The African lion is considered king for a very good reason. Like any king, it is important that he protect and serve his people. Lions congregate together in what is called prides. Within a given pride, there are usually three to 11 adult females, all of their offspring, and about two to four adult male lions. Ever the social cats, this pride of lions may be spread out across twenty square miles and will need to keep in touch with each other. Roaring allows for the lions to communicate to one another in several different ways, and for several different reasons.
Imagine you are an adult lioness, and you are dutifully mothering several infant lion cubs. The male adult lions will sometimes stray away from the pride to hunt, or to simply patrol the lions territory. Occasionally, a solitary male, or pair of male lions will wander into the territory of an already established pride. It is imperative that the lions of the pride are able to communicate with one another. Unwanted strangers infringing in a lions established territory are dealt with in a very hostile way. The mother lioness listens carefully, as she watches over her lion cubs. The sounds of the male pride mates roaring gives them security in knowing that they are safe from intruders. It is fascinating to consider that the lions roar is much like a phone call home.
Both male and female lions roar, but the male has a roar that can travel up to 5 miles to a human ear. It is uncertain just how far a lion can hear a roar. Almost certainly lions can communicate with each other for well beyond that distance, as they’re hearing is much better than humans. Lions almost always roar at night when they are at their highest activity levels. Interestingly, only lions that are part of the pride will roar. Rogue or solitary lions tend to keep a low profile and want to remain as silent as possible until they establish their own pride. A solitary lion on the African plains will sometimes be killed if it wanders into a pride’s territory.
The African lion is a complex creature who has a social structure second to none of the big cats. Not only is he considered the pinnacle of the food chain, the lion is also considered to be one of the most socially advanced cats as well. It is amazing that the African lion can hear and understand all of the different intonations of fellow cats. They can tell from a roar whether to run, rest easy, or fight. They know if it is a stranger in the area or their own fellow pride mates.
African lions do communicate in a variety of other ways as well. The female lioness has a sound that is distinctive from the male. Her roar, while still quite powerful, is much quieter than the large male lions. The female lioness has the capability to call out for lost cubs, as well as communicating to pride mates to come and back them up in a fight. Pride mates will certainly stick together, and as a rule all of the females will protect cubs of the pride. The male lions tend to be the muscle of the pride.
Is it not ironic how even on the plains of Africa, societal tendencies remain in place? It is very easy to see parallels between humans and the animal kingdom when we look closely. The African lion is a perfect example of nature imitating human life.
Why lions roar can be answered in a very simplistic manner. Lions roar because sometimes they need to communicate with home. The lions roar allows for long distance phone calls.