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Are male lions lazy (or just heavy)?

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There’s a perception amongst people that lions are lazy. Not only lazy, but that male lions in particular are even lazier, and don’t or can’t hunt for themselves. And there are many reasons for this perception. A scientific paper once claimed that lions sleep 22 out of every 24 hours. But consider that safari-goers most often get to see lions during daytime, when they are typically asleep or resting. When it comes to the differences between male lions and female lions, there are some important physical differences between the two sexes that affect how they do things.

Male lions are a whole lot heavier than females. My reference book lists the heaviest female lion at 150 kilograms, whilst the heaviest male is on record at 260 kilograms.

The images in today’s blog show the difference this extra weight makes to male cats when they jump. These lions were on the move behind a herd of buffalo at Duba Plains in the Okavango Delta. When they came to this narrow channel, the female jumped first and cleared it easily. The male followed but his weight brought him down in the middle of the channel. He didn’t look that excited about his landing but kept on going behind the female. It’s hard not to laugh when you see the male lions’ face as he’s landing!

When it comes to hunting, adult males’ manes make them much more conspicuous than the females, and this makes it harder for them to stalk prey unseen. Their increased bulk also means that they can’t run as fast. However, they are quite capable of hunting. Often adult males will be moving between two groups of females, sharing their time. In such situations the males are forced to hunt for themselves whenever they’re trying to find one of the female groups.

When marking territory, male lions in the Okavango will walk up to 13 kilometres in a night, but this of course happens when humans are usually fast asleep.

So next time you hear a comment about male lions being lazy, remember that the lion may have been hard at work all night long!

Shenton Safaris
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I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page