Tiger versus lion

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Lions and a tiger in a cage at the 1904 World's Fair "At Hagenbeck's." Lions and tiger in a cage at the Hagenbeck's Animal attraction on the Pike at the 1904 World's Fair.jpg
Lions and a tiger in a cage at the 1904 World's Fair

Historically, a comparison of the tiger (Panthera tigris) versus the lion (Panthera leo) [1] [2] has been a popular topic of discussion by hunters, [3] naturalists, [4] artists and poets, and has inspired the popular imagination. [5] In the past, lions and tigers purportedly competed in the wilderness, [6] where their ranges overlapped in Eurasia. [1] [7] The most common reported circumstance of their meeting is in captivity, [8] either deliberately [9] or by accident. [6]



In general, the lion is a social animal, while the tiger is solitary, [2] though at times, male lions are separate from the females, [10] [11] and tigers socialise, usually for mating, and rarely for hunts. [12] There are differing scenarios regarding whether tigers would beat lions in fights, or vice-versa: [6] [13]

Favoring the tiger

Favoring the lion

Coexistence in the Eurasian wilderness

According to Colin Tudge (2011), given that both cats hunt large herbivores, it is likely that they had been in competition in Asia. Despite their social nature, lions might have competed with tigers one-against-one, as they would with each other. [18] Apart from the possibility of competition, there are legends of Asiatic lions and tigers breeding to produce hybrid offspring, which would be ligers or tigons. [19] From the fossil record, besides genetics, [2] [20] [21] it would appear that the modern lion and tiger were present in Eurasia since the Pleistocene, when now-extinct relatives also existed there. [1] [22] [23] Additionally, in the days before Indian Independence, the Maharaja of Gwalior introduced African lions into his area, which is a habitat for Bengal tigers. [24]

Asiatic lion and Bengal tiger

As of the 21st century, India is the only country to have both wild lions and tigers, specifically Asiatic lions and Bengal tigers. [2] [25] Although they do not share the same territory as they did in the past, [6] [12] [26] there is a project which could lead to their meeting in the wilderness. [27] [28]

Asiatic Lion Gir Forest.jpg
An Asiatic lion in Gir Forest, Khathiar–Gir dry deciduous forests' ecoregion, Gujarat, India
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (3619932614).jpg
T-12, the male Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park, Khathiar–Gir dry deciduous forests' ecoregion, Rajasthan, India

The possibility of conflict between lions and tigers had been raised in relation to India's Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project, which was meant to introduce the lions of Gir Forest in the State of Gujarat, to another reserve which is considered to be within the former range of the lion, that is Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, [27] before December 2017. [29] [30] Kuno was reported to contain some tigers that came from Ranthambore National Park, including one called 'T-38'. [6] [28] Concerns were raised that the co-presence of lions and tigers would "trigger frequent clashes". [31] At the same, the American biologist Craig Packer and his students at the University of Minnesota proposed that a pride of lions (two to three males) would have a clear advantage over a tiger and a pride of lionesses (two to four females) would have a similar advantage over a tigress, despite the general advantage of the latter in weight or height. Coalitions of male lions usually fight as a group against territorial rivals, so he mentions that a tiger may have an advantage in a one-on-one encounter, but they also considered that the additional fighting experience and mane perhaps confer an advantage to a lone male lion since the tiger's fighting style evolved in the absence of a mane. Despite all of this, Craig Packer is of the opinion that for Asiatic lions to survive in an area with Bengal tigers, the lions would have to be moved there as intact groups rather than as individuals. [6] Although the habitats of Indian lions and tigers are similar means that they both live in conditions that favour solitary hunters of prey, [13] these lions are social like their African relatives, [32] and may form fighting groups, whereas tigers are usually solitary. [6]

The tiger reserves of Ranthambhore and Sariska in Rajasthan, Gir Forest and Kuno-Palpur are all located in the ecoregion of Khathiar–Gir dry deciduous forests. [33] [34] Otherwise, in Gujarat is the Dangs' Forest, which is a potential habit of the tiger. [24]

Reginald Innes Pocock (1939) mentioned that some people had the opinion that the tiger played a role in the near-extinction of the Indian lion, but he dismissed this view as 'fanciful'. According to him, there was evidence that tigers inhabited the Indian Subcontinent before lions. The tigers likely entered Northern India from the eastern end of the Himalayas, through Burma, and started spreading throughout the area, before the lions likely entered Northern India from Balochistan or Persia, and spread to places like the Bengal and the Nerbudda River. Because of that, before the presence of man could limit the spread of lions, tigers reached parts of India that lions did not reach. However, the presence of tigers throughout India did not stop the spread of lions there, in the first place, so Pocock said that it is unlikely that Bengal tigers played a role, significant or subordinate, in the near-extinction of the Indian lion, rather, that man was responsible for it, [12] as was the case with the decline in tigers' numbers. [1] [2] [23] [12] [26] As such, Pocock thought that it was unlikely that serious competition between them regularly occurred, and that even if Indian lions and tigers met, the chance that they would fight for survival was as good as the chance that they would choose to avoid each other, and that their chances of success, if they were to clash, were as good as each other's. [12]

Asiatic lion and Caspian tiger

Antoin Sevruguin 7 Men with live lion.jpg
Men with a chained lion in Iran, by Antoin Sevruguin, c.1880
Caspian tiger, north iran.jpg
A Caspian tiger killed in northern Iran, early 1940s

Before the end of the 20th century, Asiatic lions [22] and Caspian tigers [20] [23] had occurred in other Asian [18] or Eurasian nations, including Iran. [2] [7] [12] [25] As such, there is a word for 'Lion', [1] [2] [7] which can also mean 'Tiger', [12] [35] and is used in Iran, South Asia and other areas, that is Sher or Shir (Persian : شیر), [36] and its significance is discussed below. Not only did Heptner and Sludskiy talk about the lion and tiger both occurring in places like Iran, Anatolia and Transcaucasia, they also mentioned that the ranges of the lion and tiger often overlapped, occurring in riverine habitats which were abundant in prey like deer and wild boar. [1]

History of observed fights

In the circuses of ancient Rome, exotic beasts were commonly pitted against each other, [9] including Barbary lions [2] and tigers. [37] A mosaic in the House of the Faun in Pompeii shows a fight between a lion and a tiger. [38] There are different accounts of which of these animals gained the victory.[ citation needed ] Although lions and tigers can be kept together in harmony in captivity, [39] fatal conflicts have also been recorded. [40]

In addition to historical recordings, clashes between lions and tigers were reported or even caught on camera [41] in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was not always clear which species regularly beat the other, according to Craig Packer (2015). [6]

In captivity

19th-century etching of a tamer in a cage of lions and tigers, circa 1873 Lion tamer (LOC pga.03749).jpg
19th-century etching of a tamer in a cage of lions and tigers, circa 1873

Arts and literature


Lion and Tiger Fighting by James Ward, 1797 James Ward Lion and Tiger Fighting 1797.jpg
Lion and Tiger Fighting by James Ward, 1797

Battles between the two were painted in the 18th and 19th centuries George Stubbs and James Ward. James Ward's paintings portrayed lion victories in accordance with the lion's symbolic value in Britain, and have been described as less realistic than Stubbs. [51]

The Seringapatam medal shows a lion defeating a tiger Seringapatam Medal obv.jpg
The Seringapatam medal shows a lion defeating a tiger

The British Seringapatam medal shows a lion defeating a tiger in battle; the medal commemorated the British victory at the 1799 Battle of Seringapatam (in the town now known as Srirangapatna in India) over Tipu Sultan—who used tigers as emblems, as opposed to the British emblematic use of lions. [52]


The 15th-century book Anvâr-i Suhaylî (Persian : اَنوارِ سُهيلى, "Lights of the Canopus") talks about the lion and the tiger competing for dominance on the banks of the Tigris River, in the vicinity of Basrah. [53]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tiger</span> Largest species of the cat family

The tiger is the largest living cat species and a member of the genus Panthera. It is most recognisable for its dark vertical stripes on orange fur with a white underside. An apex predator, it primarily preys on ungulates, such as deer and wild boar. It is territorial and generally a solitary but social predator, requiring large contiguous areas of habitat to support its requirements for prey and rearing of its offspring. Tiger cubs stay with their mother for about two years and then become independent, leaving their mother's home range to establish their own.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lion</span> Large cat native to Africa and Asia

The lion is a large cat of the genus Panthera native to Africa and India. It has a muscular, broad-chested body; short, rounded head; round ears; and a hairy tuft at the end of its tail. It is sexually dimorphic; adult male lions are larger than females and have a prominent mane. It is a social species, forming groups called prides. A lion's pride consists of a few adult males, related females, and cubs. Groups of female lions usually hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. The lion is an apex and keystone predator; although some lions scavenge when opportunities occur and have been known to hunt humans, lions typically do not actively seek out and prey on humans.

The term "big cat" is typically used to refer to any of the five living members of the genus Panthera, namely the tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard, as well as the non-pantherine cheetah and cougar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bengal tiger</span> Tiger population on the Indian subcontinent

The Bengal tiger is a population of the Panthera tigris tigris subspecies and the nominate Tiger subspecies. It ranks among the biggest wild cats alive today. It is considered to belong to the world's charismatic megafauna.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gir National Park</span> Forest, national park, and wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat, India

Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Sasan Gir, is a forest, national park, and wildlife sanctuary near Talala Gir in Gujarat, India. It is located 43 km (27 mi) north-east of Somnath, 65 km (40 mi) south-east of Junagadh and 60 km (37 mi) south-west of Amreli. It was established in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab of Junagarh's private hunting area, with a total area of 1,410.30 km2 (544.52 sq mi), of which 258.71 km2 (99.89 sq mi) is fully protected as a national park and 1,151.59 km2 (444.63 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary. It is part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caspian tiger</span> Extinct tiger population in Central and Western Asia

The Caspian tiger was a Panthera tigris tigris population native to eastern Turkey, northern Iran, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus around the Caspian Sea, Central Asia to northern Afghanistan, and the Xinjiang region in western China. Until the Middle Ages, it was also present in Ukraine and southern Russia. It inhabited sparse forests and riverine corridors in this region until the 1970s. This population was regarded as a distinct subspecies and assessed as extinct in 2003.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asiatic lion</span> Lion population in India

The Asiatic lion, also known as the Persian lion, is a population of Panthera leo leo that today survives in the wild only in India. Since the turn of the 20th century, its range has been restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat. Historically, it inhabited much of southwest Asia to northern India.

<i>Panthera leo leo</i> Lion subspecies

Panthera leo leo is a lion subspecies, which is present in West Africa, northern Central Africa and India. In West and Central Africa it is restricted to fragmented and isolated populations with a declining trajectory. It has been referred to as the Northern lion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Khathiar–Gir dry deciduous forests</span> Ecoregion in India

The Khathiar–Gir dry deciduous forests is a mostly arid ecoregion in northwestern India that stretches over 103,100 sq mi (267,000 km2) across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The dry deciduous forests in the region are dominated by teak, and thorny trees and scrub in drier areas.

A Panthera hybrid is a crossbreed between individuals of any of the five species of the genus Panthera: the tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard. Most hybrids would not be perpetuated in the wild as the territories of the parental species do not overlap and the males are usually infertile. Mitochondrial genome research revealed that wild hybrids were also present in ancient times. The mitochondrial genomes of the snow leopard and the lion were more similar to each other than to other Panthera species, indicating that at some point in their history, the female progeny of male ancestors of modern snow leopards and female ancestors of modern lions interbred with male ancestors of modern snow leopards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malayan tiger</span> Tiger population in Malayan Peninsula

The Malayan tiger is a tiger from a specific population of the Panthera tigris tigris subspecies that is native to Peninsular Malaysia. This population inhabits the southern and central parts of the Malay Peninsula and has been classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2015. As of April 2014, the population was estimated at 80 to 120 mature individuals with a continuous declining trend.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian leopard</span> Leopard subspecies

The Indian leopard is a leopard subspecies widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent. The species Panthera pardus is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because populations have declined following habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts, and persecution due to conflict situations. The Indian leopard is one of the big cats occurring on the Indian subcontinent, along with the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, snow leopard and clouded leopard. In 2014, a national census of leopards around tiger habitats was carried out in India except the northeast. 7,910 individuals were estimated in surveyed areas and a national total of 12,000–14,000 speculated.

Mukundara Hills National Park is a national park in Rajasthan, India with an area of 759.99 km2 (293.43 sq mi). It was established in 2004 and consists of three wildlife sanctuaries: Darrah Wildlife Sanctuary, National Chambal Sanctuary, and Jawahar Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located in the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests.

Kuno National Park is a national park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, India. It derives its name from Kuno River. It was established in 1981 as a wildlife sanctuary with an initial area of 344.686 km2 (133.084 sq mi) in the Sheopur and Morena districts. In 2018, it was given the status of a national park. It is part of the Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project</span>

The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is an initiative of the Indian Government to provide safeguards to the Asiatic lion from extinction in the wild by means of reintroduction. The last wild population of the Asiatic lion is found in the region of Gir Forest National Park, in the state of Gujarat. The single population faces the threats of epidemics, natural disasters and other anthropogenic factors. The project aims to establish a second independent population of Asiatic lions at the Kuno National Park in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. However, the proposed translocation has been bitterly contested by the state government.

India is home to a large variety of wildlife. It is a biodiversity hotspot with various ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas in the north to the evergreen rain forests in the south, the sands of the west to the marshy mangroves of the east. India lies within the Indomalayan realm and is the home to about 7.6% of mammal, 14.7% of amphibian, 6% of bird, 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.2% of flowering plant species. India's forests contain about 500 species of mammals and more than 2,000 bird species.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cheetah reintroduction in India</span> Introduction of Southeast African cheetahs in India

Cheetah reintroduction in India involves the attempt to introduce and sustain a small population of Southeast African cheetah in India more than 70 years after India's native subspecies, the Asiatic cheetah became extinct there; the Asiatic subspecies is now found only in Iran in critically endangered numbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tigon</span> Hybrid cross between a male tiger and a lioness

A tigon, tiglon, or tion is the hybrid offspring of a male tiger and a lioness. They exhibit visible characteristics from both parents: they can have both spots from the mother and stripes from the father. Any mane that a male tigon may have will appear shorter and less noticeable than a lion's mane and is closer in type to the ruff of a male tiger.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lake Parishan</span>

Parishan Lake is a lake in Iran. The Parishan Lake is in Jereh and Baladeh District in Fars Province and is the largest freshwater lake in the country. It receives only very small amount of water from feeder rivers and the whole lake or wetland is a protected area, as it is considered a globally significant wetland ecosystem.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gulf of Khambhat</span> Shallow gulf near Gujarat, India

The Gulf of Khambhat, historically known as the Gulf of Cambay, is a bay on the Arabian Sea coast of India, bordering the state of Gujarat just north of Mumbai and Diu Island. The Gulf of Khambhat is about 200 km (120 mi) long, about 20 km (12 mi) wide in the north and up to 70 km (43 mi) wide in the south. Major rivers draining Gujarat are the Narmada, Tapti, Mahi and the Sabarmati, that form estuaries in the gulf.


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Further reading