Male Lions Are Bullshit

Image: AP

I’ve been waiting for a long time to bring this up, and now that the live-action Lion King is on the cusp of its release, I finally can. You know male lions? With their big, impressive manes and earth-shaking roars? The so-called “kings of the jungle” (which makes no goddamn sense, by the way)? Yeah, those male lions. Bullshit.*

National Geographic has brought attention to something I’ve been ranting about at house parties and on (inevitably failed) first dates for quite some time now, which is that in lion prides, the females should an enormous amount of the work. They hunt. They guard territory. They raise the cubs. If there’s cleaning to be done or furniture to be assembled, I’m confident they do that, too. The males, meanwhile, do absolute jack shit. They loaf around in the sun and blink. Sometimes they yawn. When food shows up—food they probably did not help kill—they demand first dibs. They’re the living worst.

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“Females are the core. The heart and soul of the pride. The males come and go,” Craig Packer, a lion researchers and director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, told the outlet.

It goes on to point out that you probably don’t even remember the name of Simba’s mom in the Lion King, do you? Also bullshit. (Her name is Sarabi.) That’s the ostensible news peg, but let’s get back to the issue at hand, which is how ineffectual real life male lions are:

“Females define their territory. They’ve grown up there and have been listening to neighbors roaring their whole lives,” says Packer, a National Geographic Society grantee. And if their pride gets too big, the females will even carve out a new territory next door for their daughters to take over and start their own pride. Ninety-nine percent of all the members of a lion pride are related females, he says.

He points out that male lions can’t stick around a single pride because they’re already related to all the lions there, and, you know, incest. Fine, I guess. So what do male lions do when they’re not running off to find new families? “They come and go, mostly spending their time fighting each other and teaching male cubs how to survive when they eventually leave the pride.” Sounds important.

I will say that a 2013 study found that male lions do hunt more than previously thought—because their style of hunting tends to be less visible, it’s generally been overlooked by researchers. I don’t know, though. Sounds like an “I wasn’t sleeping in this bush, I was hunting!” excuse to me, but it’s possible I’m just a bit jaded.

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*Still not okay to kill them, though.

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