Chapter XI


The Lion's Daily Life

Now I shall tell you about the remaining habits of the lion, and how he lives every day.

Lion cubs at birth are usually twins or triplets. Sometimes four or even five cubs are born together; but then they are very difficult to rear, and one or two of them usually die. So a lioness has generally a family of two or three cubs to take care of. She brings them up in almost the same way that a tigress rears her cubs, as I have already described. The lioness feeds her cubs with her milk for about the first three months, and after that she gives them a little tender meat.

When the lion cubs are six months old, they are able to eat all kinds of meat and to follow their mother to hunt the prey. She teaches them the tricks of the jungle, just as the tigress teaches her cubs.

So, by the time the lion cubs are about a year old, they can kill the prey by themselves. Their mother just looks on, and criticizes their work! That is, she tells them if they have done their work well, or if they have done it badly! How does she tell them that? In this way:

If she is satisfied with their work, she does nothing in particular; she just joins the cubs in eating the prey after they have killed it. But if she is not satisfied with the way in which they have caught or killed the prey, she cuffs them with her paw!

Hunters have actually observed lionesses doing that! And of course the lion cubs practice their lessons more thoroughly the next time. In the jungle, the children of animals do not need to be punished more than once or twice!

You will notice that I have said nothing about the cubs' father, the lion. I am sorry to say that the lion is not usually so good a father as the tiger is. You will remember that the tiger helps his wife to provide food for the children, and also to teach them the tricks of the jungle. A lion seldom does that; he usually deserts his family, and lets them take care of themselves.

A lion that does stay with his family, after the cubs are born, has usually more than one wife. In that respect also the tiger is far finer than the lion. A tiger has only one wife; and he takes care of her and the cubs. But when a lion does stay with his family, the family usually consists of two or three lionesses, who are his wives, and their cubs.

In that case they hunt the prey in a pack; that is, the lion and the lionesses all hunt the prey together; and they are even helped by the older cubs. They need to hunt in a pack when the prey happens to be large, such as a buffalo or a giraffe. A lion by himself could seldom kill a buffalo or a giraffe.

Many a fight has been observed in the jungle between a lion and a buffalo—and almost every time the buffalo has succeeded in driving off the lion with its horns. Even if the lion managed to leap upon the buffalo from the back, he could not kill the buffalo by biting it on the neck because of the thick hair there.

And if the lion tried to stun the buffalo with a blow of his paw on the buffalo's head, the blow would not be enough, because of the thick hair which grows on the African buffalo's head. And meanwhile the buffalo would rear and buck, and throw off the lion. But if the lion has one or two lionesses to help him, they can all attack the buffalo at the same time, and pull it down and stun it with many blows.

On the other hand, as you will remember, in a fight between a single tiger and a single buffalo, the tiger always wins; he dodges the buffalo's horns, then seizes the buffalo by the throat from underneath. In that way he always kills the buffalo. It is only a herd of buffaloes that can beat a tiger, not just one buffalo.

A lion by himself is also unable to kill a giraffe in most cases; for if the giraffe sees the lion coming, it will kick out with its hind legs or its fore legs; and a kick from a giraffe has been known to disable a lion completely. So if a lion by himself wants to attack a giraffe, he must first stalk the giraffe stealthily, and then jump on it suddenly.

But as the lion cannot usually come near enough to do that, he generally attacks a giraffe with the help of one or two lionesses. For then they can all attack the giraffe from different sides; and as the giraffe cannot kick different ways at once, one of them is sure to jump upon the giraffe's back and bite it on the neck.

As I have just said, a lion cannot often stalk his prey near enough to leap upon it. There is a reason for that. Compared with his size, the lion's leap is the shortest of all members of the Cat Tribe. The farthest that a lion has been known to leap, even with a run, is about thirty feet—whereas a tiger has been seen to leap a distance of forty-eight feet!

The lion's body is not meant for leaping far. His chest and fore legs are very strong, but his hind legs are not quite so strong—and in leaping an animal uses its hind legs most. For instance, the kangaroo has the biggest leap of all four-legged animals of its size; and it has very large hind legs and very small fore legs.

"But if the lion cannot leap very far, how does he catch his prey at all?" you may ask.

I shall tell you. Like all other felines, he usually hunts at night. He hides near a pool or a stream, and waits for his prey to come to drink. Then he tries to approach the prey noiselessly on his padded feet. If he succeeds in creeping near enough to leap upon it, he certainly has his meal that night. But if he does not succeed in doing that, he tries another plan. He roars!


And that is an advantage a lion has over all other animals. None of them can roar like him. Even a tiger's roar is not so loud, and so he seldom tries to roar. But very often a lion must roar to catch his prey, and so by constant practice he has made his roar very terrible indeed.

Yes, the lion really catches his prey by roaring. When the animals are drinking at the pool, the lion puts his mouth to the ground and roars. It sounds just like thunder.

When you hear a roll of thunder, it sometimes happens that you cannot tell from which direction the thunder is coming. In the same way, when the animals hear the lion's roar, they cannot always tell from which side the roar is coming, because by putting his mouth to the ground the lion sends the roar in all directions. So in their terror some of the animals run the wrong way, and actually run toward the lion. Then the lion finds it easy to leap upon at least one of them.

The lion seldom hunts in the daytime. But when he does, he uses a different method. He chooses a pool amid sandy or stony ground. Then he half buries himself in the sand, or lies low among the stones and boulders. So if any animal comes to drink from the pool, it does not notice the lion because the lion's tawny color makes him look like the sand or stones. Then the lion leaps upon the animal and catches it.

After having his meal, the lion drinks from the pool. If the prey is rather large, so that he cannot finish it at one meal, he keeps it for the next day's meal. He drags the animal's body to some hiding place and covers it up with sand or leaves. Of course, he stays somewhere near that place, as otherwise the thieves of the jungle would eat up the food. The thieves of the jungle are the jackal and the hyena.

But as the lion usually hunts his prey in the night, he generally sleeps in the daytime. He is not really dangerous except at night. If a man meets a lion suddenly in the daytime, the lion will not usually attack him, unless very hungry. Many a man who has met a lion in the jungle by day has escaped in safety by just standing still, making no sound and no motion. After a glance at the man, the lion has walked off.

But as the lion usually hunts his prey in the night, he generally sleeps in the daytime. He is not really dangerous except at night. If a man meets a lion suddenly in the daytime, the lion will not usually attack him, unless very hungry. Many a man who has met a lion in the jungle by day has escaped in safety by just standing still, making no sound and no motion. After a glance at the man, the lion has walked off.

Most wild animals are afraid of man. Perhaps that is because they do not quite understand him, or how he can hurt them from a distance —by shooting them with a gun or even with an arrow. That is why most wild animals try to avoid man, unless they are wounded or are very hungry.

But I must tell you here that a tiger attacks a man much more readily than a lion does. Even in the daytime a tiger will usually attack any man he meets—like the fisherman that the tiger carried off from the river, as told on page 110.

At night, however, all animals of the Cat Tribe are dangerous, and many a night a lion has been known to creep into an encampment and carry off a sleeping man. That is, the lion first killed the man, then dragged him away.

In that respect a lion is different from a tiger. A lion usually takes away his prey by dragging it; he grips his victim in his jaws by an arm, or by the shoulder, or by the neck, so that the victim trails along the ground.

A lion once seized a sleeping man by the wrist, and dragged him away. The lion thought that he had killed the man. But the man was still alive. He got up on his feet as he was being dragged away. He walked by the side of the lion for a few yards; meanwhile he drew his revolver from his pocket with the other hand, and then shot the lion through the head, killing him instantly.

A lion seldom carries his prey bodily as a cat carries a mouse. A tiger always does that, if the prey is light, like a man; and a heavier prey he actually carries over his shoulder—as I have said on page 103.

From all the facts I have told you so far, you will understand that a tiger is stronger than a lion. It has been reckoned that the strength of a lion is equal to that of five men, but a tiger's strength is equal to that of eight men. How that was calculated I shall tell you in another book.

A tiger is also much more ferocious and terrible an animal than a lion. The lion can be hunted on horseback; the tiger must never be hunted in this way. A hunter riding a horse has often come to within a hundred yards of a lion, and has killed the lion with one or two shots from his gun—and the horse has stood quite still while he took aim.

But a horse will never face a tiger or stand still before a tiger. The horse will be in a panic at the very sight of a tiger—and will flee in terror. Even if a band of horsemen meet a tiger, all the horses will stampede in terror. It needs an elephant—a trained elephant—to face a tiger, as I have already described to you. And usually it needs several elephants to hunt a tiger.

The tiger has also many more of the catlike qualities than the lion has. The tiger is more active than the lion, can leap farther, and can make up his mind more quickly. Above all, like a cat, the tiger has "nine lives." Many a time a hunter has killed a lion with a single shot. But usually it needs half a dozen shots even to disable a tiger.

If a lion is mortally wounded through the heart or through the head, he usually drops to the ground at once. But if a tiger were mortally wounded in the same manner, he would at least leap toward the hunter, and try to kill his slayer, before he himself agreed to drop down and die.

The lion has sometimes been called the King of the Jungle—I suppose because in those countries where he lives there are no tigers. So the lion is the "monarch of all he surveys" in his own jungle. Of course, the lion looks grander and more imposing because he has a mane, and the tiger has none. Perhaps that is the reason why some people have given the lion that title.

The lion has also been called a noble animal, but accounts differ as to his real character. Sometimes a lion has behaved very splendidly, as in the two stories I shall tell you presently. But, on the other hand, there have been occasions when a lion has behaved like a coward and a sneak, as people have declared. So I suppose that lions are like other creatures: there are good lions, and there are bad lions.

In one respect, however, the lion is much finer than the tiger: the lion can be tamed, but the tiger cannot. At least, we can say for certain that many a lion has been known to become quite tame, but never a tiger.

There was an actual case where a tiger was caught as a small cub and brought up on milk, and then on clean meat without any blood on it. The tiger grew up, and was thought to be quite tame. Then one day, as he was licking his master's hand, his rough tongue drew blood from the hand—and in a moment, at the sight of the blood, the tiger became a ferocious wild animal.

Luckily, a faithful servant crept from behind with a gun, and suddenly shot the tiger through the head. The master leaped out of the room at once, before the tiger could reach him in his dying struggles.

But as for the lion, not only can he be tamed, but even a wild lion has been known to behave as if quite tame, when moved by his love. I shall now tell you two stories about that.