Lions and tigers are among the most ferocious animals but there are important differences between them. They are both among the five big cats (the other three being the jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard) and are apex predators — i.e., they have no predators of their own and reside at the top of their food chain.
Lions typically inhabit savanna and grassland, although they may take to bush and forest. Lions are unusually social compared to other cats. The male lion is highly distinctive and is easily recognized by its mane. The lion, particularly the face of the male, is one of the most widely recognized animal symbols in human culture. It has been extensively depicted in literature, in sculptures, in paintings, on national flags, and in films.
Native to the mainland of Asia, the tiger is the largest feline species in the world. The Bengal Tiger is the most common subspecies of tiger, constituting approximately 80% of the entire tiger population, and is found in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal. It is the national animal of India. An endangered species, the majority of the world's tigers now live in captivity.
Differences in Physical characteristics
Physical characteristics of lions
Reaching up to 250 kg (550 lb), lions are the second-largest in the cat family (the tiger is the largest).
During confrontations with others, the mane makes the lion look bigger than he really is. With powerful legs, a strong jaw, and long canine teeth, the lion can bring down and kill large prey. Lion coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. The color of the mane varies from blond to black. The lion is a carnivore and a hunter. Its legs are short with very powerful muscles. Male lions are 20 to 35% larger than the females and 50% heavier. Each lion has, what are called, "whisker spots". The pattern formed by this top row of whiskers differs in every lion and remains the same throughout its lifetime.
Tigers' physical features
The majority of tigers are tawny brown in color with dark stripes and whitish. Tigers have rusty-reddish to brown-rusty coats, a fair (whitish) medial and ventral area and stripes that vary from brown or hay to pure black. The form and density of stripes differs between subspecies, but most tigers have in excess of 100 stripes. The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal, and thus could potentially be used to identify individuals, much in the same way as fingerprints are used to identify people. This is not, however, a preferred method of identification, due to the difficulty of recording the stripe pattern of a wild tiger. It seems likely that the function of stripes is camouflage, serving to hide these animals from their prey. The stripe pattern is found on a tiger's skin and if shaved, its distinctive camouflage pattern would be preserved.
Tigers have round pupils and yellow irises. Tigers are the heaviest cats found in the wild, but the subspecies differ strongly in size. Large male Siberian Tigers can reach a total length of 3 m and a weight of 272-273 kg kg. Apart from those exceptional large individuals, male Siberian tigers usually have a head and body length of 200–280 cm and an average weight of 227 kg. The heaviest Indian Tiger (P. t. tigris) mentioned in literature weighed 389 kg (857 lb), the heaviest Siberian tiger (P. t. altaica) 384 kg. Females are smaller, those of the Siberian or Indian subspecies weigh between 110 and 181 kg.
Lion: Adult females require an average of 11 pounds of meat per day and adult males, 15.4 lbs. The pride provides food to its sick and wounded members but not to the male. The male uses his size to take what he wants of the lioness' kill. A typical diet will include zebra, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, gazelles and impala. Lions are opportunistic and will readily scavenge the kills of cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas.
Tiger: Their main prey species are large animals such as deer, buffalo and wild pigs, but they will also hunt fish, monkeys, birds, reptiles and sometimes even baby elephants. Occasionally, tigers kill leopards, bears and other tigers.
Habitat and Geographical Distribution
Lion: Rich grasslands of East Africa to sands of Kalahari Desert, South Sahara to South Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest. They avoid dense forests because prey is scarce. Competition for Africa's grasslands by humans has drastically reduced the lions' range. Although lions were once widespread throughout much of Africa, Asia, Europe, and even prehistoric North and South America, they currently exist in the wild only in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with a critically endangered remnant population in northwest India. The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of 30 to 50% over the past two decades in its African range. Although the cause of the decline is not well-understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern.
Tiger: Tigers range from India to Siberia and South East Asia. Tigers prefer habitat is forest although they can also be found in grassland and swamp margins. They require sufficient cover, a good population of large prey and a constant water supply.
Tiger vs Lion Life span
Lion: In the wild, lions live for approximately 12–18 years, while in captivity they can live over 24 years.
Tiger: The life span of tigers in the wild is thought to be about 10 - 12 years. Tigers in zoos live up to 25 years or more, but not by much.
Reproduction in lions and tigers
Lion: After a gestation period of 100-110 days, the pregnant female leaves the pride and finds a place to deliver. Depending on the physical characteristics of their habitat, lions will hide their newborn cubs in marshes or kopjes. The number of cubs born depends on the age and dietary condition of the mother. The litter size is 1 to 6 offspring. Cubs are nursed 6-7 months. Cubs reach sexual maturity at 24 to 28 months in captivity and at 36 to 46 months in the wild. If a pride is taken over by a new male who has defeated the top resident male, he will most likely kill any existing cubs that are under 2 years old.
Tiger: Females will give birth to 2-4 cubs after a gestation of 104 days. They will stay with their mother for up to two years before leaving to stake out their own territories. Males look for territories away from their birth site, but females may sometimes share their mother’s territories. As with lions, male tigers may kill a female's cubs if the cubs are the offspring of another male. This ensures that the female will come into oestrus and bear the new male's offspring. They are active at dawn and dusk.
Fights: Who would win?
L. M. Boyd writing for The Victoria Advocate said:
That the typical tiger is a fiercer fighter than the typical lion is common knowledge. Less widely known is what gives that tiger the advantage. Simple thing. The lion stands on three paws to maul with the fourth. But the tiger balances itself on its hind legs to maul with both front paws simultaneously.
BBC Earth Unplugged decided to compare the strength, agility and intelligence of lions and tigers in this interesting test:
- Lion - Encyclopædia Britannica
- Tiger - Encyclopædia Britannica
- Tigers - Diet and Eating Habits, SeaWorld