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European Lion


european lion

The European Lion (public domain)


European Lion; also known as Panthera leo europaea, Panthera leo tartarica and Panthera leo fossilis


Plains of Europe

Historical Epoch:

Late Pleistocene-Modern (1 million-1,000 years ago)

Size and Weight:

Up to 4 feet high and 400 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; maneless females


About the European Lion:

Panthera leo, the modern lion, included a bewildering array of subspecies in early historical times. At least three of these--Panthera leo europaea, Panthera leo tartarica and Panthera leo fossilis--are referred to collectively as the European Lion; these big cats inhabited a broad swath of Europe, ranging from the Iberian peninsula to as far east as Greece and the Caucasus. (Not to confuse matters further, but the European Lion probably descended from the same ancestor as the Asiatic Lion, Panthera leo persica, the remnants of which can still be found in modern India.) Tantalizingly, the European Lion is referenced numerous times in classical literature; the Persian king Xerxes encountered some specimens when he invaded Macedonia, and this big cat was almost certainly used by the Romans in gladiator combat. Like other Panthera leo subspecies, the European Lion was hunted to extinction by humans, either for sport or to protect villages and farmland.

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