A number of key differences distinguish lions and tigers, despite the fact that these big cats have a common ancestor. These differences have fed the fervent debate over which of the two is the ultimate predator for generations, but it’s the similarities between the two animals that have enabled both to establish themselves as the apex predator in their respective parts of the world.
No Natural Predators
Lions and tigers fear no other animal. They are at the top of their respective food chains and receive almost zero threat from other creatures. While they may face risks to life when hunting, they are never hunted. The only threat to each is the influence of man whether through hunting of the big cat itself or its prey, deforestation and agricultural development leading to fragmentation of habitat.
Almost Equal Size
The tiger is typically the heavier feline of the two. He averages around 500 pounds and his lion cousin weighs in at around 80 pounds less. However, the animals are both approximately around 6 feet tall. The tiger’s superior weight is due to higher muscle mass.
Hoofed Mammal Hunters
Although the method of hunting is one of the key differences between these two cats -- lions hunt in groups and tigers are solitary hunters -- the prey they favor is one of the key similarities between the two. Hoofed mammals are typically the top choice for both lion and tiger. In their respective habitats, tigers hunt deer and buffalo and lions hunt antelope, zebra and wildebeast.
Built for the Hunt
As big cats that have to hunt for their food, both lion and tiger share a number of anatomical features. Both have sharp, retractable claws, both have powerful legs and both have a sharp set of fangs with which to deliver deadly bites to their prey.
Blending in Perfectly
Although they have very different coats, the function of these coats is exactly the same. The lion’s sandy, solid-colored coat performs exactly the same function as the tiger’s stripes -- making each animal practically invisible to its prey until it is too late. Lions live on open plains, and tigers live in the jungle, so each cat’s coat is perfectly adapted to hide them in their natural habitat.
Both tigers and lions have a fearsome, menacing roar. The tiger’s roar can be heard up to 2 miles away. The purpose of the roar is the same for both animals. The big cats use their roar to communicate aggression.
Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.