Why Are Lions Called the King of the Jungle?

This is why lions are called the King of the Jungle.

Actually, lions don’t live in the jungle.

So if you want to know why lions are called the King of the Jungle nonetheless, then you’re in the right place.

Let dig right in!

Table of Contents

Lions: The King of the Jungle?

Their terrifying roars (which can be heard almost 5 miles or 8 km away), confident gait, well-muscled body, and bravery qualify the lion to be the King of the Jungle even though it doesn’t actually live in the jungle. 

A male lion resting on a high rock.

A lion’s preferred habitat are: 

  • Grasslands 
  • Savanna 
  • Open woodlands 
  • Dense scrubs 

These types of open environments allow them to find their chief prey:

  • Antelope 
  • Zebra
  • Gazelles 
  • Wild pigs

Sometimes they will attack larger animals such as:

  • Giraffes
  • Water Buffaloes  
  • Hippopotamus
  • Wildebeests 
  • Even reptiles, such as crocodiles 

Lions (Panthera leo) are powerful, big cats belonging to the family Felidae. 

Their proverbial status as “King of Jungle” was bestowed thousands of years ago and continues to be an important element in human culture and history. 

Their historical homeland once covering much of Eurasia and Africa. They are now mostly confined to central Africa, south of the Sahara.

A pride of lions looking through the grassy field.

The behavior of lions depends on their mood. The most important times for their hunting activities are dawn and dusk but can vary according to the prey. 

They communicate by vocalization, facial expressions, head rubbing, chemical, visual marking, and licking. They also produce varieties of sounds, from heavy roars to gentle meows.

So How Did Lions Get This Moniker?

Here’s why lions are called the King of the Jungle:

Does it rule by its physical power?

No! 

The physical size of the lion is not very impressive, with the average animal being 4.5-6.5 feet (137-198 cm) long, up to 3.5 feet (107 cm) high, and can weigh at the maximum of 500-550 pounds (227-250 kg). 

Lion jumping over water seems floating in the air.

It is also not the fastest animal in the jungle. That honor belongs to the cheetah. Nor does its terrifying face or body shape earn it that title.

Then what entitles it to rule? 

The lions are rulers because of their: 

  • Sheer strength
  • Grace
  • Physical beauty 
  • Massive raw power
  • Lack of fear 
  • Enemies such as hyenas

The lifestyle of a lion also resembles that of kings:

A lion can sleep as much as 20 hours a day. Their eating, drinking, and walking habits resemble a king’s. 

Other princely features of lions can be summed up as:

Defense of Their Kingdom

Lions bravely defend their territories like kings. Being social cats, lions live in defined social groups, called prides, which hold specified territory. 

Their female partners are responsible for hunting prey and feeding the pride (like royal ministers and administrators). 

Male lions themselves are responsible for the defense of the pride and its territories.  

Survival Instincts

Young male lions are forced to leave their parent’s pride around the age of 2-3 years. 

Male lion walking in the Masai Mara reserve.

They travel hundreds of miles in hostile territories to find and conquer their own prides. 

They have to engage and defeat the current owner of the pride they chose to conquer. This is perhaps the most princely feature of a lion’s behavior. 

Protection of Kingship

Upon taking over the charge of new pride, the first action as king is to murder all his potential rivals to the throne (male cubs of the previous pride leader). 

Then, they reproduce with lionesses to produce their own heirs. 

Find Any Resemblance of These Behaviors in History?

Historically, many human societies had a fratricide law, which entitled the new king, emperor, or sultan to murder his brothers and nephews to remove any potential challengers to his absolute power. 

Probably the most famous one was the Ottoman Fratricide Law. 

Some societies even permitted the killing of female relatives if she tried to save her male relatives. This also runs true within a pride of lions. 

A pair of African lions play-fighting in the wild.

Lions vigorously defend their pride, cubs, and females. The roars you hear at night are actually warning other lions that they will pay the price if they dare enter their territory. 

The male lion enjoys the most prestige and respect within the pride because the very existence of the pride is endowed to him. 

They are offered food first of all. For the first year or so, cubs are solely dependent on the ability and ferocity of their father to defend them. 

The primary male lion keeps the balance and maintains the social equilibrium of their societies. 

They will not shirk killing an intruder or a threatening member of the pride so they can retain their throne and keep peace in their “kingdom.” 

This includes killing prey, like antelope, to prevent overcrowding or disease from destroying the balance of power. 

How Do Lions Stack Up Against Other Contenders?

Let’s look at some more intriguing qualifications of the lions because there are other candidates for the kingship, too. 

African lions overlooking their path.

Animals like elephants (sheer size and strength), tigers (fast motion and hunting abilities), hyenas (only known rivals of lions), and wolves (fearsome temperament and clever hunters). 

Why does literature only mention lions? 

Let’s compare:

Lions vs. Tigers

The closest rival to lions for the kingdom of the jungle are tigers. 

Both are powerful beasts, but in one-on-one combat, the tiger has many advantages, such as its massive front paws, its ability to stand on the hind legs, and also the ability to fight with its front legs. 

So, the lion resorts to other advantages to maintain its hegemony. 

Powerful lions.

The king is not necessarily the strongest with his kingdom but will use all available means to retain claim to the throne. 

Lion maintains its kingdom by using its pride (group). Since the tigers are solitary hunters, they don’t have a chance against the full might of a ferocious pride under the leadership of their king. 

Lions vs. Elephants

Lions have the same advantages over elephants that tigers have on lions. 

The lion uses its army (its pride) to take on the largest and strongest mammal on the planet—the elephant. 

Elephant focus in the savannah.

The lion’s maneuverability, speed, and combat strategy, coupled with its tirelessness, are the traits hard to match for an elephant. 

I can understand how shameful will it be for an elephant to lose against an animal almost a tenth of its size. Still, the reality is size doesn’t matter. Group strength and stratagem do. 

Lions vs. Wolves

Despite their sharp mind, maneuverability, dignified habits, formidable look, wolves also have no chance in a battle for the throne. 

The wolf is a fearsome warrior but lacks the lucidity and sagacity of the lion. Wolves function more like a military commander as compared to a ruler. 

The attitude of lions is quite royal and majestic. It maintains its special position in the community of animals through its cunning and strength.