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Are Tigers Bigger Than Lions? Which Is The Biggest Cat In The World?

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Outdoor & NatureLearn more
When in the zoo, many students wonder, are tigers bigger than lions?

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Even though it might seem like tigers and lions belong to the same species, that is not the case as both of these big cats are just related to each other.

These two cats look different, live on entirely different continents, and have different vocalizations between them. They both are apex predators.

Both tigers and lions fall under the Panthera genus. Tigers are native to Asian forests. The most popular subspecies of tigers is the Bengal tiger which makes up 80% of the tiger population and is mainly found in India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Other subspecies of tigers include the Siberian tiger, the Sumatran tiger, and the Malayan tiger. The tiger is the national animal of India, and being an endangered species, the majority of the tiger population lives in captivity. Lions are usually found in multiple habitats, but they prefer to live in grasslands and savannahs. Subspecies of African lions include Asiatic lions and southwest Africa lions. Lions hunt at night, and they are called the king of the jungle. The face of the male tiger is one of the most recognizable symbols in our culture. Lions and tigers are the best known members of the big cat family, including tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, and snow leopards.

After reading all about the lion and tiger, do read about if there are tigers in Africa and if tigers are endangered.

Difference Between Lions And Tigers

Even though both lions and tigers belong to the family of cats, there are a lot of differences between these big cats and their subspecies.

The most obvious difference you will see when looking at lions and cats is their appearance. The king of the jungle has a coat that is golden-yellow in color and a male lion, unlike a female lion, has a mane that can range in color from blonde to black. The length and color of a male tiger’s mane depend on genetics, age, and hormones. Tigers or Panthera tigris have an orange coat with visible black stripes, a white belly, and on their ears, white marks can be spotted. The big cat’s coat gives it an advantage of blending in its forest habitat, which works in its favor against its prey. No two tigers can have the same markings, and their stripes are used by researchers to identify different tigers. One subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger, differentiates from other tigers in its appearance; it has fewer and much paler stripes and also has a mane like lions do which keeps it warm in harsh weather conditions with the addition of its thicker fur.

When talking about habitat, tigers hail from lands of Asia, whereas lions are natives of the Africa region. However, there are exceptions to this. A subspecies of a lion called the Asiatic lion can be found in the Gir forest of India. These Asiatic lions are on the verge of extinction. These lions live in prides across grasslands and plains of Africa’s savannah except for the jungle of the Congo. Tigers can be found from Siberia to southeast Asia. Unlike lions, tigers do not live in packs, and their population is very much dispersed. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 100,000 or more tigers in the wild, but right now, they are down to just 3,800. Tigers are considered to be critically Endangered.

Talking about social characteristics, the Panthera leo or lions are the only social cats in the big cat family. Lions live in groups that are called prides. Females of the pride are usually related to each other and usually spend their whole lives with the pride. Females can include mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and sisters who are related. An average pride consists of five to six female lions. Male lions control the pride and hold on to it for three to five years until they are thrown over by a younger or stronger coalition of male lions. After males of the pride are defeated, new male lions take over and kill all cubs from previous males to make sure that all future cubs will possess their genes. The main responsibilities of the male lion include hunting, helping to raise cubs, and defending the territory controlled by the pride.

Lions fight for these reasons and for nothing else. Tigers, regardless of their subspecies, do not form packs or any kind of social structure with other tigers in the wild. A trait that sticks with a tiger is that of solitude and isolation, and it’s a tiger's own way of life. There are multiple factors for a tiger’s solitude and isolation. Tigers are extremely territorial; they will go out and mark the space where they are situated for the time being and do not like any other tiger approaching their area. They are independent because for tigers, it’s the easier way of going after their prey. You will rarely see them breaking away from their trait of solitude, usually only when they are going after big prey or a big animal. Territories of female tigers are visited by male tigers when they are hunting or looking for mates. Adult tigers who have mated earlier or are related to each other are somewhat social to each other; they might share their kills as well. Male tigers are usually present at the time of the birth of cubs, then male tigers head to a new territory. The female tiger keeps cubs safe in a den and will become extremely aggressive if she senses any threat to her cubs. Female tigers are able to tolerate each other a lot better compared to male tigers. Territories of female tigers are comparatively smaller than those of male tigers. You might find it surprising, but tigers try to avoid fighting among themselves as much as possible. The chances of a fight happening are more when mating is involved. Male and female tigers have a considerable size difference which gives males more advantage over their prey.

Both adult lions and tigers are extremely skilled hunters. Female lions like to hunt in groups during the day and the night, whereas tigers prefer to hunt alone. In the case of lions, it is the female lion who goes out for the prey and brings it back to the pride. Male lions totally rely on females for their food. Female lions consume 11 pounds (4.9 kgs) of meat on an average day, and male lions can consume more than 16 pounds (7.2 kgs) of meat in a day. It is very possible for lions to steal food from other animals such as leopards and cheetahs, who are afraid of the sheer strength of lions. Tigers prefer to hunt alone, and they make one kill per week and can consume up to 88 pounds (39.9 kgs) of meat in one sitting. Their hunting techniques put them at the top of the food chain and make them one of the deadliest apex predators in the wild. Tigers usually prefer to hunt at night, and they possess insane eyesight which is six times that of humans during the nighttime.

Lions spend most of their day resting and are not engaged in any kind of activity for 20 hours of the day. However, female lions are more active as they are the ones in the wild looking for food. As tigers are more territorial, they are more active and do not leave their territories at all. The size of the territory they roam in depends on the abundance of prey in the area. Tigers are strong swimmers and like to bathe in ponds or rivers, unlike other big cats such as lions, leopards, jaguars, and cheetahs, to keep themselves cool in the extreme heat.

Tigress Vs Lioness Size

Are adult tigers bigger in size than lions? Size differences between a tiger and lion is another part of this male lion vs tiger rivalry.

When talking about the size difference between a wild tiger and an African lion in general, the adult tiger is bigger than a lion. On average, tigers are actually the biggest cats in the world. It doesn’t mean that all tigers and their subspecies are bigger than lions, though. Some subspecies of tigers are actually smaller than lions; the Sumatran tiger only weighs 265 pounds, and an average female lion's weight is more than that. Even though Panthera leo is known as the king of the jungle, it is the tiger who lives in forests. In terms of height, an average male lion measures around 1.1–1.2 m in height, and its canines help it appear larger.  An average Indian Bengal tiger or Siberian tiger measures around 1 m  in height. Both lioness and tigress share a similar body length, with the female Bengal tiger measuring 2–2.8 m and female African lions measuring about 1.8 m in length. Lions and tigers vary in shape and size from region to region. In terms of weight, a lioness and a tigress have somewhat equal weight as well, with most of them weighing between 265-352 pounds. However, multiple female Bengal tigers have been seen in the wild who have an average weight of 165 pounds. Female Bengal tigers live up to the age of 15-16 years in the wild, whereas female lions are expected to reach an age of 15-20 years.

Fighting skills of the tiger are superior to those of a male lion as the tiger can stand on its hind legs while fighting.

Tiger And Lion Subspecies

According to IUCN, there are only two subspecies of lions, whereas there are six different subspecies of tigers that have been recognized.

Asiatic lions which are a subspecies of lions, both males and females, only live in the Gir forest of Gujarat, India. Asiatic lions are smaller in size compared to African lions. The most striking difference between Asiatic lions and African lions is that a band of folded skin is seen running along the belly of the Asiatic lion. The fur color of Asiatic lions ranges from sandy to gray. Male Asiatic lions only have a moderate amount of mane at the top of their head compared to African lions. The mane of the Asiatic lion is generally darker in color in comparison to that of the African lion. Males of this subspecies do not live with females of their pride like male lions of Africa unless these animals are mating or feasting on a kill. In earlier times, Asiatic lions were found from Turkey to eastern India; however, due to the rise of firearms, their population declined in other regions, and now the animal species is limited to India and has a population of few hundreds. Asiatic lions' population was on the brink of extinction, and the conservation efforts made by the local government and organizations have contributed towards the revival of the population of this subspecies of lion. The subspecies of tiger known as the Siberian tiger is known by many names such as the Amur tiger, the Manchurian tiger, and the northwest China tiger. The Siberian tiger is the biggest tiger among all tiger subspecies, and some male Siberian tigers grow more than 10 feet in length. According to the latest census, there are about 400-500 Siberian tigers left in the wild. These animals of prey come under the category of Endangered and are protected. A Siberian tiger’s territory is much larger compared to an Indian Bengal tiger’s territory.  The Siberian tiger’s coat is really thick and is pale golden in color, whereas Bengal tigers have a light yellow coat with black or brown stripes. Sometimes, Bengal tigers can have a completely white coat. Sumatran tigers are small in all subspecies of tigers, but they have a more manned and bearded appearance when compared to other tigers in the subspecies. The Sumatran tiger’s natural habitat is the rainforest.

Tiger Vs Lion Size In Captivity

Measuring lions and tigers who live in captivity is completely different as the living environment and diet are a lot different.

In the wild, chasing prey can be hard sometimes for both cats, and that might mean there are some days where lions and tigers have to sit with an empty stomach. However, in places like zoos, these big cats get food without an issue; however, the place to roam around is limited for them. This means that lions and tigers who have been raised in captivity have the potential to grow much bigger than those lions and tigers who are in the wild. In captivity, tigers are bigger in size compared to lions. Siberian tigers, a subspecies of tigers, have immense growth potential when these animals are raised in captivity. The largest tiger which has been held in captivity was a Siberian male tiger whose name was Jaipur. This big cat weighed around 952 pounds and was more than 3.2 m in length. Don’t let this distract you from the fact that most big cats in captivity are overweight. Unlike their wild counterparts, animals of this species do not have that much area to roam around, and that means less overall physical activity for the big cat. Sometimes, both lions and tigers are kept together in a zoo; however, this can only happen if both cats have been raised together since their birth.

Tiger And Lion Hybrids Size

Cross-breeding is done in zoos around the world. As a result of this cross-breeding, ‘ligers’ came into existence. These animals do not exist in the wild.

A liger is the result of cross-breeding between a male lion and a female tiger. A liger has a coat that is golden colored with stripes on its back. Ligers are huge in size, bigger than tigers or lions. These massive hybrids can weigh up to 1,100 lbs! Ligers stand nearly 12 feet tall on their legs and have larger and thicker bones compared to bones of lions; even their teeth are longer. By the time a liger fully grows, it will be double the size of an adult Siberian tiger. Sustaining such a large body requires a really heavy diet as well; an average liger consumes about 25 lbs of meat every day, which is double the diet of a lion or tiger who is being raised in captivity. Due to a liger’s increased rate of growth and size, it can be a difficult for the tigress while giving birth which can endanger the lives of both the mother and cub. Liger cubs that do survive have been seen suffering from neurological disorders, shortened lifespans, and genetic defects due to cross-breeding, which is known to cause serious issues like these.  The largest non-obese liger in the world, named Hercules, weighs around 920 pounds. This lion and tiger hybrid is unethical and pointless; these animals are only bred for the purposes of profit. Most of the people who have these hybrids appreciate them for their huge size. The largest obese liger weighed more than 1,100 pounds. All existing ligers are captive, and animals of this species are not present in the wild.

Are tigers more dangerous than lions?

The lion vs tiger discussion has always been a hot one among people and has inspired countless imaginations. Who would win, a tiger or lion?

Going by their sheer size, tigers are much larger than other animals. Tigers weigh more than lions. In 2011, a tiger killed a lion with a single swipe of its paw across the lion’s face in the Ankara Zoo of Turkey. Tigers are more aggressive and territorial compared to lions; they will immediately go for a kill, whereas a lion would play around first. Tigers are more unpredictable in their nature. Lions are calmer and more collected in their nature. All of this makes a tiger more dangerous compared to a lion in the wild. So are tigers bigger than lions? Yes, they are and they are more threatening.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are tigers bigger than lions then take a look at Bengal tiger vs Siberian tiger, or Siberian tiger facts.

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