Lion (Panthera leo)
Lions consume a wide variety of prey, from wildebeest, impala, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and wild hogs to sometimes rhinos and hippos. They will also feed on smaller animals such as hares, birds and reptiles. Lions are also known to attack elephants when food is scarce. Lions are widespread throughout Africa occurring where water and food is adequate. They are the only social cats, living and hunting in groups called prides, sometimes reaching up to 30 in number. Related females and their young make up the majority of the pride. A single male, or sometimes a small group of 2-3 males, will join a pride for an indefinite period, usually about 3 years or until another group of males takes over. Lions within a pride often display what appears to be affection and when resting, seem to enjoy each other’s company, with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking and purring. The males are territorial, and will roar and use scent markings to establish their domains. Females do almost all of the hunting, are mainly nocturnal and work in teams to stalk and ambush prey. Lions inhabit grassy plains, savannahs, open woodlands and scrub country. These landscapes allow the hunters to creep stealthily through vegetation and leap upon their unsuspecting prey. Lions like to rest during the daytime. Hunting from dusk, lions stalk their prey downwind before a final rush, causing panic in the most common prey, the herding animals, such as zebra, wildebeest and buffalo. A 200lb lioness will think nothing of tackling a 2000lb buffalo bull. Lion tend to follow big herds and it is not uncommon to find Lion spoor when on the track of a herd of buffalo. Although not always successful, Lion are extremely efficient hunters and opportunists, often robbing prey and young from cheetah and leopard.
The best shot is on the shoulder blades at the vital organs. Due to the mane obscuring the vital area, head and neck shots are not recommended. Lion are soft-skinned animals not requiring large bore calibres and solids. From a .300 Magnum upwards, with a heavy soft nose bullet, is enough and shots are never taken at a great distance. To the trophy hunter, the ultimate quarry is a large, mature lion, with a full mane, though the SCI Measurement is based upon the size of the skull. The mane will vary according to habitat, with lion in open savannah or desert-like regions growing larger manes than those found in thicker bush.