The age-old battle: lions vs. tigers: which is better?
In our opinion, both of these graceful cats are wonderful creatures in their own right, with very distinct differences.
The main differences between these two cats are that they have very distinctive markings and colors and are found in different parts of the world. However, there are far more interesting facts that we are going to share with you that set them apart.
This article is going to introduce you to lions and tigers and tell you ten remarkable differences between the two.
Tigers are rare animals created when a female lion mates with a male tiger. This can only happen in captivity, and only around 20 ligers are alive worldwide.
Lions are large cats native to Africa and one population in western India. They have golden tan fur, a broad-chested stance, small round ears, and a long thin tail with a dark tuft at the end.
They are the largest big cats in Africa and sit at the top of the food chain as an apex predator. Males and females will live together in prides, with the females hunting in groups.
Human intervention has sadly put lions on the vulnerable list.
During the Neolithic period, lions had vast areas of habitat ranging across Africa and India, like today, but they could also be found in southeast Europe, western Asia, and northern India.
Tigers are large cats that can be found across Asia. They have orange and white stripes, a white underbelly, and thick striped tails. As apex predators, tigers have very little competition, but they have been known to be killed by bears and elephants.
They are the largest big cats in the world, but due to their habitat being destroyed by humans, they are highly endangered.
Wildlifely Fact: Tigers are the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and South Korea.
So now that you are more closely acquainted with lions and tigers in basic terms let’s directly compare them and get into the nitty gritty of these wonderful species.
While people love to equate lions and tigers together, especially when talking about African animals, these two animals’ habitats only overlap in one small area of India. Their interaction with each other is rare and often in captivity.
Apart from the small area of India, lions can be found across Africa. Tigers are more prevalent across Asia. They can be found in far east Russia, North Korea, China, India, southwest Asia, and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Looking at their native lands gives us a good idea of what habitats these cats enjoy but let’s look at the specifics.
Lions live in grasslands, savannas, and shrublands, which are prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. Tigers prefer areas that are a little more humid. They can be found in Siberian temperate forests and tropical to subtropical rainforests.
3. Size and Weight
Although, side by side, they may not seem drastically different, the tiger is significantly larger than the lion.
Male lions measure 72-82 inches and weigh 350-500 lb. Male tigers measure 98-154 inches and weigh 200-600 lb.
The same can be seen with the females. Female lions measure 63-72 inches and weigh 240-300 lb. Female tigers measure 79-108 inches and weigh 143- 368 lb.
A fight between these two cats would be ferocious, but a tiger would likely come out on top for sheer size and aggression.
When you first glance at the diets of tigers and lions, they may seem pretty similar because they both eat ungulates, which are large hooved mammals like deer and antelope. They are both opportunistic hunters that may prey on smaller mammals and birds if the opportunity arises.
The difference comes in the kill sizes.
To fully sustain them, lions need to hunt prey that is between 420 to 1200 lbs in size. This means that they focus on larger species of antelope. Tigers tend to feed on smaller deer of around 130-155lb.
5. Markings and Coloring
The most evident difference between these cats is their coloring and markings.
Lions have a golden coat that is the same color all over their body, apart from the dark spot at the end of their tails. The males’ manes may also be a darker shade than their bodies.
Tigers are the real stand-out when it comes to markings. Their bodies are covered in vertical stripes of orange and black with white patches on their underbelly. Their tails are thick, with stripes ringing them the whole way along.
Both lions and tigers have white varieties that are far rarer.
Another clear distinction between these two is their hunting style.
They are both ambush predators that don’t track their prey. However, while tigers like to hunt solo, lions prefer to make it a team sport.
Individual male and female tigers will stalk and ambush their prey alone. The kill will only need to feed the hunter or the cubs, too, if she is a mother. This is similar to how bachelor lions will hunt.
Within a pride, the lionesses are in charge of hunting. They will hunt in packs and overpower their prey as a team. Working like this is particularly important in the large savannas and grassland where they hunt, as they cannot chase their prey for long. This hunting results in larger and more plentiful hunts that need to feed the whole pride.
While female lions and tigers both give birth to 2-4 blind cubs in secluded places, the way they grow up is quite different.
Lions cubs are introduced into the pride at 6-8 weeks old, but they are only weaned after 6-7 months when they will start eating meat. They are often brought up communally with other suckling mothers.
Tiger cubs are brought up solely by their mother. The fathers play no part in child-rearing. The babies will graduate to eating meat after just eight weeks.
Both young will leave their mothers at two years old, with the exception of many female lions that stay back and form part of the pride.
8. Living Habits
The way lions and tigers live could not be more different.
Lions live in pride of around 15 to 30 members, consisting of a handful of males, several generations of females, and their young. Tigers are solitary creatures and spend the majority of their lives alone.
The only time tigers spend extended periods with one another is in the two years that cubs stay with their mother.
Lions are fast predators, reaching speeds of 50 mph. Tigers, on the other hand, can only reach 40 mph. This is due to their significant weight difference.
Both of these predators can only sustain these speeds for short bursts as they ambush their prey. They rely on this initial burst of speed to take their prey by surprise and overpower them.
10. Males vs. Females
Lions are sexually dimorphic. This means that there is a physical difference between the males and females that helps to tell them apart. Male lions have a large mane, which the females lack and are much larger in size.
Tigers, although they may not appear so, are sexually dimorphic. However, the differences are harder to distinguish at a glance, as with lions. The main difference between male and female tigers is their height, weight, and paw size.
As you can see from this breakdown, tigers are incredibly large and strong creatures that no human has a hope of fighting off.
If you come face to face with a tiger, our advice is to remain calm. Maintain eye contact and back away slowly until the tiger is out of sight.
Turning your back and running will just set off the big cat’s hunting instincts, which will not end well for you.
After reading this, it is not surprising that the tiger is the strongest big cat.
They are large, muscular, and incredibly fast, with large paws that easily take down their prey. Even cats that can outrun them, like the cheetah, would be no match if they faced one another head to head.
Lions and tigers are two species that have been pitted against each other for years, but if you just dig a little deeper, the differences between them become clear.
These incredible big cats are wonderful creatures in their own right that need to be respected and protected so we can rejuvenate their populations to keep these beautiful animals around for as long as possible.
After this deep dive, you have all the information you need to distinguish between these two great cats.