Since childhood, we’ve all known the lion by its famous title “The King of the Jungle”. So you’d be right to ask, do lions live in the jungle?
Let’s provide you with a clear understanding of why lions don’t live in the jungle or not and if not why they are called the king of the jungle. starting with a summary answer…
Lions do not live in the jungle. Lions live in grassland, savanna, plains, dense scrub, and open woodland. Lions are called the “King of the jungle” because the term “jungle” in places like India and Africa mainly refers to the open and vast space of territory in which lions live.
Lions are called the kings of the jungle for a number of reasons. There are stories and myths behind the title that have shaped our understanding of this meaning. The film jungle book and Hollywood don’t really depict it correctly, so let’s put those aside for a moment and explore the facts and reasons around this saying…
Do lions live in the jungle?
Only a few centuries ago, lions were commonly seen throughout Africa, the middle-east, southern Asia, and even southern Europe. But as of now, lions can only be found in Africa and a small portion of India.
The decline for this comes from humans who always perceive lions as a threat to human lives and livestock.
Aside from this, the prey available for lions to feed on is becoming more scarce. This is due to several environmental factors and human activities.
Here’s the list of what lions eat.
However, wherever they live is not classed as jungle, certainly not as we regard a jungle to look like.
Although it may seem less Jungle-like, lions commonly live in grassland, savanna, dense scrub, and open woodland – and not in the jungle.
Living in a jungle for a pride of lions is not the most suitable location. Lions like to be able to survey the landscape, they like and need good visibility to locate and stalk their prey. The dense undergrowth of the Jungle simply doesn’t provide this view.
Here’s a map outlining the known approximate territories of the Asiatic lion, these more open areas are ideally suited to the way lions lives and hunt…
So then, why has the lion always been called the king of the jungle? Let’s explore why that is next…
How lions came to have the title – The king of the jungle
There are reasons why the title “The king of the jungle” came into being, and why lions were believed to be living in the jungle.
The main reason dates back to ancient times, with the evolution of language, and certain other terms used in different parts of the world that refer to different biomes, regions, and landscapes.
So let’s take a look at them in a little more detail.
The title “the king of the jungle“ most researchers believe seems to have originated from India.
In Hindi (a language used in India) the word jungle means “not an inhabited place”. This covers a variety of meanings – from forest to the wilderness, wold, desert, wasteland, rocky regions, and really, any space without significant human habitation.
In Hindi, the word jungle emphasizes “emptiness” and not actually a forest or the actual meaning of jungle as we all know it to be.
In India, the word Jungle mostly refers to steppe or desert, which actually, are places in which lions live.
As such, in India, their meaning of jungle and where lions live tends to go hand in hand making the title “The king of the jungle” seem far more sensible.
And it’s also important to mention, there are no real tropical forests in India, so this clearly shows in India the jungle is not actually a jungle in the same sense that we all refer to it.
But rather it means only the emptiness like the open-savannah terrain. This is a far more suitable meaning for where lions actually do live.
Modern meaning in rural north India
Even now, in rural north India, the term jungle is used to describe something completely different from the English meaning of jungle.
In these places, jungle means fields, margins of cultivated lands, and even common grazing land.
However, it’s unknown exactly how or why the meaning of jungle in “English” terms contradicts the Indian meaning for the jungle. Where the two languages diverged on the meaning is unclear.
Many though, embrace the English meaning of jungle – which refers to the thick tropical rain forests with tall trees, dense canopies, vines, and dense undergrowth.
Although, lions have been seen passing through the Kafa biosphere reserve. The reserve covers 760,000 hectares of montane rainforest in Ethiopia. However, lions are really only passing through during the dry season.
So that’s the jungle part understood, let’s now look at why lions are called the kings within the jungle…
Why lions are called the king – of the jungle
There are a few reasons, and to help keep this simple, we’ll refer to “jungle” simply meaning the place where lions live, be it the Indian meaning or English meaning.
A true ruler and protector
Lions are highly territorial animals, which means they rule their territory through fame and notoriety. Just like a King, the male lion and even lioness fight to protect their territory from other animals and other pride of lions.
Although they live within a pride, just like a ruler – or a king, the male lion keeps watch over his territory, while the lioness, does the hunting and the rearing of young.
Strangely the lionesses are even ready to fight and die for their territory while protecting the male lion, or “king”.
The lion is considered fearless
Lions can be aggressive and strong in every way – just like kings.
Their hunting style and their aggressive, and fearless nature elevate them as the kings of the jungle.
Aside from defending their territories, they dominate most other wild animals like cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards. They will aggressively hunt down and eat their prey.
Even though, pound for pound, the tiger is larger, stronger and more intelligent. Because Lions works in packs, they have a distinct advantage.
In this manner, lions demonstrate and spread the fear among all the animals around where it lives – its jungle. The unmistakable roar of a male lion even sounds like the king of the jungle.
The lion is a powerful symbol
The power of lions has always been understood since ancient religious times. It has been mentioned in multiple religions, along with their respective symbols.
When lions are used as symbols it’s always to emphasize aspects of kingship, bravery, strength, power, and fearlessness.
Lions represent the symbols of kingship
Here’s one example where the lion has been taken to form a king’s own coat of arms, “King Richard the Lionheart”. In England, the lion is represented across national emblems.
These interpretations only served to enhance the lion’s reputation and therefore the name of the king of the jungle. All the characteristics lions possess mirror those historically sought within a real-life king or ruler.
Here are more reasons why the Lion is held as the image of the King of the Jungle
- With their large flowing mane, they look formidable
- They stand as the leader of a pride of lions
- Lionesses, working as a team bring down larger animals
- Their roar is considered one of the frightening sounds