top of page

Lion Cubs


Lionesses are first able to reproduce when they are 3 to 4 years old, and can reproduce year-round. Pregnancy lasts for around three and a half months (average 110 days). When a lioness is close to giving birth, she will separate from the pride and find a safe and secluded denning site, often in thick vegetation or even inside a cave. Here, she will give birth to a litter of between 1 and 6 cubs, who she will keep hidden until she re-joins the pride when they are around two months old.

Pregnant or lactating females can be identified by their prominent teats, as seen on this lioness in Nyerere National Park, Tanzania. 


Cub characteristics

Cubs are born with a spotted coat and blue-grey eyes which open shortly after birth. Their eyes change colour to amber at 2 to 3 months, and the spotted coat fades with age – although faint spots on the belly and legs can persist into adulthood. Like humans, lions are born without teeth: cubs’ milk teeth erupt when they are around a month old, and are replaced with adult teeth as they get older. Cubs are also born without tail tufts, and young males only start to develop their mane at around 6 months old.

The distinct spot markings on the coat of this young male will fade as he grows older, and the tufty fur around his neck will continue to grow into a mane.

Shared care & feeding

When multiple lionesses in a pride have cubs, they will share care of their cubs by forming a “crèche”. Lion cubs are completely dependent on milk after birth, and cubs in a crèche will suckle from any lioness that is lactating. Cubs can start supplementing their diet with meat when they are 4-6 weeks old, and will gradually eat more and more meat until they are fully weaned off milk at around a year. Lion cubs will practice stalking and hunting techniques through play when they are young, and are able to begin joining hunts when they are a year old – although they still rely on adults for food until they are at least 2 years old.


Cub survival & mortality

Survival is quite low among young lion cubs, with an average of 60% of cubs dying within their first year. One of the major causes of cub mortality is infanticide: when new males take over a pride they will kill unrelated young cubs so their mothers will be able to mate again, and bear the new male’s cubs. Lion cubs are also susceptible to starvation and disease, and can even be trampled by buffalo. However, once cubs have made it through their first year their chance of surviving substantially improves!

A large male lion guards his mate. When males take over a pride, they will kill young cubs so that females will be ready to mate sooner.

Lion Landscapes - where large carnivores and people can thrive

African lions are now confined to a number of isolated areas, amounting to only about 8% of their historic range. Much of this shrinking distribution has been due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction.

Today, over 50% of the wild lions remaining live in unprotected range lands, shared with people and livestock. To secure lions and other large carnivores in the wild, we must therefore make their conservation valuable to the people who share the landscape with them. We work with local communities and conservation partners to create landscapes where both large carnivores and local people can thrive. Read more about our Lion Conservation Programmes.

Support our work

By donating to Lion Landscapes, you are providing vital funds that are used to support local conservation projects.
bottom of page