Lion vs. Tiger: What Makes Each a Powerful Predator

Get ready for the biggest and "baddest" fight in the animal kingdom. It's a showdown between the two largest cats in the wild: lion vs. tiger.

It's a topic discussed by many in the past: the comparison between the two most ferocious and powerful big cats in the wild — the lion, traditionally also known by the nickname "King of the Jungle", and the wild tiger.

Two of the largest cats in the wild (other big cats being the jaguar, the leopard, and the snow leopard, as well as the cheetah and the cougar), lions and tigers are also Apex predators: i.e. they are predators on the top of the food chain and have no natural predators. While we know of these two big animals from the cat family as being the fiercest predators in the wild, let's take a look at who would win in a real fight between a lion and a tiger?

Lion vs. Tiger: Behavior and Temperament

The battle between the lion and the tiger goes back to the circuses of Ancient Rome, where exotic beasts were commonly pitted against each other — for example, at the end of the 19th century, the Indian maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda had arranged a fight between the two big cats for an audience of thousands.

Although the lion (Panthera leo) and the tiger (Panthera tigris) are both famously known for their reputations as fearsome predators from their respective native countries — the African lion inhabits the plains of East and South Africa and the Asiatic lion roaming in India's Gir forest, and the most common tiger subspecies, the Bengal tiger, being native to Asia — there are significant behavioral differences between the two cats.

Wikipedia tells us that one of the most significant differences between the two is that while the lion is usually a social animal, the tiger is a solitary hunter. Also, lions hunt and live in groups known as lion prides — so lions can often attack tigers by ganging up on them as a big group.

Lion vs. Tiger: Bite Force and Fighting Styles

When comparing the size and weight between lions and tigers, tigers are heavier: with the average weight going up to 800 pounds, where the lion weighs up to 550. However, the two largest cats in the wild don't differ too much in size. In general, male lions weigh between 411 to 496 plus pounds and female lions (a.k.a. lionesses) weigh between 261 to 316 plus pounds. Whereas an adult male tiger weighs between 200 to 660 plus pounds and a female tiger (a.k.a. tigress) weighs between 143 to 368 plus pounds.

When it comes to bite force, even though both lions and tigers have a set of around 30 teeth, tigers have longer and sharper teeth — inflicting a deeper and more damaging wound on their rivals. Tiger teeth are about 4 inches long, while the teeth of a lion are about 3 inches long, thus leading to a bigger bite force — the bite force quotient (bite force divided by the animal's body mass) of the lion is 112, while it's 127 for the tiger.

When it comes to fighting styles, these two big cats cannot be any more different. A tiger fights standing on their hind legs (or back legs, if you prefer!), while lions have to stand on three legs and attack with only one forepaw, hitting in a paw swipe motion. Therefore, it is often deemed that the tiger is a better fighter.

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