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Reproduction by and the development of lions

4 March 2016


Identifying estrus

In the lion, the females differ from that of the other large cats in that there is as yet no evidence that they advertise their impending sexual receptivity either by calling or by increasing their scent-marking. Whether this happens because they do not live alone is uncertain, but there should be less need for such advertising within a close pride unit where the males and females interact regularly. A male seems to be able to determine the sexual receptivity of a female by smelling at her anal region, while her behaviour also indicates her readiness to mate. In a pride system this obviates the need for increased calling or scent-marking. When a male detects that a female is sexually receptive he will stay with her until she is ready to copulate and through her estrus period.



Behaviour during estrus

When she is in estrus a female becomes restless and rolls, twists, turns, walks about and eventually lies down in front of a male which follows her movements closely. When the male attempts to mount her, the female may evade him, or she will growl and snarl at him until eventually allowing him to copulate. As in other cats, a male lion sometimes grasps the female at the back of the neck when copulating. Copulations last for eight to 72 seconds (mean: 21 seconds). Lions copulate repeatedly and in one incident in the Serengeti a nomadic male lion copulated 157 times within five hours... (Become a subscriber for more)



Skinner, J D & C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pages 390 - 396.

Sunquist, M and F Sunquist 2002. Wild cats of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pages 294 - 297.

article by Prof J du P Bothma

Other lion articles:

Social behaviour of lions

Cave and Asiatic lions

The interrelationships between the larger carnivores

Hunting and feeding behaviour of the African lion

The morphology of the African lion

The lion



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