Lions and tigers are two big cats that rule their respective worlds. They are strikingly similar in the minds of many - and it is true that these ferocious felines have a lot in common - but there are some hugely overlooked differences between these two giants of the animal world.
Scientifically, both carnivorous cats belong to the genus 'Panthera', though obviously they're different species. They have distinct differences in appearance: lions have manes and tigers have stripes. However, there are more subtle differences as well. Tigers are notably larger, with the average male tiger weighing around 268kg (580 pounds) and the average male lion ranging from 1.13m - 1.51m (3.75ft - 4.95ft). Height-wise, however, the animals are both around 1.83m (6 feet) though the lion ever-so-slightly wins this contest.
These voracious carnivores have somewhat similar diets, though different hunting habits and mannerisms. Though tigers are in general more agile and aggressive, while lions are considered lazier, lions are significantly faster. Africa's king of the savannah clocks in at a whopping 94.95km/hour (59 miles/hour), whereas tigers stick to a still-impressive 60km/hour (37 miles/hour).
Both often hunt at night, but while lions are happy to scavenge the hard-earned kills of leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, or hyenas, tigers are too proud for that, and will only eat what they have killed themselves. Older tigers sometimes depend on pack members for help. Unsurprisingly, they're both at the top of their respective food chains, and their size and ferocity makes them each the apex predators in their world.
But then again, this is another widely overlooked difference - lions and tigers each reign over different regions of the world. While they're often placed next to each other in zoos, and both fond of grassland habitats, lions are located principally in Africa. Tigers, however, roam Eastern and South-eastern Asia, and are more apt to live in jungles.
While both do live in groups, lions are considered much more sociable, living in large groups known as a pride. Female lions hunt together as a group and bring the food back to share with the rest of the pride, whereas tigers tend to go at it alone and prefer to hunt as well as live solo.
While comparing these two similar yet different cats; many have often pondered the hypothetical question of which would win in a fight - the lion or the tiger. An interesting but little-known fact is that the Ancient Romans would pit these two gargantuan against each other. In the Coliseum, the home of the gladiators, these two giants faced off, and drawings suggest the tiger was usually victorious. This is corroborated by what happened in 2011 at the Ankara Zoo in Turkey: a tiger found a gap in the fence and made its way into the neighbouring lion enclosure, killing a lion it encountered with one fatal swipe.
While the tiger might win in a fight, the lion looks as if it's slightly winning in the wild. A final and depressing similarity between these two titans is that they're both somewhat in trouble. While the conservation status of lions is "near threatened," Tigers are outright endangered, hinting at an uncertain end for both of nature's famous cat kings.
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