Lions are not just different from their smaller relatives, but from other big cats, as well. Most cats prefer to live and hunt alone, getting together only for mating. Lions, on the other hand, are very social. They live together in groups called prides.
A pride consists of several related females and their cubs, plus at least two to four adult males. When the cubs grow up, some of the young females stay in the pride with their mother, aunts, and sisters. Other females leave to form their own prides. All the young males leave when they are about three years old. They wander around looking for a new pride to join. A pride usually has about fifteen members but it can have as few as four lion or as many as forty.
Lions are the only members of the cat family whose males and females do not look alike. In addition to being bigger than the female, the male lion has an impressive mane that makes him look even larger than he actually is. The male’s main job is to defend the pride’s territory and protect the females against intruders, so it helps to look as big and scary as possible. Without his showy mane, the male lion would be just another cat.