How Long Do Lions Live in the Wild & in Captivity?

How long do lions live?

Lions have long held the title, ‘King of the Jungle’ because of their strength and unmatched power. The lion is the second-largest animal in the cat family only after the tiger. They are also known to be the laziest of the big cats and can sleep for up to 20 hours each day.

So, how long do these big cats live? In this article, we will break it down for you by breed and habitat.    


How long do lions live?

  • On average, the lifespan of male lions in the wild is 8 -10 years and that of female lions in the wild is 10 -15 years
  • Mountain lions can live for up to 10 years on average in the wild. Whereas in captivity, they can live up to 21 years. 

A Quick Overview of Lions

Before we delve into the lifespan of lions, here is a quick overview.

Lions are the only animals in the cat family that live in groups. The group is called a pride and can be up to 30 lions. The group size is dependent on how much food and water is available.

The lion’s roar is powerfully loud and can be heard up to 8 kilometres away. Male lions roar for reasons such as scaring off an intruder, another lion, or a predator.

They also roar to warn their pride of approaching danger or to simply as a show off to other lions giving them an advantage when it comes to mating.

Interesting, right? Now let us delve into a lion’s life span.

Average Lifespan of a Lion

On average male lions live for 10 -15 years in the wild and females live for 8 -10 years.

As you can imagine, this number varies depending on breed and whether they live in the wild or in captivity. Also, female lions tend to live longer than male lions.

Let’s explore these variations.

How Long do Lions Live in the Wild?

In the wild, lions roam freely, hunt their own food and control their population. There is no human intervention. They roam freely, hunt their own food and regulate their population. When sick or injured, a wild lion is highly likely to die as there is no care given.

The average lifespan of a male lion in the wild is 8 – 10 years old and that of a female lion in the wild is 10 – 15 years old.

A wild-managed lion is born and dwells in the wild but in limited spaces such as game reserves. Due to the boundaries in this environment, their population is managed and controlled.

average lifespan of a lion

The wild managed lions tend to live longer because of the care they receive.

These lions have similarities with the wild lions such as hunting their own prey. They are however accorded human care such as treatment when ill, relocations and contraception if populations get too big for the areas they dwell in.

Wild-managed lions are marked and often named so that park management is aware of their whereabouts and their well-being. The wild managed lions lifespan is 12- 16 years.

Related article: How long do house cats live?

How Long Do Lions Live in Captive?

Lions live for up to 26 years in captive

Captive-bred lions are born in captivity under conditions that encourage frequent breeding. All their needs are met by humans.

This includes their food, water and veterinary needs. It’s rare for captive-bred lions to be successfully released into the wild as they will find it very difficult to fend for themselves and even in generating offspring.

How long Do African Lions Live?

The African wild lion has a lifespan of approximately 15 – 16 years.

This lion is found in the South of the Sahara.

The African lions mate all year round and begin mating at the age of 2 years. Their gestation period is 102 -112 days and they give birth to 2 to 5 cubs during one delivery.

They hunt more at night and during storms because the noise and wind make it harder for the prey to hear and see them. They have a big appetite and can eat up to 40 kg of meat in a single seating. [1]

These lions are highly adaptable and can get their water from plants. They can live in dry areas like the Kalahari Desert.

How Long Do Mountain Lions Live?

In the wild, mountain lions can live for up to 10 years. Whereas in captivity, they can live up to 21 years.

The mountain lion is commonly known as the cougar. These lions have a large body covered in orange-brownish fur and a whitish-grey belly and chest.

The male mountain lions weigh between 52 and 100 kilograms whereas the females weigh between 29 and 64 kilograms.

Mountain lions hunt at night. They majorly feed on deers. On average, a mountain lion will kill a dear about once a week. They also feed on insects, coyotes, rodents and even porcupines.

These lions breed all year- round with females giving birth every two years. At about 15 months, the cubs separate from their mother. In some cases they can stay for as long as 26 months.

Why do Female Lions Live Longer Than Male Lions?

The female lion lifespan is between 10 -15 years, whereas male lions live for 8 -10 years.

Female lions typically live longer than the males. Male lions are involved in fights and conflicts with other lions while trying to gain territorial power which often leads to injuries and sometimes, death.

Also, most male lions are also forced to leave their birth prides when they are adults. This is usually around the age of 2 to 3 years. They are expected to take over another male’s pride. Very few of them are successful in finding territorial power and this therefore significantly reduces their survival rate.

Another reason is that when a male lion becomes weak, he is overthrown by a young, powerful male lion who takes over as the leader of the pride. It’s been observed that the overthrown weak lions do not survive for long.


A lion’s lifespan in the wild is affected by food scarcity, diseases and combats with other pride. Hence the low life expectancy.

In captivity, male lions do not face conflicts and abandonment by their pride, hence, they have a higher lifetime.

The life expectancy of both male and female lions in captivity is 25-26 years. Their cause of death is usually old age.

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