The lion is a muscular cat with a rounded head. Like many animal species, there are differences in appearance between males and females, in particular the adult male lion has a distinctive mane which the species is known for. Like many mammals, male lions are larger than female lions by approximately 10 to 15%. Lions are a social species that typically fare less well outside of a group. A typical pride of lions tends to have a few adult males alongside a greater number of females, as well as their offspring. Once the male cubs reach a certain age, they will often leave to form prides of their own or attempt to usurp the males of their pride.
Lions are mostly found in grasslands and savannas today, although it is speculated that they have inhabited dense forests in the past. One of the advantages that lions have in more open areas is that they are better adapted to hunting during the day than the night, although they can adapt to hunting in night conditions when necessitated. Historically, lions ranged throughout all of Eurasia, Africa, and North America but today are almost completely restricted to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is not fully understood why lion populations have historically declined, but in more recent times it has been highly speculated that human development has played a role.
The lion has also played a role as a cultural icon for a number of different countries, in many cases countries that have never had lions as a part of the native wildlife. In particular, a lion is featured alongside a unicorn on the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. There are many speculative reasons as to why the lion features so prominently in European culture, with one of the main reasons believed to be stories that were passed on from travellers who told natives about large cats that they had seen in other parts of the world. During the Roman Empire, lions were a highly sought out attraction as part of a menagerie.
Lions are currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, meaning that they are at risk of decreasing in population if their environments come under threat or lions themselves are poached. Lions have become locally extinct in a number of regions in Africa, notably the Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of the Congo which was once considered to be a lion stronghold during the 1990s. By 2014, there were no recorded lions in the region, although the populations were not necessarily killed, it remains unclear what happened to the lion population of that region. Currently a number of charities are dedicated to ensuring that lions have safe habitats to live in.