated animals, even if you raise them in a domestic environment, they are still wild and will act on their wild instincts. … It is a dangerous animal that can kill you in a split second, meaning to or not.

Do lions get angry? ›

When a lion is angry or feeling threatened it will sweep its tail from side to side. If it is hunting, it will keep its tail stiff and twitch it from time to time. It is much more serious if it is actively hunting you.

Does a lion eat a dead lion? ›

They will eat it once it's dead, but their main reason for killing it is to reduce competition, not for food - there are far easier meals out there. A dead lion will be fed on by all kinds of scavengers - hyenas, jackals, vultures, marabou storks, etc.

What animal kills a lion? ›

Key Points. Elephants and rhinos are the animals most likely to kill lions. The humble porcupine is a threat to mighty lions. A crocodile is an animal that will attempt to prey on lions.

Why lions don t eat dead animals? ›

Sometimes, lions are seen eating decaying flesh of dead animals. They don't prefer it but have to eat it for their survival. It is believed that dead animals provide a large part of a lion's diet. Lions are dangerous animals and are known to occasionally eat humans.

What's the oldest animal on Earth? ›

Ming the Clam

Which creature is immortal? ›

The 'immortal' jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii

To date, there's only one species that has been called 'biologically immortal': the jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii. These small, transparent animals hang out in oceans around the world and can turn back time by reverting to an earlier stage of their life cycle.

What's the oldest animal ever? ›

Oldest animal ever

The longest-lived animal ever discovered is a quahog clam, estimated to be 507 years old. It had been living on the seabed off the north coast of Iceland until it was scooped up by researchers in 2006 as part of a climate change study.

Will lions ever go extinct? ›

Humans are the key cause of this devastating decline and with the current rate of poaching and habitat loss, lions could be completely extinct by 2050. To understand the context and severity, here are some of the biggest threats the lion population faces daily.

Who found the first lion? ›

The first lion fossil was excavated in southern Germany, and described by Georg August Goldfuss using the scientific name Felis spelaea.

What was the first lion on earth? ›

Fossil evidence suggests that the earliest lion-like cat (P. l. fossilis) appeared at Laetoli in Tanzania in East Africa during the Late Pliocene (5.0–1.8 million years ago).

Do lions feel love? ›

Lions are most affectionate to their like-sexed companions. Females spend their lives in their mothers' pride or with their sisters in a new pride; males may only spend a few years in a given pride but remain with their coalition partners throughout their lives.

What if a lion licks you? ›

A lion's tongue is almost as rough as sandpaper. It is covered in tiny spines, called papillae, which face backwards and are used to scrape meat from bones and dirt from fur. These spines make the tongue so rough that if a lion licked you enough times on one spot, you would be left without any skin!

Can humans breed with any other animals? ›

Probably not. Ethical considerations preclude definitive research on the subject, but it's safe to say that human DNA has become so different from that of other animals that interbreeding would likely be impossible.

Do lions sleep after they eat? ›

And following a large meal, lions may even sleep up to 24 hours—talk about a catnap!

Which animal can go the longest without eating? ›

Sharks can live without food for 8-10 weeks. Interestingly, the longer they live without food, the more perfect their hunting skills become.

How often do lions eat humans? ›

Lions. As a large, apex predator that hunts animals weighing up to 1,000 pounds, a lion is more than capable of having a human for lunch. And they do. Lions kill between 20 and 250 people each year worldwide.

How high can lions jump? ›

African lions can jump up to 36 feet laterally and 12 feet vertically. Despite their weight, they have powerful and effective leg muscles that allow them to jump far and easily scale trees. The capacity to jump high is an important quality for lions, as pouncing on their victims is their primary hunting tactic.

How far can lions jump? ›

A lion can run for short distances at 50 mph and leap as far as 36 feet. 4.

What animal sleeps the least? ›

The mammal that sleeps the least is the African bush (savannah) elephant Loxodonta africana, which has been found to sleep only two hours per day on average – less than any other mammal species so investigated.

How many times a day does a lion make love? ›

Lions are stimulated ovulators; the female does not ovulate until she is stimulated to do so by lots of sex. As a result lions will mate roughly every 15 to 20 minutes for two or three days—200 to 300 times in succession.

Why do lions cuddle so much? ›

Cuddling may help to reinforce friendships that become necessary to protect a lion's territory from intruders. Life is tough, if you're a lion.

What animal sleeps the most? ›

The koala holds the accolade for 'the animal that sleeps the most'. This Australian icon sleeps for 20-22 hours each day (sounds good to us), making it the sleepiest creature in the animal kingdom.

What is the rarest lion animal? ›

The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies of the lion which today survives only in India. Asiatic lions stand at between 1 and 1.2 metres tall.

Which is stronger a lion or tiger? ›

They conclude that while one on one, a tiger would certainly best a lion, in the wild the lion pride could hold their own against the solitary tiger.

Can a lion be with a human? ›

Now Valentin Gruener shows that even Lions can be humans best friend if treated correctly. The basic message from both is: Treat animals with respect and do nit threaten them and they will do the same to you. Be aware but not afraid from predators.

Do male lions enjoy mating? ›

Another animal that enjoys having sex is the African lion. Especially male African lions show the best affiliative behavior towards their counterparts. Their two most obvious affiliative behavior or mating rituals are head rubbing and licking.

Do male lions mate with all the females? ›

Lions live in prides that consist of one primary male lion, several females and one or two lesser males. The primary male mates with his lionesses. Females might also mate with more than one partner. Several females are likely to be in heat at the same time.

Why do male lions mate with each other? ›

"Male lions “mating” with other males is not an altogether uncommon occurrence," the told Traveller24. "This behaviour is often seen as a way of asserting dominance over another male, or a way of reinforcing their social bonds.

Do male lions fight to the death? ›

'Males will fight to the death to prevent other males taking over their prides. When there is a successful takeover, the newly victorious males will often kill the offspring of the former male or males. Lionesses will, on occasion fight to the death to protect their cubs.

Do male lions mate with their own mother? ›

Yes inbreeding isn't unheard of in lions. the lioness normally stay with the pride they born in and the male have to leave when reach maturity. Sometimes the male come back to the pride they born in, and challenge the male and claim the female as mate. Some of them are their mother and sister.

Do male lions inbreed? ›

The animals averaged a whopping 93% abnormal sperm rate, while some also displayed physical signs of inbreeding, like deformed tails or testicular defects. Researchers have long had genetic evidence of inbreeding, but the malformed sperm is the first evidence that inbreeding is manifesting in the reproductive system.

Can a lion survive without eating for 2 months? ›

How long can a Lion go without eating? Lions can go without food for more than a week and then tear into prey, eating up to 50kg of meat at a time - that's almost a quarter of the animal's body weight.

Can lions live 30 years? ›

Size: Male lions grow to be 9 to 10 feet long and can weigh up to 500 pounds. Females grow to be seven to 8 feet long and weigh between 270 and 350 pounds. Lifespan: The average lifespan of the African Lion in the wild is 15 to 18 years, and 25 to 30 years in human care.

Can a lion live 20 years? ›

Lions that live in captivity live to an average age of 25 years old, while the life expectancy of a lion living in the wild is only from 12-16 years of age.

Why do lions live longer in captivity? ›

Many smaller species live longer in zoos compared to their wild counterparts because lifespans in the wild are shorter due to predation or intraspecific competition. Animals in zoological facilities have no immediate threats or competitors. Animals have to deal with a decaying word.

What animal can go 2 years without eating? ›

Crocodiles can live for 2 years without food or water.

Which animal can live without food for 2 years? ›

Tardigrades can live years without food. These are their adaptations to extreme climatic conditions in their habitat for survival. Animals like Emperor penguin, Tardigrade do not eat food in extreme climatic conditions and undergoes a dormant stage.

How many lions were there 50 years ago? ›

Even 50 years ago there were more than 200,000 lions living in the wild, Today, their numbers have been drastically reduced to less than 15,000 lions.

Can a human survive a lion? ›

No, an unarmed human could not beat a lion in a fight.

Even if a human came upon a sleeping lion, their chances of killing it would be laughably small. Humans aren't going to knock out a lion with a kick or punch in one shot. They're also not going to strangle a lion to death.

What is the opposite of a lion? ›

The opposite gender of a lion is a lioness.

Why can't lions be kept as pets? ›

The Captive Wildlife Safety Act was introduced and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004 to address the problems of the availability of wild cats as pets. This law prohibits interstate and foreign trade in exotic cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars for the pet trade.

Why do lions get aggressive? ›

It's possible that this male had been courting the lioness for some time and became aggressive when she refused his advances. "In extreme cases of male frustration and exertion of dominance, lions will even kill lionesses that refuse to mate with them." Lion pride dynamics can be complex.

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