Communication

Due to their social nature, lions have one of the most complex communication behaviours of any of the cats. Lions make a variety of calls, each with a grading of volume, intensity, tempo and tone including roars, grunts, moans, growls, snarls, meows, purrs, hums, puffs and woofs.

Lions roar for a number of reasons; advertising territorial ownership, intimidation of rivals, locating pride members and strengthening social bonds. Roaring is most commonly done when the lions are most active, and as such can be heard mostly at night, especially just before dawn. 

Lions show little interest in the odour of other species, but olfactory communication between lions is well developed. Anal sniffing is common when greeting, and males often smell females in heat to assess status. Pride males will spend a lot of time urine spraying territory boundaries, and all lions scuff the ground with their rear claws from the age of two-years old. 

The greeting ceremony is performed whenever lions meet to reaffirm social ties and confirm pride membership. It begins with the two lions approaching each other, often moaning softly and licking their lips, before rubbing their heads together, and moving on to rubbing each other’s sides, usually with the tail held high or draped over the other lion. Greeting lions often rub against each other so hard that one may be pushed over.