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Who would actually win a fight between a tiger and a lion?

Such theoretical questions and the silly debates they encourage are sources of great interest and intrigue for many of us.

Anyone with any inclination towards imagination may have a hypothesis backed up with carefully constructed considerations…or, so they suppose.

So let’s connect with our wild side and do tiger vs lion for real. Read on for a battle of the giants, and who would win, tiger vs lion.

What Do We Know About Tigers and Lions?

The King of the Savanna - Black and White

The lion enjoys the title of undisputed king of the jungle. So the answer to “who would win lion vs tiger” is obvious. Lions are the kings right? Erm, no.

The mythical image of lions roaming around heavily overgrown jungles, making other jungle inhabitants shrink and quake in their presence, is fundamentally wrong on every level.

Lions live almost everywhere in Africa apart from the jungle. And lion prides don’t have kings either.

A jungle-dwelling lion with a ferocious roar is a story sold in children’s books and kids’ cartoons. And seriously, what kind of real lion rules from a throne?

Lions live almost exclusively on the vast savannas and far-reaching plains of Africa. They much prefer the yellow dust and the scorched land, to the brown, damp dirt of covered jungle floor.

No animal can lay greater claim to being king of any jungle than the tiger.

Majestic Bengal tiger in typical jungle habitat

Many tiger species’ natural habitat is, in fact, a jungle. So it already has an unassailable lead over the lion in the race for jungle royalty supremacy.

But before we can definitively conclude which of these carnivorous cats would be victorious in a fatal feline fight, we must cast an objective eye over their respective strengths and weaknesses.

So, let’s take a closer look at tiger vs lion. Here are two undoubtedly magnificent and equally unparalleled specimens.

Different Species of Lions and Tigers

An angry male member of the Olkiombo pride, growling

The lion

To attempt to answer who would be left standing in a duel between these two super-heavyweights, it’s important to think beyond tiger vs lion. Both animals have multiple species. So which tiger and lion will be stepping into the ring?

There is only one major species of lion, named ‘Panthera leo’. There are a small variety of subspecies, such as the white lion and Asiatic lion. However, the physical and behavioural differences are quite minor and few in number.

Lions are lions, 190 kg apex predators that rule their environment. And since we celebrate wild Africa at Africa Freak, let’s take the Africa Panthera leo into the lion vs tiger duel.

The tiger

Bengal tiger staring at the camera

In contrast, the tiger family contains a hugely diverse array of shapes, colours and sizes.

There were once nine clearly defined species of this majestic cat, predominantly named based on the region they originated.

Sadly, three of the tiger categorizations find themselves on the list of extinct animals – Caspian Tigers, Bali Tigers and Javan Tigers.

Others hover precariously, poised to follow into the abyss if something isn’t done to revitalize their numbers – the Sumatran Tiger and the South China Tiger, being the most endangered.

Not wanting to contribute further to their dwindling numbers, we cannot select either of the above species to take part in our metaphorical melee. A possible loss of one more Sumatran or South-China tiger could be detrimental to their already receding ranks.

So, to make the fight fair, from those species still left living and breathing, which will you select for tiger vs lion?

Siberian tiger vs lion

Siberian tiger running in the snow at full speed

Keeping in mind that Siberian tigers are significantly bigger than their closest tiger relatives, this may be a fight that even the most fearless lion would not want.

Imagine two of the sumo world’s heaviest wrestlers lying on top of each other…with you underneath their combined weight (300 kg)! Only then can you get a sense of how it would feel to be sat on by a fully grown Siberian tiger.

Weighing a colossal 320 kg, these big daddies of the tiger family dwarf all other cats creeping on all-fours.

As the largest of all the big cats, Siberian tigers are the super-heavyweights of these hypothetical contests. Unlike sumo wrestlers, Siberian tigers are also incredibly fast. It’s a perilous prediction to think this muscle-bound beast can be beaten to the punch or outmanoeuvred. But maybe they can.

A tiger has a top speed of 50-65 km/h over short bursts. Lions can reach a remarkable 80 km/h. Both have a leaping jump of eight metres, so there is little separating Siberian tiger vs lion.

But we can’t put a 190 kg lion in against such a 320 kg super heavyweight. Let’s make lion vs tiger a little fairer.

Bengal tiger vs lion

Beautiful male Bengal tiger in stealth mode

Instead, we nominate the brutish Bengal tiger as the ideal adversary for the lion.

Larger than most but a little closer to a lion’s overall size, the Bengal will more than hold its own. A fit and healthy Bengal tiger can reach a mass of around 225 kg (500 lbs).

It’s big enough to brawl, but not so over-sized that the bout is over before it begins.

The everyday fight fan wants to see a fair and evenly matched contest. A Bengal tiger vs a lion could be the perfect combination, to make sure that a massacre is avoided and the event goes past the first few rounds.

Arguably the most well-known among its tiger realm, the Bengal would be the perfect predator to draw in the crowds for the tiger vs lion show.

Tiger vs Lion – Physical Attributes

Mohican the male lion in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Let’s assume that the combatants in this make-believe battle are male.

In the case of both tiger and lion, males are much bulkier than their female counterparts and the main event on any fight card is always the heavyweights.

However, if female tigers and lions were to scrap it out, the fight would still be fierce and brutal.

Lion vs tiger – size

Out on the African savanna, a respectably proportioned male lion can reach a weight of 200 kg (440 lbs). Female will struggle to tip the scales at 130 kg but they are faster and better hunters.

It’s a similar story in the tiger realm, with an almost identical disparity between the weights of the male and female – males weighing approximately 220 kg, while females weigh in at around 130 kg.

As the largest great cat prowling the Earth, we may assume that the tiger possesses a greater ability to out muscle its cat cousins. But muscle does not always translate into power.

Tiger vs Lion – Stamina

Bengal tiger walking along the lake in Ranthambore National Park

The tiger

Spanning the globe, from as far afield as the sub-zero temperatures of Siberia to the sweltering and scorching nations of Asia, the tiger is an adventurous and versatile creature.

Not averse to a cross-country or cross-continent trek, taking days or weeks, often at amazingly high altitudes, the tiger’s day-to-day activity is more taxing than a lion’s stresses and strains can ever be.

Naturally constructed to stalk and stride across all terrains for tens of miles at a time, the tiger could probably be fight-ready tomorrow.

The lion

Male lion napping on top of a sand dune, in the Kalahari desert

In complete contrast, the lion’s short supply of stamina means it will have to do everything to make a tiger vs lion fight a quick knock out.

Lions sleep or doze for 16-20 hours a day. In comparison to tigers they have small home territories. They don’t need to roam as their territory provides great food to attract grazers.

However, lions can withstand the sun, so maybe if lion vs tiger took place in the midday heat they would gain an advantage.

Another misleading metaphor is the phrase, ‘heart of a lion’. Lions have a comparatively compact heart and lungs. They don’t have the necessary respiration to keep up the pace with a tiger.

The lion will be out of gas pretty quickly if it tries to stand toe-to-toe and trade blow-for-blow with this ‘pur-fectly’ conditioned opponent.

Tiger vs Lion – Fight Night

The ring walk

Pride of lions walking through the Masai Mara grasslands

The lion

As a social animal that is rarely seen outside the safety of its pride, the lion will almost certainly make his way to the ring enveloped by an enormous entourage.

His pre-match posse may give a false sense of protection to the lion, before he inevitably has to stand alone before his much bigger and stronger competitor.

He could come into the ring with a song from The Lion King, but that won’t scare anyone. So how about Iron Lion Zion by Bob Marley?

The tiger

Bengal tiger in the rain, Ranthambore

Having spent most of his adult life in solitary, roaming grasslands and rainforests, wading through thick, sticky wet swamps, the tiger will possess little apprehension towards this latest challenge of cat-to-cat combat.

He will swagger through the gathered crowds with a scornful expression smeared across a whiskered face. There will be little doubt or indecision in the mighty cat’s mind. He knows that he owns the obvious authority and the greater number of physical assets to win the battle of the cats.

“It’s the eye of the tiger, the thrill of the fight, risin’ up to the challenge of our rival.” Okay, maybe Survivor is a little too obvious for the ring walk music but how else does the tiger enter the ring? 🙂

The face-off

It is said that a dog’s bark is often worse than its bite.

As a pair of animals who don’t have the ability to bark, the roar is the go-to form of communication for a tiger or a lion when things are getting a little edgy or tense.

With both boasting an impressively intimidating capacity to cry out in a reverberating roar, which of these two rivals can project the most noise and make his opponent nervous?

Both can bawl out a roar that echoes for many miles, striking fear and panic into anything or anyone within earshot.

So ready for it. Seconds out… ding ding, it’s time for the tiger vs lion fight.

The Tiger vs Lion Fight

Tiger vs Lion Fight

Of course they are not going to fight. Sorry to disappoint anyone wanting a definitive answer to who would win in a tiger vs lion fight.

At Africa Freak we celebrate wild Africa. So let’s celebrate what these incredible animals can bring to the world, not just a hypothetical boxing ring.

Both lions and tigers are the apex predators of their environment.

Both are endangered, because too many people believe they can take on tigers or lions with guns.

So how about a different fight. Anyone can claim a real tiger or lion skin if they can kill one with their bare hands. No weapons, no assistance, nothing else. Just man vs cat.

We will never know the outcome of lion vs tiger, because these animals do not have overlapping habitats. But we do know who wins when it comes to a fair fight between lion or tigers and human. So let’s keep it at that.