Lions (Panthera leo) and tigers (Panthera tigris) live in very different habitats in the Old World. Except for a small Indian population, all lions in the wild live in Africa. Tigers inhabit areas of Asia, including India and the Russian Far East. While they are very different from one another, they do share a few features and behaviors.
Both the tiger and the lion are species of Panthera, a genus in the subfamily Pantherinae that includes the roaring big cats. Other Panthera species include jaguars (Panthera onca) and leopards (Panthera pardus). Other genera in Pantherinae include the clouded leopard (Neofelis) and snow leopard (Uncia). Pantherinae is joined by the small cats subfamily (Felinae) in the taxonomic family Felidae. Members of Felinae include cheetahs, ocelots, pumas and other cats that cannot produce a loud roar and are typically much smaller than the big cats.
These two species are the largest living species of cats, although tigers are larger than lions. Male Siberian tigers can weigh more than 900 pounds and reach a total length of 12 feet. Male lions, on the other hand, typically weigh up to 600 pounds and are a maximum of 10 feet long. The size of the individual varies on a number of factors, although subspecies and sex greatly influence the size.
Tigers are solitary and often live most of their lives alone. As such, they're skilled at hunting on their own. Lions, on the other hand, live in sometimes large family groups known as prides. The members of the pride hunt together and portray communal behaviors for various activities. Although lions and tigers have very different hunting styles, both rely heavily on large ungulates as the main part of their diets.
The tiger is listed as endangered, according to the U.S. Endangered Species List. While exact numbers are unavailable, it's estimated that fewer than 5,000 tigers exist in the wild. Lions, on the other hand, are listed as vulnerable, except for a small population that inhabits a small area of India which is listed as endangered.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Panthera Classification
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Pantherinae Classification
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Felidae Classification
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Panthera Tigris
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Panthera Leo
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Lion Facts
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Tiger Facts
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.