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lion

lion, large carnivore of the cat family, Panthera leo, found in open country in Africa, with a few surviving in India. Lions have short-haired coats of tawny brown, with the tail ending in a dark tuft. Most males have black or tawny manes of varying length growing from the head, neck, and shoulders. The mane may be quite long and magnificent, giving the lion the imposing appearance that has led it to be known as king of the beasts in folklore; studies indicate that long manes are typical mainly of cooler climate lions. Grown males are about 9 ft (2.7 m) long including the 3-ft (90-cm) tail, stand about 3 ft (90 cm) at the shoulder, and weigh up to 400 lb (180 kg). Females are smaller and lack manes. The lion is anatomically very similar to the tiger although it is different in habitat and way of life.

Lions are the only cats that are social rather than solitary. They usually live in groups called prides, which vary in composition but may occasionally include as many as 30 individuals. The lionesses do a considerable part of the hunting. There is no definite breeding season. They inhabit grasslands, scrubland, and semidesert areas, where they hunt antelope, zebra, and other large herbivorous animals, as well as domestic stock. Lions also eat carrion. They do not normally attack humans unless wounded or provoked; under unusual conditions they may prey on humans, but even old and sick animals are more likely to subsist on rodents, insects, and other small prey.

In early historic times lions ranged over Eurasia from E Europe to India and over all of Africa. They were eliminated from Europe and the Middle East by the beginning of the 2d cent. AD and from most of the rest of their range in recent times. They are now numerous only in E and S Africa, although even there they are severely reduced in numbers. The lion subspecies of central and especially W Africa are even more severely reduced. At the beginning of the 20th cent. a few pairs remained in India and were preserved as tourist attractions in the Gir forest (now Gir National Park) of Gujarat state in W India. This group had increased to 290 individuals in 1955 but, although still protected, has been somewhat smaller since; they are the only remaining Asiatic lions. In early Christian symbolism the lion represented Jesus and has also represented St. Mark. For the constellation and sign of the zodiac see Leo.

Lions are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.

See the many books by J. Adamson; G. B. Schaller, The Serengeti Lion (1972); A. E. Pease, The Book of the Lion (1986).

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lion

lion the lion is traditionally taken as the type of strength, majesty, and courage, the ‘king of beasts’, and has been used as an epithet of successful and warlike rulers.

A lion is the emblem of St Mark and St Jerome; the lion of St Mark is a winged lion emblematic of St Mark the Evangelist; one of the four animals of the tetramorph.
a lion in the way a danger or obstacle likely to be imaginary; from Proverbs 26:13.
the lion's den a demanding, intimidating, or unpleasant place or situation (to beard the lion in his den is to confront a powerful and dangerous person on their own ground).
the lion's mouth a place of great danger, as in Proverbs 22:21.
the lion's provider the jackal, from the traditional belief that the jackal went before the lion to hunt up his prey.
the lion's share the largest share of something.

See also ass in a lion's skin, British Lion, lions, a live dog is better than a dead lion at live1, March comes in like a lion, a mouse may help a lion, Nemean lion, twist the lion's tail.

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lion

li·on / ˈlīən/ • n. a large tawny-colored cat (Panthera leo) that lives in prides, found in Africa and northwestern India. The male has a flowing shaggy mane and takes little part in hunting, which is done cooperatively by the females. ∎  (the Lion) the zodiacal sign or constellation Leo. ∎ fig. a brave or strong person. ∎  an influential or celebrated person: a literary lion. ∎  (Lion) a member of a Lions Club. PHRASES: throw someone to the lions cause someone to be in an extremely dangerous or unpleasant situation.

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lion

lion Large cat that lives on African savannas s of the Sahara, and in sw Asia. It is golden yellow with light spots under the eyes. The male is instantly recognizable by its deep neck mane, which darkens with age. The female does most of the hunting and preys on antelopes, zebras, and bush pigs. Length: to 2.5m (8.5ft) overall. Family Felidae; species Panthera leo.

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lion

lion ME. li(o)un, leoun — AN. liun (F. lion) — L. leō, leōn- — Gr. lēōn.
So lioness XIII. — OF.

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lion

lionBrian, cyan, Gaian, Geminian, Hawaiian, ion, iron, Ixion, lion, Lyon, Mayan, Narayan, O'Brien, Orion, Paraguayan, prion, Ryan, scion, Uruguayan, Zion •andiron •gridiron, midiron •dandelion • anion • Bruneian •cation, flatiron •gowan, Palawan, rowen •anthozoan, bryozoan, Goan, hydrozoan, Minoan, protozoan, protozoon, rowan, Samoan, spermatozoon •Ohioan • Chicagoan • Virgoan •Idahoan •doyen, Illinoisan, IroquoianEwan, Labuan, McEwan, McLuhan, Siouan •Saskatchewan • Papuan • Paduan •Nicaraguan • gargantuan •carbon, chlorofluorocarbon, graben, hydrocarbon, Laban, radiocarbon •ebon • Melbourne • Theban •gibbon, ribbon •Brisbane, Lisbon •Tyburn •auburn, Bourbon •Alban • Manitoban • Cuban •stubborn •Durban, exurban, suburban, turban, urban

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Lion

LION

Called in the Talmud "the king of the beasts" (Ḥag. 13b), the lion has many Hebrew names: (אַרְיֵה (aryeh) or אֲרִי (ari), and לָבִיא (lavi) fem. לְבִיאָה (levi'ah), both of which are used for the lion in general, כְּפִיר (kefir), usually a young lion, לַיִשׁ (layish), mostly poetical, and according to some, "an old lion," שַׁחַל (shaḥal), general name for the lion in poetry, though like שַׁחַץ (shaḥaẓ) perhaps the intention is any fierce animal, and גּוּר (gur) almost always meaning "a lion's whelp." The first five are all mentioned together by Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 4:10–11), on which Rashi comments that ari is the large lion, shaḥal the medium-sized one, and kefir the small lion, while the first six are cited in Sanhedrin 95a. (Note, however, that Rashi in commenting on Ezekiel 19:5 says categorically that all references to kefir in the Bible refer to a grown mighty lion.) Similarly, Kimḥi breaks the different terms for lion into categories of size in his comment to Judges 14:5. More likely, though, the different terms with the exception of gur, "cub" (Nah. 2:13) are synonyms employed by the biblical poets. In fact, lavi (= Akkadian lābu), shaḥal, and layish (= Akkadian nēšu; l/n interchange) are attested only in poetry. In the Bible there are more than 150 references to the lion, many of them descriptive, metaphoric, and allegorical. To the lion were compared the tribes of Judah (Gen. 49:9) and Dan (Deut. 33:22); Balaam said of the Israelites: "Behold a people that riseth up as a lioness (lavi), and as a lion (ari) doth he lift himself up" (Num. 23:24); the mother of the kings of Judah was compared to a lioness and her sons to lion (gureha) cubs (Ezek. 19:2–3). David, of whom it was said that his "heart is as the heart of a lion" (ii Sam. 17:10), declared in his lament over Saul and Jonathan that "they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions" (ibid. 1:23). This combination of the lion, the king of the beasts, and the *eagle, the king of the birds (the biblical reference is to the *vulture), is very common in later Jewish art, particularly on the Holy Ark, and occurs in Ezekiel's vision of the lion, the ox, the eagle, and the cherub (Ezek. 1:10; 10:14). In Solomon's Temple there were carvings of "lions, oxen, and cherubim" (i Kings 7:29), while a lion with eagle's wings symbolized in the Book of Daniel (7:4) the kingdom of Babylonia. The lion is mentioned several times together with the bear as the most powerful beasts of prey (Lam. 3:10; Prov. 28:15; i Sam. 17:34; et al.). When a lion attacks its prey there is no escape from it, being mentioned in many parables, as when Amos (3:12) declares that a shepherd can rescue out of its jaws no more than "two legs, or a piece of an ear." Nor is a lion in the least frightened even when shepherds gather to chase it away (Isa. 31:4). An encounter between a man and a lion is usually fatal to the former (i Kings 13:24; 20:36), lions having killed new settlers in the cities of Samaria (ii Kings 17:25), and having claimed victims, according to Jeremiah (5:6), in the land of Judah. Only in exceptional instances was a lion slain in such a clash, as when encountering a man of great personal courage such as Samson (Judg. 14:6), David (i Sam. 17:34), and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada (ii Sam. 23:20). Among the Samaria ivories of the ninth century b.c.e. are two representations of lions (image in idb 3, 137). From the eighth century is a seal inscribed, "property of Shema, servant of Jeroboam," with an engraving of a lion (Ahituv, 206).

From the Bible it is clear that lions did not permanently inhabit populated areas; their haunts were the mountains of Lebanon (Song 4:8), Bashan (Deut. 33:22), the thickets of the Jordan (Jer. 49:19), and the desert regions of the Negev (Isa. 30:6). From there they invaded populated areas, penetrating deeply and regularly, in particular at times of drought when wild animals, their usual prey, had decreased in number. Lions also multiplied when the country lay destroyed and derelict. In the neighborhood of Ereẓ Israel long- and short-maned lions were to be found. There are evidences that there were lions in the country in mishnaic and talmudic and even in crusader times (in the Negev). The last lions in the Middle East were destroyed in the 19th century.

[Jehuda Feliks /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In Folklore and Art

The lion figures prominently in folklore as a result of two main references to it in the Bible: the appellation of Judah as "a lion's whelp" (Gen. 49:9; Dan is also so called in Deut. 33:22, but the lion is always associated with Judah) and as one of the figures in the divine chariot of Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:10). A secondary motif is connected with the statement of Judah b. Tema (Avot 5:20) "Be as strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleet as a hart, and brave as a lion to perform the will of thy Father who is in heaven."

Based on the image of the Lion of Judah in Genesis, the name Aryeh ("lion") became a common Jewish personal name mostly in all combinations with Judah and with Leib (Loeb), its German or Yiddish translation, thus giving the composite names Judah Aryeh, Judah Leib, and Aryeh Leib. The Judah mentioned in the verse, however, is associated not only with the son of Jacob of that name, but with the tribe, and particularly with the House of David (cf. Rashi ad loc.), and as a result the Lion of Judah became one of the most common of Jewish symbols. It is also one of the appellatives of the king of Ethiopia, who according to Ethiopian tradition is descended from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The rampant Lion of Judah is a favorite embellishment of the synagogue ark, the mantle covering the scroll of the Torah, etc. The Lion of the Divine Chariot is one of the four figures of Ezekiel's merkavah (divine chariot) which consisted of a human being, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Different opinions are expressed in the Talmud as to the permissibility of reproducing these figures, but the general consensus is that the only reproductions wholly forbidden are either the four together or the complete human form (see *Art). On the other hand, almost complete freedom was accorded in the reproduction of the lion, possibly both because of its national association as described above and because of the figures of lions upon the laver in Solomon's Temple (i Kings 7:29) and especially in the steps leading to his throne and on its sides (ibid. 10:20).

*Jacob b. Asher opens his Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim with the above-quoted passage of Judah b. Tema, and the four animals mentioned in it have often been made the subject of paintings. The word lion is often employed figuratively in a laudatory sense, mostly referring to an outstanding scholar. Thus Joshua b. Hananiah refused to controvert the ruling of Eliezer b. Hyrcanus after the latter's death because "one does not answer a lion after its death" (Git. 83a). Ḥiyya is called "the lion of the brotherhood" (Shab. 111a); a scholar, the son of a scholar, is called "a lion, son of a lion," while one of no such distinguished parentage is called "the lion the son of a jackal" (bm 84b); and Simeon b. Lakish expressed his admiration for the learning of Kahana, who had come to Ereẓ Israel from Babylon, in the words "a lion has come up from Babylon" (bk 117a). In one instance, however, it is used in a pejorative sense. Proselytes to Judaism who convert for selfish personal motives are called, in contradistinction to gerei ẓedek, righteous proselytes, "the converts of lions" (e.g., Kid. 75b), the allusion being to the Samaritans who adopted the worship of yhwh only because of their fear of lions (ii Kings 17:25–28).

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

bibliography:

Lewysohn, Zool, 68–70, no. 114; Y. Aharoni, Zikhronot Zo'olog Ivri, 2 (1946), 222; F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), passim. add. bibliography: W. McCullough and F. Bodenheimer, in: idb 3, 136–37; S. Ahituv, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions (1992).

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lion

lion.
1. Carved representation of lions' masks in Classical architecture, especially on cornices (e.g. temple of Aphaia, Aegina (c. 490 BC)).

2. Emblem of St Mark, so common in Christian iconography.

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