Average length of a lion

What is the average length of a lion? It is probably unwise to provide an average length of a lion because there are quite large differences between male and female lions. What is the point in averaging the length of male and female lions? There is no point in my view, which is why you will invariably see data which distinguishes between males and females.

Comparing the African and Asiatic lion
Comparing the African and Asiatic lion. Photo left: Houston Zoo. Right: Wikipedia. Montage: PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The numbers for the African lions come from R.H.N. Smithers from 1971 in his work The mammals of Botswana. The lengths are head and body. I provide the tail length separately. The information for the Asiatic lions in India comes from R.I. Pocock in his work The fauna of British India, including Solana Burma dated 1939.

I have measurements for three male African lions from Botswana, two lionesses from Botswana (African lions) and three male lions from India (Asiatic lions).

They are as follows – conversion: divide the numbers by 25.4 to convert to inches. So, the first number is 1642 mm or 64.6 inches which is 5.38 feet:

  • Average length of head and body in millimetres of three male lions in Botswana: 1642;
  • The smallest of the three male lions had a head and body length of 1639 mm while the longest had a head and body length of 1830 mm;
  • The average tail length of these three male lions was 941 mm with a spread of between 863-996 mm;
  • The two female lions had a head and body length of 1511 and 2197 mm each with tail lengths of 825 and 965 mm each;
  • The three Asiatic lions in India had and average head and body length of 1947 mm with a range of lengths between 1880-1981 mm;
  • The average tail length of the three male Asiatic lions was 838 mm with a range between 787-889 mm.

The information above comes from the book Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist. The sample is small and therefore these figures are really of individual lions. They are a guideline. Asiatic lions are normally slightly smaller than African lions.

Cecil the lion
Cecil the lion in open land with good visibility. Please click on the image to read about Jane Goodall’s opinion of this scandalous killing. Photo in public domain.

My search on the Internet tells me that male lions have a head and body length of between 1.8 and 2.1 m. In millimetres this is 1800-2100. For females the range of head and body lengths is 1.6 m-1.8 m which in millimetres is 1600-1800.

Incidentally, lions are slightly smaller than tigers and they are, therefore, the second largest cat on the planet. The dimensions.com website says that the head and body length of lions is between 1.4-2 m this is 1400-2000 millimetres.

The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is less precise. They state that male lions grow to lengths of 10 feet or 3 m. This is a head and body length and they say that their tails are between 60-91 cm long.

The Lions Foundation states that male lions can reach a length of 200 cm which is 2000 mm. Their tails have a length of about 85 cm. Females are “a bit smaller and lighter”.


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