Mountain Lions vs Lions All Differences Explained


You’d easily be forgiven for thinking that mountain lions and lions are the same animals, with one living in the mountains and one not. Still, they are completely different animals that have many differences. Perhaps there would be less confusion between the two animals if mountain lions were called by one of their other names more often, as they are also known as cougars, pumas, and panthers.

How To Tell Mountain Lions and Lions Apart

1. Size

Despite them sharing a similar name, lions are much, much heavier than mountain lions. Male lions weigh in at around 190kg and females at 130kg, while mountain lions are anything between 50-100kg for a male and 30-65kg for a female. Lions can grow to be around 10 feet long, head to tail, while mountain lions are around 7-8 feet long.

2. Location & habitat

Lions and mountain lions live in completely different countries and habitats and will never be found in the same area. Lions live predominantly in Africa, with one small population surviving in India, while mountain lions are native to America. The habitat of a lion is mainly grassland and savannah or open woodland where it is easier for them to hunt. Mountain lions, as the name suggests, generally live in the mountains or areas with steep canyons, although they have been known to live in forest areas and lowlands too. Mountain lions are used to cold winters and snowy weather, whereas lions are used to warmer climates.

3. Tail

One of the most easily distinguishable features between mountain lions and lions is their tails. Whether male or female, all lions have a tail that has a tuft of darker hair on end, while mountain lions do not.

4. Prey

Mountain lions and lions are both carnivores, but they eat different things due to their different habitats. While mountain lions eat mainly deer and small animals such as rabbits and mice, lions have a much more varied diet. They eat elephant calves, hippos, giraffes, antelope, buffalo, birds, and smaller animals.

5. Family orientation

One of the most common things you hear about lions is “a pride of lions”, and that is because they generally always live in groups called prides. Unlike many other cats, lions are social animals, and the pride usually consists of a primary male lion and a couple of younger males and around five or six females and their cubs. A female lion will most of the time stay with the same pride for her entire life, while males stay for between three and five years. By contrast, mountain lions are solitary animals that prefer to be alone unless they are mating or are rearing cubs. As such, they are rarely seen in another adult’s company.

6. Gestation

Although both mountain lions and lions can breed all year round, mountain lions generally give birth in the spring when the weather is warmer so that the cubs have a better chance of survival. Also, mountain lions carry their cubs for 91 days, while lions give birth after 110 days.

7. Pawprints

Although lions and mountain lions appear to have the same paw print – both show four toes with the claws retracted – a lion’s paw print is far bigger than a mountain lion. Lion prints are often more than 4 inches long, while mountain lions are around 2.5 – 3.5 inches.

8. Mane

The great, shaggy mane of a male lion is certainly an impressive sight to see on such a proud beast. However, it is completely absent on a mountain lion.

9. Sound

Lions are famed for their spine-tingling roars that speak volumes about their sheer size and strength, but by comparison, a mountain lion is unable to roar. Females can let out an ear-piercing scream, but it is nothing like a lion.

10. Colour

Mountain lions and lions have a similar coat color, but it is not the same. Mountain lions are a solid, single color which is usually a tawny color with dark hair around the mouth and back of the ears. Lions can vary in color from the very rare white lion to a range of yellowish gold colors. The manes of the male lions can go from pale tan to black.

11. Chromosomes

Although you probably wouldn’t expect it, a mountain lion has more chromosomes than a lion does – a mountain lion has 42, while a lion only has 38.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are mountain lions and lions the same species?

Answer: No, mountain lions are Puma Concolor, while lions are Panthera Leo. Although they belong to the same family class – Felidae – lions belong to the subfamily group Pantherina, while mountain lions belong to Felinae. These are known as smaller cats that can purr but not roar.

Question: Which would win in a fight – a mountain lion or a lion?

Answer: Although they are both ferocious hunters, there are unlikely to ever be any circumstances where a lion and a mountain lion would meet. However, a lion is more likely to win due to its much greater body mass, which would probably enable them to overpower a mountain lion in a fight.

Question: Are mountain lions dangerous?

Answer: As with any predator, a mountain lion can be dangerous to humans, especially if they are cornered or feel threatened or are protecting their young. However, there have not been many attacks on people, with only 125 attacks in the last 100 years, and only 27 of them were fatal. Statistically, you are at a far greater risk of being attacked by a dog than a mountain lion.

Question: What do mountain lions eat?

Answer: Mountain lions eat mainly deer and elk, but also smaller animals such as rabbits, hare, mice, and occasionally insects.

Question: How do mountain lions kill their prey?

Answer: Mountain lions stalk their prey and then pounce on them from behind, biting them on the back of the neck. They kill their prey either by breaking their neck or by suffocation from clamping their jaws on the neck of the animal they have attacked.

Question: Do mountain lions grow a mane like lions?

Answer: No, mountain lions don’t grow manes like lions.

Question: Are lions endangered?

Answer: Lions are classified as “vulnerable,” which means that their numbers are declining and are under threat.

Question: Are mountain lions endangered?

Answer: No, mountain lions are not endangered. They were classed as being “Under Threat” for several years but are now classified as “Least Concern”, which means that their population is healthy and their numbers increase again. However, they are still at risk of destruction to their habitat and poaching of their prey animals.

Question: Do mountain lions live in prides like lions?

Answer: No, they are extremely solitary animals that live and hunt alone. The only time you will see more than one mountain lion is when they are mating or when a female is rearing cubs.

Question: Are lions bigger than mountain lions?

Answer: Yes, lions are much bigger and heavier than mountain lions, weighing around twice the weight of mountain lions in most cases and often more.

Question: Why are mountain lions also known as cougars?

Answer: Mountain lions are also known as cougars, pumas, and panthers. They get called “panthers” due to their official species name, “Puma Concolor“. As mountain lions are extremely widespread across America, the names panther and cougar are just believed to be popular names given in the area where they lived.

Question: Do lions have any predators?

Answer: Lions do not have any predators as there are no animals that actively hunt and kill them. However, they face competition from other animals such as hyenas for their food once they have made a kill. Also, animals such as hippos are more than capable of defending themselves against a lion attack and injuring or killing a lion.

Question: Do mountain lions have any predators?

Answer: No, they do not have any natural predators, but occasions when a pack of wolves or bears could kill or injure them if they are competing for the same food.

Question: Why do mountain lions cover animals they have killed?

Answer: If a large animal, such as a deer, that a mountain lion has killed, then it covers the carcass once it has eaten its fill to hide it from other scavengers. This is to return to the remains and eat from it again over the next few days.

Question: Why don’t mountain lions roar?

Answer: Mountain lions do not roar like lions because they are not physically able to. This is because they have a solid hyoid, which is a bone that holds the trachea and the larynx, whereas the trachea and larynx in a lion are connected by cartilage which is much more flexible.

Question: How many cubs do mountain lions and lions have?

Answer: Mountain lions have between one and six cubs in each litter, while lions usually only have two or three.