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European Cave Lion: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Interesting European cave lion facts for kids

The European cave lion (Panthera spelaea), also known as the Eurasian cave lion and steppe lion belongs to the extinct Panthera genus. The species became extinct in the late Pleistocene period, about 13,000 years ago.

After excavating the lion skull fossil, several scientists regarded the Panthera spelaea as the subspecies of the modern lions and gave a new scientific term, Panthera leo spelaea. While some believed the cave lion was more close to the modern tigers due to their same skull shape and offered another scientific name, Panthera tigris spelaea.

The first evidence of Panthera leo spelaea evolution from the Panthera leo fossilis came from Europe happened around 700,000 years ago but the Panthera leo spelea was separated after moving to Europe.

The subspecies, Panthera leo spelaea is believed to be one of the largest lions, and the average body length would have been around 6.11 ft (210 cm) without the tail. The skeleton of an adult male excavated from Germany revealed that the average height and weight were around 3.11 ft (120 cm) and 440-771 lb (200-350 kg) respectively.

Shreds of evidence found from cave paintings, ivory carvings, and clay figurines suggest that cave lions had round and projecting ears, pale stripes like tigers, tufted tails, furs around the neck of males.

Keep on reading to learn more interesting facts about the European cave lion. If you want to know more exciting information about different animals, check out these killdeer facts and black tailed deer facts.

European Cave Lion Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a European cave lion?

The European cave lion (Panthera spelaea) is an extinct species of the Panthera genus. The species used to prey on large herbivores such as reindeer, bison, and mammoths. The Panthera leo spelaea is said to the subspecies of the European cave lion. People often call the cave lions by different names such as the Eurasian cave lions and steppe lions.

What class of animal does a European cave lion belong to?

The Eurasian cave lion belongs to the class of Mammalia, the family of Felidae, and the Panthera genus.

How many European cave lions are there in the world?

There is no Eurasian lion (Panthera spelaea) left in the world. The species became extinct in the late Pleistocene period, about 13,000 years ago.

Where does a European cave lion live?

The Panthera leo spelaea was widely distributed to several parts of the European continent such as the Iberian Peninsula, Great Britain, Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and plains of East Europe. The Eurasian cave lions are also believed to be found in Russia, Turkistan, and a few regions of North America such as Canada and Alaska, a state in the United States.

What is a European cave lion's habitat?

As the name suggests, Eurasian cave lions were prominently found in caves. Also, the Panthera leo spelaea are believed to be found near the habitats of medium to large sized herbivores, thus it can be said that the cave lion used to dwell in coniferous forests and grasslands. The adult cave lion skeleton found in the cave bear dens reveals that the lions might have entered the cave bear dens to prey.

Who do European cave lions live with?

Like modern lions, the Eurasian cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) was not a solitary creature and prefer to live in groups. These lions used to prey on the cave hyena, deer, reindeer, and other animals by forming large groups.

How long does a European Cave Lion live?

The exact lifespan of the Eurasian cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) is not known but the modern lions (Panthera leo) generally live for around 8-15 years while the species can live for more than 25 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

No exact information regarding the breeding pattern of the Eurasian cave lion (Panthera spelaea) is available as of now but it is believed that the extinct cave lion used similar methods to reproduce. The modern lions (Panthera leo) follow the polygyny mating system in which males mate with more than one female. Unlike other species, the males of the pride or group generally do not fight over females and the one who reaches a female first in the heat cycle has more chances to mate.

The male modern lion generally controls the reproduction of the females and rule over the pride, the competition among the males sometimes leads to infanticide. Females usually mate throughout the year and the breeding peaks in the rainy season. The females become sexually matured at four years of age while it takes around five to six years in males. The gestation period lasts for around 3.5 to four months and the females give birth to around one to six cubs. It is believed that the average range of the cave lion cubs would be around one to six. After five to seven months of age, the cubs are released by the parents.

What is their conservation status?

The Eurasian cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) became extinct in the late Pleistocene period, about 13,000 years ago.

European Cave Lion Fun Facts

What do European cave lions look like?

The European or Eurasian cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) looks similar to modern lions but larger. The giant species often prey on deer, reindeer, old or injured mammoths, and other large sized herbivores. The species is also believed to be closely related to the Panthera tigris or the modern tigers as the shape of their skull was almost the same.

European cave lion facts will make you love them.
*Please note the image is of Panthera leo of the Felidae family. If you an image of the European cave lion, let us know at [email protected]

How cute are they?

As we know that the Eurasian cave lion was one of the largest lions and as the modern lion, the cave lion would have been quite adorable as well. The most fascinating and cutest are the cubs, everyone loves to watch them playing, running around their parents, and biting each other. By observing such mischievous behaviors, no one can wonder that these little cuties would one day become the emperor of the jungle.

How do they communicate?

Like the modern lion, the Eurasian cave lion is believed to follow the same methods while communicating. Cats generally are quite territorial and males often mark their territory with their urine that gives a warning to the others who try to come closer. The mane or the hair generally describes the sex of the approaching lion. The most common way of communicating is their roar, males possess louder and deeper voices compared to females. The roar could be an indication of aggression and dominance to their enemies or a way of social bonding. Lactating and nursing cubs are a few other methods of communication seen in the big cats.

How big is a European cave lion?

The Eurasian cave lion size is quite big compared to several modern day wild cats. The average body length would have been around 6.11 ft (210 cm) without the tail while the average cave lion height was around 3.11 ft (120 cm). These lions are twice and thrice the size of the striped hyenas and clouded leopards respectively.

How fast can a European cave lion run?

It is said that cave lions were one of the fastest animals of the Pleistocene epoch and the average speed was around 30 mph (48 kph). With such stamina and strength, the species was able to hunt huge sized animals.

How much does a European cave lion weigh?

The average cave lion weight was around 440-771 lb (200-350 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males of the Panthera spelaea and Pantera leo species are called lions while the female is called a lioness. Males are generally bigger compared to females and the former even possess a mane around their necks.

What would you call a baby European cave lion?

The babies or the offspring of the European cave lion are known as cubs.

What do they eat?

European cave lions were carnivores and used to prey on large-sized herbivores such as reindeer, deer, old or injured mammoths, and many more. Some even also hunted food from the dens of cave bears.

Are they dangerous?

Like modern lions, the European cave lions were quite aggressive and dangerous. They had strong teeth and a bone-crushing bite force of 1800 lb (816 kg), almost twice the bite force of modern day lions. They used to prey on giant mammoths and reindeers. Some even also hunted from the dens of cave bears. If the species had not become extinct, cave lions would have been one of the most dangerous animals in contemporary times.

Would they make a good pet?

The Eurasian cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) became extinct in the late Pleistocene period, about 13,000 years ago. Also, people generally do not consider modern lions are pets due to their aggressive nature, in several countries keeping lions as pets is illegal.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

Several discoveries have been made in recent years. Two frozen cubs were found near the Uyandina River, Russia, and Serbia respectively in 2015. The cubs were around 25,000-50,000 years old. In 2017, another frozen cub was found on the banks of the Tirekhtyakh River, Russia.

Another extinct species, the American lion found in several parts of North America is a sister lineage of the European cave lion.

Are cave lions extinct?

Yes, the European cave lion (Panthera spelaea) became extinct in the late Pleistocene period, about 13,000 years ago. Studies reveal that the reduction in the availability of the prey might have played a significant role in the extinction of the species.  

Why are they called cave lions?

European cave lions did not dwell in caves but were found in coniferous forests and grasslands. The species used to prey on the cave bears and several fossils of the species were found in the caves as well, the species came to known as cave lions.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Saiga antelope facts or maned wolf facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable european cave lion coloring pages.

*Please note the main image is of Panthera leo of the Felidae family as the European cave lion is extinct. If you an image of the European cave lion, let us know at [email protected]

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