Mountain Lion Vs. Lion: 11 Key Differences | Misfit Animals (2023)

The main difference between lions and mountain lions is their size. Lions are much larger than mountain lions. Adult female lions are usually over 240 pounds, with males being larger than 350 pounds. The largest male mountain lions weigh around 200-220 pounds. While they are both great predators, they live in different parts of the world. Mountain lions and lions also have many similarities since they’re both felines.

Mountain lions and lions are large felines, that are some of the top predators in their regions. They are both keystone species, and lions are the apex predators in their environments.

They are related and they can look similar, especially from afar. There are enough differences to easily set them apart once you get a better look.

Throughout this article, we’ll look at the differences and similarities between mountain lions and lions. We’ll also see which one is the most efficient predator and who would win in a fight.

Mountain Lions vs. Lions: An Overview

Mountain lions and lions share the overall feline body shape, but lions are much stronger than mountain lions. They are larger and have a stronger bite, so lions have more killing power. Lions and mountain lions also live in different parts of the world.

Mountain lions and lions are both large felines. They are related and share some traits while staying distinct from one another, mainly in size, mane, and habitat.

Here’s a quick comparison of the two:

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TraitMountain LionLion
Height24–35 inches35-45 inches
Avg. Length (with tail)7 feet 10 inches8 feet 10 inches
Weight110–220 lbs240-500 lbs
DistributionWestern North America, Florida, and South AmericaSub-saharan Africa and around Gir National Park in western India.
HabitatFrom rocky mountain plateaus and deserts to tropical forests and swamps. Prefers high elevations and steep environments.Savannahs, grasslands, open woodlands with shrubs, and tropical or moist forests.
Bite force1311 N4400 N
Lifespan8–13 years in the wild8-16 years in the wild

Lions and mountain lions vary in size depending on region, age, and sex, but lions are generally larger.

Small lionesses are a little larger than large male mountain lions. Lions are overall one of the largest felines, only rivaled by tigers.

Related: How Big Are Mountain Lions?

Mountain Lion Vs. Lion: 11 Key Differences | Misfit Animals (1)

Mountain Lions vs. Lions: Taxonomy and Classification

Mountain lions and lions are related, as they are both felines, part of the Felidae family. But the mountain lion is part of the Puma genus, while lions are part of the Panthera genus.

Here’s an overview of mountain lion and lion taxonomy and classification:

ClassificationMountain LionLion
SpeciesPuma concolorPanthera leo

Lions are part of the Panthera genus along with leopards, jaguars, and tigers. Their larynx is different from other felines and this gives them the ability to roar.

While mountain lions look similar to lions, jaguars, and other large cats, they aren’t closely related to them. Genetically mountain lions are closer to other feline species like lynx, bobcat, and domestic cats.

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Mountain Lion Vs. Lion: 11 Key Differences | Misfit Animals (2)

Differences Between Mountain Lions and Lions

The main differences between mountain lions and lions are their size, social behavior, and mane. Lions are much larger than mountain lions and they live in a pride, whereas mountain lions are solitary. Male lions also have their signature mane, a trait unique to them.

Mountain lions and lions are distinct animals. While they are both felines they have many physical and behavioral differences.

Physical Differences Between Lions and Mountain Lions

Here’s a quick overview of the main physical differences between mountain lions and lions:

  • Size: Lions are much larger than mountain lions. Large male mountain lions can reach 220 pounds while male lions are generally heavier than 350 pounds.
  • Proportions: Mountain lions have much smaller heads than lions proportionally to their body size. Mountain lions also have longer legs relative to body size.
  • Build: The builds of the two felines are different. Mountain lions are long and slender, while lions are taller, broader, and more muscular. Lions have the largest percentage of muscle mass of any mammal at around 58%.[1]
  • Colors: Lions are generally a light brown-yellowish color but can also be a yellowish red or darker brown. Mountain lions are usually a tawny color but can be a grayish or reddish color.
  • Differences between males and females: Male lions have noticeably broader heads than females. They also generally have a mane that covers part of their head, neck, shoulders, and chest. Mountain lion females closely resemble males.
  • Tails structure: Lions have unique tails among felines. The last bones in their tail tips are fused together. The tail tip is also covered by a black tuft of fur.
  • Sounds: Lions roar while mountain lions purr.
Mountain Lion Vs. Lion: 11 Key Differences | Misfit Animals (3)

Behavioral Differences Between Lions and Mountain Lions

Besides the major physical differences, behavior is what truly sets mountain lions and lions apart:

  • Social behavior: Mountain lions are solitary like most other felines. Lions are social animals. They form family groups called prides and groups of young males called coalitions. They frequently use group tactics when hunting.[2]
  • Place in the food chain: Both are top predators in their environment, but lions are in fact the apex predator in theirs. The only animals that frequently kill lions are other lions and humans.
  • Males and cubs: Mountain lion males don’t have any influence on the cubs’ upbringing while male lions tolerate and play with their cubs. Male lions also defend their pride, from threats.
  • Adaptability: Mountain lions are versatile and adapt to changes fast. They adapt better to human activity and aren’t as negatively impacted as lions.

Similarities Between Mountain Lions and Lions

The main similarities between mountain lions and “real” lions are their hunting abilities and activity pattern. They are both proficient hunters that can take down large prey, and they prefer hunting under the cover of darkness.

While mountain lions and lions aren’t too closely related they still resemble each other in many aspects:

  • They are carnivores.
  • They ambush hunt to catch their prey.
  • They both have markings when they are cubs but they fade away as they grow.
  • They can see well in low-light conditions.
  • They prefer being active right after sunset and before sunrise.
  • They generally kill their prey by suffocating it.
Mountain Lion Vs. Lion: 11 Key Differences | Misfit Animals (4)

Do Mountain Lions and Lions Ever Meet?

No, mountain lions and lions don’t meet in the wild. They live in different parts of the world. Lions live in Africa, while mountain lions live in the Americas.

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Mountain lions are found across North, South, and Central America. They have a huge range, the largest of any mammal in the western hemisphere. Their range is also much larger than lions’ range.

Related: Where Do Mountain Lions Live?

Lions used to have a large historic range, but it is greatly diminished today. They used to be found throughout most of Africa, southeastern Europe, and from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent.

The African lion is found in scattered, isolated populations across sub-Saharan Africa. The Asiatic lion population is small and limited to the Gujarat region of India, inside Gir National Park and around it.

Mountain Lions vs. Lions: Who Would Win in a Fight?

In a fight between a mountain lion and a “real” lion, the mountain lion would have no chance whatsoever. Lions are larger and stronger than mountain lions. If they could meet in the wild, the lion would dominate every interaction between the two species.

Lions are some of the strongest felines in the world. They are physically superior to mountain lions in almost every way.

An argument can be made for the mountain lion’s superior agility, but that wouldn’t be enough to overpower a lion.

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The largest officially recognized mountain lion weighed 232 pounds. This seems large until you realize that small lionesses weigh about 260 pounds.[3]

Lions are simply massive when compared to mountain lions and weight advantage is one of the most important factors in a fight. A mountain lion has no chance of winning this fight.

Mountain Lion Vs. Lion: 11 Key Differences | Misfit Animals (5)

Which One is More Dangerous?

Both mountain lions and lions are dangerous predators.

Mountain lions are adaptable and hunt for different-sized animals depending on region, competition, and prey availability. They are capable of catching small animals like squirrels as well as large mammals like elk and moose.

Lions don’t generally hunt for small animals. They are large themselves and this wouldn’t be efficient for them. They can kill large animals by themselves, and when they hunt together they can even take down young elephants and giraffes.[4]

Both species can kill humans, but out of the two, lions are more dangerous. They are much larger and there is no way unarmed humans can successfully defend themselves.

While mountain lions can also kill us, many people have successfully fended off their attacks.[5][6]

(Video) Blake Shelton, pronghorns and mountain lions


Mountain lions and lions are similar in many ways, but they are clearly different from each other. Lions are much larger and stronger, they are also social animals that live in groups and cooperate with one another. Mountain lions have adapted better to changes in their environments and to human expansion than lions. If they could meet and fight in the wild the lion would dominate the mountain lion.


What is the difference between mountain lion and lion? ›

What Do Mountain Lions Look Like? Puma concolor means lion of one color. Adult mountain lions have a tan-colored coat — much like the African lion — but are slighter in build with a head that is smaller in proportion to its body. The sexes look alike, though male lions are 30 to 40 percent larger than females.

What makes mountain lions different? ›

Mountain lions are powerfully built, with large paws and sharp claws. Their hind legs are larger and more muscular than their front legs, which gives them great jumping power. They can run fast and have a flexible spine like a cheetah's to help them maneuver around obstacles and change direction quickly.

Why is a mountain lion not a lion? ›

EVOLUTION. The mountain lion (Puma concolor), also commonly known as the cougar, puma, or catamount, are members of Felidae—the cat family. Surprisingly, they are more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat than to any subspecies of lion (O'Brien & Johnson 2007).

What are 3 characteristics of a mountain lion? ›

They are known for their agility, climbing abilities, and their adaptability. Their power, good climbing, and excellent jumping abilities, help them to capture large mammals such as deer, but they also feed on smaller animals, including rodents and insects, when necessary.

What animal can be mistaken for a mountain lion? ›

Yellow lab or shepherd dogs, bobcats, feral house cats or deer are often mistaken as mountain lions. Most reported mountain lion sightings occur at night, in very poor lighting conditions, poor weather conditions, or at very far distances.

What unique adaptations do mountain lions have? ›

The physical adaptations that make mountain lions successful predators include powerful jaws that can crush a prey's neck in one bite, sharp teeth, retractable claws between toe pads to muffle sound as cats stalk, excellent day and night vision, and excellent depth perception so they can attack with accuracy.

What is the difference between a mountain lion and a female lion? ›

The only reliable way to determine the gender of a mountain lion is to look closely at the genital area. Adult and sub-adult male lions have a conspicuous black spot of hair, about one inch in diameter, surrounding the opening to the penis sheath behind the hind legs, and about four to five inches below the anus.

What are mountain lions strengths? ›

Also known as mountain lions or pumas, cougars are known for their strength, agility, and awesome ability to jump. Their exceptionally powerful legs enable them to leap 30 feet from a standstill, or to jump 15 feet straight up a cliff wall.

What are mountain lions known for? ›

Mountain lions are stealthy predators, hunting at night and often lying in wait for prey or silently stalking it before pouncing from behind and delivering a lethal bite to the spinal cord. Typically they prey on deer, but also feed on smaller animals, even insects, when necessary.

What are mountain lions scared of? ›

Despite how large and dangerous cougars are, they'll get scared by a sudden loud noise like any other animal. Plus, you can set alarms on timers to make sure they go off at certain times of the day when you've spotted cougars coming onto your property.

What is the biggest threat to mountain lions? ›

Threats to Mountain Lions​ Scientists agree that habitat loss and overhunting are the major threats to mountain lion populations. While cougars are one of the most adaptable of the large carnivores, they are also vulnerable to extinction in some areas.

Can a human fight a mountain lion? ›

Humans are capable of fending off cougars, as adult humans are generally larger. It is even possible for humans to win a fight against a cougar, such as the case of Travis Kauffman, who choked a juvenile cougar to death when attacked while jogging.

Can mountain lions be friendly? ›

A cougar can be tamed in the sense that it can be used to being around humans in a fairly calm manner. This is essentially what happens with animals held in a zoo. They are still wild animals and can still be dangerous.

What are 4 characteristics of a lion? ›

Lions have strong, compact bodies and powerful forelegs, teeth and jaws for pulling down and killing prey. Their coats are yellow-gold, and adult males have shaggy manes that range in color from blond to reddish-brown to black. The length and color of a lion's mane is likely determined by age, genetics and hormones.

Can mountain lions roar? ›

Mountain lions don't roar, but females have a loud scream, which is believed to attract males. Females have an average of two to four cubs per litter and give birth in a den.

Why do mountain lions scream? ›

Screaming allows for mountain lions to attract male mates. As a result, the answer to why do mountain lions scream is actually quite simple: it's their way of dating! Occasionally, you may hear a male scream, but it is much less common.

What happens if a mountain lion sees you? ›

Make yourself look bigger by hoisting and waving your arms over your head, opening your jacket and speaking loudly. If the mountain lion is acting aggressively or is moving in your direction, the park service recommends throwing sticks, rocks or other objects its way.

What eats a mountain lion? ›

Mountain lions are top predators. They may be preyed on by other mountain lions, wolves, or bear when they are young or ill.

Why are mountain lions rarely seen? ›

Mountain lions used to be found throughout the United States, but due to bounty hunts in the early 1900s and threats such as persecution, trophy hunting, poaching, retaliation in response to livestock depredation, kitten orphaning, poisoning and habitat loss and fragmentation, mountain lions are now only found in 15 ...

What are 5 adaptations of a lion? ›

There are different adaptations to lions, including acute smell, night vision, strong hands, sharp claws, sharp jaws, rough tongue, and loose skin of the abdomen. These characteristics of adaptation assist lions to live in their environments.

What are 3 adaptations of a lion? ›

Adaptations of a lion:
  • The color of the body is slight brown which helps in hiding from the prey.
  • The eyes are located in the front which enables better vision.
  • The strong paws and claws help in holding prey and tearing the flesh.

What is the behavior of a mountain lion? ›

Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet and elusive. They are most commonly found in areas with plentiful prey and adequate cover. Such conditions exist within Point Reyes National Seashore. Mountain lions are an important part of the park ecosystem, helping to keep deer and other prey populations in check.

Do mountain lions stick together? ›

Mountain lions are solitary animals, traveling alone except during mating season or when a female is supporting young. They can be seen at any time of the day or night, but are most active at dawn and dusk, corresponding with deer activity.

How high can a mountain lion jump? ›

With powerful, long hind legs, mountain lions can jump 15 to 18 feet vertically and 30 to 45 feet horizontally. The vertebrae of mountain lions are held together by muscles instead of ligaments, giving them a flexible spine that can arch, twist, lengthen and shorten.

What are 5 characteristics of a lion? ›

Lions has always been considered as the symbol of power, bravery, courage, strength fearlessness and ferocity. These attributes contribute as a building block of his success as a leader.

What are lions weaknesses? ›

To ESPN, the Lions' biggest weakness is also on offense. "There's reason to be excited about the direction that this Detroit roster is trending, but the hole at quarterback makes it difficult to set expectations too high," Linsey wrote.

What are lions special about? ›

The lion has forever been a symbol of strength, power and ferocity. During WWF tours to Africa, seeing the majestic species up-close is sure to be a spine-tingling experience. 10. African lions are the most social of all big cats and live together in groups or “prides.” A pride consists of about 15 lions.

How smart are mountain lions? ›

They're highly intelligent and elusive animals who primarily eat deer and avoid humans; mountain lion predation has even been shown to reduce vehicle collisions with deer. Killing big cats disrupts their social structure and may exacerbate conflicts with humans and other animals.

What is a mountain lions favorite prey? ›

The mountain lion diet consists primarily of deer (both whitetail deer and/or mule deer), but their natural diet will also include a wide variety of other animals, including elk and bighorn sheep, and smaller wildlife species such as rabbit, turkey, raccoon and porcupine.

How tough are mountain lions? ›

And their physical abilities are truly superhuman. Mountain lions can leap over a 12-foot fence from a sitting position, pounce more than 20 feet at a run, and in a sprint hit 45 mph.

What are 3 facts about lions habitat? ›

Lions are most active at night and live in a variety of habitats but prefer grassland, savanna, dense scrub, and open woodland. Historically, they ranged across much of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but now they are found mainly in parts of Africa south of the Sahara.

How long is a lion's memory? ›

The results strongly suggest that lions have the cognitive ability to remember the vocalizations of spotted hyenas even after 10 years with no contact of any kind with them.

What do lions do most of the time? ›

Lions enjoy relaxing and lazing around. They spend up to 21 hours each day resting and sleeping. They have few sweat glands, so they wisely tend to conserve their energy by resting during the day and become more active at night when it is cooler.

Is A mountain lion bigger than a lion? ›

At the shoulder, a mountain lion is anywhere from 2 to 3 feet tall. However, their surprising attribute comes from their length. At 8 feet long from nose to tail, mountain lions rival some of the biggest big cats, including leopards, lions, and tigers. Despite their large size, mountain lions tend to be fairly light.

Are mountain lions just big cats? ›

Mountain lions are members of the Puma lineage in the family Felidae. They have a long evolutionary history. FUN FACT: Cheetahs are also a part of the Puma lineage. Mountain lions and cheetahs are not considered “big cats”, however, they are the largest of the “small cats”.

Are mountain lions just cougars? ›

The mountain lion—also known as the cougar, puma, panther, or catamount—is a large cat species native to the Americas. Mountain lions are large, tan cats. Their bodies are mainly covered in tawny-beige fur, except for the whitish-gray belly and chest.

Is Florida panther a mountain lion? ›

Florida panthers are a subspecies of the mountain lion. They are large, tan cats—their bodies are mainly covered in tawny-beige fur, except for the whitish-gray belly and chest. Black markings decorate the tip of the tail, ears, and around the snout.

Could a human beat a mountain lion? ›

Humans are capable of fending off cougars, as adult humans are generally larger. It is even possible for humans to win a fight against a cougar, such as the case of Travis Kauffman, who choked a juvenile cougar to death when attacked while jogging.

What animal can defeat a mountain lion? ›

By reviewing the scientific literature on competition between pumas and other predators, researchers have found that wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and jaguars often dominate pumas.

Are mountain lions powerful? ›

Their exceptionally powerful legs enable them to leap 30 feet from a standstill, or to jump 15 feet straight up a cliff wall. A cougar's overall strength and powerful jaws allow it to take down and drag prey larger than itself (Fig. 2). Cougars are the largest members of the cat family in North America.


1. Wolf vs Lion - Who Would Win a Fight?
2. All about Cougars (Puma Concolor) for Learners and Interesting Wild Cat Facts
(Animal facts by Datacube)
3. Should You Buy Mountain Lion?
4. LION VS GRIZZLY BEAR - Who Is The Strongest Predator?
5. LION PRIDE VS WOLF PACK - What If They Would Fight?
6. Junior Rangers - Mountain Lions Don't Make Good Pets
(CA State Parks of Santa Cruz)


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