Barbary Lion Facts

Discover the best Barbary lion facts about its appearance, habitat, and Barbary lion extinction.

The Barbary lion, Panthera leo leo, is an extinct species of lion known for its majesty and ferocity. This powerful lion resided in the Barbary Coast area of Maghreb from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco to Egypt. It is also called the Panther Leo, Atlas lion, Egyptian lion, Berber lion, and the Nubian lion. In the wild, Barbary lions are extinct and there remain fewer than a hundred descendants of the original Barbary lions in the world's zoos.

This king of the jungle formerly lived in the wooded highlands of North Africa, in areas abundant with greenery and rocks. It hunted red deer barbarians, wild boars, and Cuvier's gazelles. Their color ranges from light to dark tawny. Males have dark and long brown manes, extending over and out of the shoulder, to the belly. They are massive in size and are often referred to as the largest lion subspecies. These magnificent cats were also gifted to the royal family of Morocco in the 19th century. Few people realize that the Barbary lions and the popular African lion are not the same subspecies! Keep reading to discover more Barbary lion facts about this fascinating variation!

If you like reading about the fierce Barbary lions, then read our fun facts about the lion and the mountain lion here too!

Barbary Lion

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Large mammals such as deer, stags, wild boar, and gazelle

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

551-661 lb (250-300 kg)

How long are they?

7.9-8.5 ft (2.4-2.5 m)

How tall are they?

3.2-3.9 ft (1-1.2 m)

What do they look like?

Beige and dark brown

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Hunting and low breeding rate

What is their conservation status?

Extinct in the wild

Where you'll find them



The Atlas Mountains in North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia)





Scientific Name

Panthera leo leo





Barbary Lion Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Barbary lion?

A Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo) is a species of lion. These majestic cats are extinct in the wild now, but they used to be found in the wooded highlands of North Africa. The Barbary lion has a long and glorious existence, they were even housed in the menagerie at the Tower of London, as these magnificent lions were prime attractions at luxury British hotels.

What class of animal does a Barbary lion belong to?

The Barbary lion belongs to the class Mammalia. Their original scientific name was Felis leo, but later on, in 1930, it became a member of the Panthera genus. Thus in 2005, it was finally named Panthera leo leo.

How many Barbary lions are there in the world?

There are less than 100 Barbary lions currently in the world. The Barbary lion population has declined gradually over the 19th century, especially in Morocco.  

Where does a Barbary lion live?

The Barbary lion (extinct in the wild now) was prevalent in Northern Africa. The Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo) vanished entirely in the early 18th century apart from a stray population in the Atlas mountains (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia). Due to the lack of moisture on the eastern side of their native region, their population was scarce. Also, until around 1884, these lions roamed Chelia's cedar forests and Algeria's surrounding mountains.

What is a Barbary lion's habitat?

The typical Barbary lion habitat was found in the green and wooded highlands of North Africa. Some of these lions also lived in sub-Saharan habitats. Hunting in a group was commonly witnessed among these lions. Because of the colder temperature in the Atlas Mountains during winter, Barbary lion males developed long-haired manes.

Who do Barbary lions live with?

Barbary lions of Northern Africa used to live alone or with a mate and cubs. They used to often bump into the African leopard and the Atlas bear but didn't live with these animals as they were competing predators in the region. Today these lions living in zoos often have a mate to breed with.

How long does a Barbary lion live?

A Barbary lion's life span is 12-15 years

How do they reproduce?

Barbary lions used to breed in the month of January and their gestation period lasts for 110 days.  These African lions give birth to two to six cubs at a time on average. The cubs of a wild Barbary lion had an average weight of 3.3-3.7 lb (1.5-1.7 kg) and these cubs could open their eyes six days after birth and were able to walk only after 12-13 days! Wild cubs used to stay with their mothers up to the age of two.

What is their conservation status?

Barbary lions of Northern Africa are extinct in the wild as per the IUCN's Red List. Barbary lion populations dropped dramatically by the middle of the 19th century and the suffering of this cat was worsened by deforestation and the scarcity of food. In 1942, in Morocco, the last Barbary lion was shot by a French hunter but, until the '50s, this lion sub-species was frequently spotted in Algeria and Morocco. The rest of their population is assumed to have lasted until the '60s. This lion sub-species' genes are most probably present in many lions housed in zoos across Europe and North America. many zoos also are part of a global breeding program working towards the continued survival of Barbary lions. Conservationists hope and believe that Barbary lion reintroduction to North Africa can be achieved but it will take extensive planning and a lot of hard work.

Barbary Lion Fun Facts

What do Barbary lions look like?

These North African lions are large in size and are often described as the largest sub-species of lions. The Barbary lion characteristics that stand out are their bold manes, their large body, and their warm colors. The color of a wild Barbary lion ranges from dark to light tawny and this magnificent cat has a big mane. Barbary lion manes reach to their elbows and stretch above their shoulder and beneath their belly. Their mane hair is between 3.1-8.7 in (8-22 cm) long, and females do not possess these manes. This cat's head-to-tail length range is 7.9-8.5 ft (2.4-2.5 m) and it stands tall, as high as 3.2-3.9 ft (1-1.2 m).

Barbary lions are majestic lions that are very large in size and have long-haired manes.
* Please note that this is an image of a lion, not a Barbary lion specifically. If you have an image of a Barbary lion please let us know at

How cute are they?

These tawny Barbary lions are royal lions who have shaggy manes and strong, muscular bodies. From afar, these powerful beasts are big, fierce, and golden creatures.

How do they communicate?

The Atlas lion communicates through its stealthy body movements as well as its loud, powerful, and deep roar. Each roar implies a different meaning. The lioness and lion also lick, purr and gnaw at each other.

How big is a Barbary lion?

The average Barbary lion size is huge. The head-to-tail length of an Atlas lion is 7.9-8.5 ft (2.4-2.5 m) and they can reach a height of 3.2-3.9 ft (1-1.2 m).  The manes of these lions alone have a length range of 3.1-8.7 in (8-22 cm). They are three times the size of an average dog.

How fast can a Barbary lion run?

The Barbary lion of Northern Africa has a top speed of 49.7 mph (79.9 kph).

How much does a Barbary lion weigh?

The Barbary lion weight range is between 551-661 lb (250-300 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Males are known as Barbary lions whereas the females are known as Barbary lionesses.

What would you call a baby Barbary lion?

Babies of the Barbary lion are called cubs.

What do they eat?

Their techniques of hunting were never adequately studied, although they are known to have strangulated their prey to kill it. This lion subspecies used to feed on large mammals such as deer, stags, wild boar, and gazelles in the Atlas mountains. Cheetas and hyenas were the lion's natural enemies and they were often found fighting with each other for food.

Are they dangerous?

This lion subspecies is quite dangerous and aggressive. They are fierce and powerful cats that are quick on their toes and they can prey upon humans if provoked.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these are wild cats and would definitely not make good pets.

Did you know...

The Romans used Barbery lions in the Colosseum for entertainment!

Barbary lions that were kept in captivity in the Tower of London, were presented to the royal families of Morocco and Ethiopia as presents! When the royal family went into exile, they divided the royal lions among zoos.

Barbary lions were housed in circuses and hotels in the 19th century.

Barbary lion vs. lion

Wide dark manes are one of the main characteristics of Barbary lions that makes them stand out from other lions. Their skull-to-body ratio is also significantly higher than that of other lion populations, indicating that they have wider heads.

Barbary lion vs African lion

Barbary lions weigh between 551-661 lb (250-300 kg), whereas an African lion weighs on average 400 lb (181 kg), with the female weighing on average 275 lb (125 kg).  The arms of Barbary lions are also shorter and their torsos are more sturdy and powerful

Barbary lion vs. Siberian tiger

The Barbary lion measures between 551-661 lb (250-300 kg), while the Siberian tiger is the largest of the tiger subspecies, weighing roughly 847 lb (384 kg).  As well as being heavier, the Siberian tiger is also physically superior to the lion as it is much more powerful and quicker, tougher, and wiser. This species also possesses the biggest canines in the cat family. Whilst a Barbary lion could kill some tigers, in a fight against these Siberian tigers, these royal lions would probably lose.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the white tiger, or the Siberian tiger.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our realistic lion coloring pages.



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