Difference between Lion and Tiger

Key Difference: Lions and Tigers differ in terms of size, skull shape and even in characteristics such as stripes and manes.

Lions and Tiger are two of the most confused animals for a lot of people. The most common reason for this is because of how many similarities they share. At first glance, lions and tigers can seem the same, especially the females. The most striking difference between the males is the mane that is supported by the lion, which is absent on the tigers. However, they differ in more ways as well.

Lions is the second biggest Felid (belongs to the cat family) in terms of height and width. It is one of the biggest of the five cats in the Genus Panthera. The male lions can exceed 250 kg (550 lb) in weight. Presently, wild lions reside in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia. Although, at one point lions were in abundance, they are now classified as Vulnerable by the ICUN Red List.

The name ‘lion’ is derived from the mix of Latin ‘leo’ and Ancient Greek ‘leon’. The lions have 12 recognized subspecies, which are distinguished by mane, size and distribution. The lion shares a very similar skull to the tiger, although it is slightly different. A lion’s skull has a frontal region is usually more depressed and flattened, with a slightly shorter postorbital region. The lion's skull has broader nasal openings than the tiger, however, due to the amount of skull variation in the two species, usually, only the structure of the lower jaw can be used as a reliable indicator of species.

The lion is the only Felid species that is sexual dimorphism, which means the males and the females differ from each other in terms of looks. The males differ from males by the mane (the hair around their head), which is not visible in the female. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard but these fade as the cubs grow older. Both the males and the females, have tails that end in hairy tufts. The females are the huntress, while the males take care of the cubs. Lions live in a small group, known as Pride. Each pride may have 2-4 females and their cubs and 1-2 males.

On the other hand, tigers are actually the largest Felid in terms of height and width. It is the biggest cat in the Genus Panthera. Tigers can reach up to a length of up to 3.38 m (11.1 ft) over curves and exceptionally weighing up to 388.7 kg (857 lb) in the wild. They are distinguished from other animals by the black stripes on their body. They have an orange brownish hide that gets lighter underside.

Once, tigers could be found widely across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia; however, they have lost over 93% of their habitat because of human encroachment and poaching (for their hide). Today, they can be found in Southeast and Eastern Asia, a lot of which can be found on the Indian Continent and has been classified as Endangered on the ICUN Red List.

They prefer open grasslands to tropical mangroves with water nearby. They like to swim and wade in the water on hot days. Tigers have muscular bodies and the patterns of their stripes are unique to each tiger. The tiger's stripes are also found on the skin, so that if it were to be shaved, its distinctive coat pattern would still be visible.

The skull is similar to that of the lion, though the frontal region is usually not as depressed or flattened, with a slightly longer postorbital region. The skull of a lion has broader nasal openings. However, due to variation in skulls of the two species, the structure of the lower jaw is a more reliable indicator of species. The tiger also has fairly stout teeth; the somewhat curved canines are the longest among living felids with a crown height of up to 90 mm (3.5 in).

They are a notably sexually dimorphic species, females being consistently smaller than males. The size difference between males and females is proportionally greater in the larger tiger subspecies, with males weighing up to 1.7 times more than females. There is an allele found in the Bengal subspecies that produces the white tiger; however, it is a recessive gene.

Adult tigers lead solitary lives and establish and maintain territories. They scarcely leave their home ranges and look to satisfy their needs and cubs on that range. Tigress usually have smaller territories, while tigers have bigger ones. Cubs usually stay with their mother until they are weaned off and they can go off on their on to mark out their own area.

Lions and Tigers differ in terms of size, skull shape and even in characteristics such as stripes and manes.

Comparison between Lion and Tiger:





























P. leo

P. tigris

Average Recognized Subspecies

Around 12

Around 10

Binomial name

Panthera leo

Panthera tigris

Conservation Status




375-496 lbs (males) 280-396 pounds (females)        

579 pounds (average male) 308 pounds (average female)


coat: tan tail fur/mane: dark brown

Lion colouration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish, or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body

orange with brown-black stripes

Tiger coloration varies between shades of orange and brown with white ventral areas and distinctive vertical black stripes, whose patterns are unique to each individual.

Average Speed

59 miles per hour

37 miles per hour

Average Litter Size



Distinctive feature

For males - mane that is colored tan to dark brown

Stripes all over the body

Teeth and Jaws

3 in. canines and heavy pressure jaws

Wide mouth that has strong teeth 4 in. canines

Brain size

Has the largest brain out of all the big cats except the tiger

Largest brain and reaches maturity faster than other big cats. Their brain is 25% larger than a lion


Second largest living felid in terms of length and width. Has a similar skull to a tiger, but the frontal region is usually more depressed and flattened, with a slightly shorter postorbital region. Has a broader nasal opening. The breed shows sexual dimorphism – where the males and the females differ in terms of looks. The female lacks the mane and both their tails end in hairy tuffs.

Largest living felid in terms of length and width. Have muscular bodies with powerful forelimbs, large heads and long tails. The skull is similar to that of the lion, though the frontal region is usually not as depressed or flattened, with a slightly longer postorbital region.

The tiger also has fairly stout teeth; the somewhat curved canines are the longest among living felids with a crown height of up to 90 mm (3.5 in).

Body Length

Males: 170 to 250 cm (5 ft 7 in to 8 ft 2 in), tail lengths of 90–105 cm (2 ft 11 in–3 ft 5 in).

Females reported head-body lengths range from 140 to 175 cm (4 ft 7 in to 5 ft 9 in), tail lengths of 70–100 cm (2 ft 4 in–3 ft 3 in)

2000 – 3300 millimeters (2 - 3.3 meters)

Males vary in total length from 250 to 390 cm (98 to 154 in) and weigh between 90 to 306 kg (198 to 675 lb) with skull length ranging from 316 to 383 mm (12.4 to 15.1 in). Females vary in total length from 200 to 275 cm (79 to 108 in), weigh 65 to 167 kg (143 to 368 lb) with skull length ranging from 268 to 318 mm (10.6 to 12.5 in).[60] In either sex, the tail represents about 0.6 to 1.1 m (24 to 43 in) of total length.


700 – 1000 millimeters

600 – 1100 millimeters

Average Life Span

12 years in the wild for males and 15-16 years in the wild for females

15 - 20 Years


Rich grasslands of East Africa to sands of Kalahari Desert, South Sahara to South Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest and India's Gir forest. Lions like to live in open woodlands and thick bush, scrub, and tall grassy areas

India to Siberia and South East Asia. They are also found in grassland and swamp margins. They require sufficient cover, a good population of large prey and a constant water supply


Spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours a day. They have bursts of energy from dusk till dawn. The females are more active as they hunt for the whole pack

Tigers establish and maintain territories much wider home ranges within which they roam and they lead solidary lives only in their home range. They do not leave their home ranges. The size of the home range mainly depends on prey abundance, and, in the case of males, on access to females. Tigers are strong swimmers and often deliberately bathe in ponds, lakes and rivers as a means of keeping cool in the heat of the day.

Social activity

Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild felids, most of which remain quite solitary in nature. Some lions are residents, living in groups of related lionesses, their mates, and offspring. Memberships only change with the birth and death of the lioness. An average pride can consist of 5 to 6 females, their cubs and one or two males. Some can be nomads, not belonging to any packs.

Young female tigers establish their first territories close to their mother's. The overlap between the female and her mother's territory reduces with time. Males, however, migrate further than their female counterparts and set out at a younger age to mark out their own area. Tigers are not territorial and prefer to avoid each other. An adult of either sex will sometimes share its kill with others, even those who may not be related to them.


Are scavengers and around half of their diet is provided by carrion. They scavenge animals either dead from natural causes (disease) or killed by other predators. The lioness hunts, while the male lion watches and protects the pride. Since they cannot run for long periods of time to chase their victims, they usually stalk them and sneak up on them in the night. The prey consists mainly of medium-sized mammals, with a preference for wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, and warthogs in Africa and nilgai, wild boar, and several deer species in India.

Tigers feed mostly on large and medium-sized animals, preferring native ungulates weighing at least 90 kg (200 lb). Sambar deer, chital, barasingha, wild boar, gaur, nilgai and both water buffalo and domestic buffalo are some of the eating preferences of the tiger in India. In other places, they also prefer sika deer, moose, roe deer, musk deer, brown bears, boars, orangutan and even certain types of fishes.

Sexual Maturity

24 - 28 Months in Captivity; 36 - 46 Months in Wild

24 - 28 Months in Captivity; 36 - 46 Months in Wild


Reproduction happens after the lioness turns 4 years of age. They mate year around and the lioness can mate year round. Average gestation period is 110 days.

Mating and reproduction happens year around, but is more common during months of November and April. A female is only receptive for three to six days. Gestation can range from 93 to 112 days, the average being 105 days.


The cubs are born blind and do not have vision until a week after birth. They weigh 1.2–2.1 kg (2.6–4.6 lb) at birth and are almost helpless, beginning to crawl a day or two after birth and walking around three weeks of age. The children wean at the age of 6-7 months and reach maturity at about 3 years of age

A litter has around two to three cubs, with some ranging even to 6. Cubs weigh from 680 to 1,400 g (1.50 to 3.09 lb) each at birth, and are born blind and helpless. The females rear the cubs alone in a sheltered den. The cubs open their eyes at six to fourteen days old. By eight weeks, the cubs make short ventures outside the den with their mother. The cubs wean at the age of 3 to 6 months.


Starvation, predation by jackals, hyenas, leopards, martial eagles, and snakes. Buffalos sometimes kill cubs by stampedes.

Starvation and poaching are the most common dangers for tigers. Many people in China believe various tiger parts have medicinal properties, including as pain killers and aphrodisiacs.

Purposefulness to humans

They were initially used for hides and meat, but today they are more useful as stuffed throw rugs, pets and spectators at zoos.

Initially used for their hides and for being trained and paraded and forced to fight humans and other exotic beasts.

Cultural depictions

The lion has been an icon for humanity for thousands of years, appearing in cultures across Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are also used to symbolize royalty and stateliness, as well as a symbol of bravery. They were also considered as gods in Egypt and India.

They are also considered one of the charismatic megafauna. It is also one of the 12 animals that are part of the Chinese Zodiac. The White Tiger is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. The Tungusic peoples considered the Siberian tiger a near-deity and often referred to it as "Grandfather" or "Old man". In Hinduism, the god Shiva wears and sits on tiger skin.

Image Courtesy: universeofsymbolism.com, indiasendangered.com

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