(Leo, or Panthera, leo), large, powerfully built cat of the family Felidae, and the second largest of the big cats (after the tiger). The proverbial "king of beasts," the lion has been, since earliest times, one of the best known of wild animals. It is now found mainly in parts of Africa south of the Sahara. A few hundred lions, constituting an Asiatic race, live under strict protection in the Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat state, India. The preferred habitats of lions are grassy plains and open savanna.
The lion is a well-muscled cat with a long body, short legs, and large head. It varies considerably between the sexes in both size and appearance. A full-grown male is about 1.8-2.1 m long, excluding the 1-metre long tail; stands about 1.2 m high at the shoulder; and weighs170-230 kg. The female, or lioness, is smaller, with a body length of 1.5 m, a shoulder height of 0.9-1 m, and a weight of 120-180 kg. The lion's coat is short and varies in color from buff yellow, orange-brown, or silvery gray to dark brown, with a tuft on the tail tip that is usually darker than the rest of the coat. Lionesses are more consistently tawny or sandy in color.