Tsavo lion

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Maneless lion in East Tsavo National Park

Tsavo lions are a distinct variety of Masai lions (Panthera leo nubica) living around the Tsavo River in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Tsavo males are notable for their lack of mane and smooth pelt, their size, and that they actively participate in hunting. Two Tsavo males have been known as man-eaters, who involving an incident during the building of the Uganda Railway in the late 19th century.

Tsavo males and prides[edit]

Two Tsavo lion males with scanty manes

Males of the Tsavo prides are usually larger than other male lions, and actively participate in hunting. Their prides are unique in that they frequently have only a single male lion, whereas most lion prides have two to eight (usually related) males. Tsavo prides also tend to be larger overall, with an average of 7 to 8 adult females in each group.[1]

Maneless males[edit]

Tsavo male lions generally do not have a mane, though colouration and thickness may vary. There are several hypotheses as to why this is. One is that mane development is closely tied to climate because its presence significantly reduces heat loss.[2] An alternative explanation is that manelessness is an adaptation to the thorny vegetation of the Tsavo area in which a mane might hinder hunting. Tsavo males may have heightened levels of testosterone, which could explain both the Tsavo lion's manelessness and its reputation for aggression. [3] The weak or absent mane of Tsavo lions is a feature, which was characteristic also for the extinct lions of ancient Egypt and Nubia. Adult lion males in egyptian art usually have no mane, but a ruff around the neck.[4]

The Prudhoe Lions, from around around 1370 BC resemble modern Tsavo lions

Attack incidents[edit]

The Tsavo Man-Eaters on display in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.

Two of these lions are known as the Tsavo man-eaters; they attacked workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway in 1898. The total number of people killed is unclear but it is stated there were 135 victims of these lions[5] in less than a year before being found and killed by Colonel John Patterson.


As of 2006, there were an estimated 675 lions located in the Tsavo area, out of the 2,000 total in Kenya. Lions and their prey are officially protected in Tsavo, but they are regularly killed by members of the local population, with over 100 known lion killings between 2001 and 2006. [6]

National Geographic[edit]

An article about lions of the Tsavo area appeared in the April 2002 issue of the National Geographic magazine. The article discusses some of the unique challenges to survival that Tsavo lions face, and why some of the lions may lack manes.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borzo, Greg (2002). "Unique social system found in famous Tsavo lions". EurekAlert. 
  2. ^ Call the Hair Club for Lions. The Field Museum.
  3. ^ Borzo, Greg (2002). "Unique social system found in famous Tsavo lions". EurekAlert. 
  4. ^ Nagel, D., Hilsberg, S., Benesch, A., & Scholtz, J. (2003). Functional morphology and fur patterns in recent and fossil Panthera species. Scripta Geologica, 126, 227-239.
  5. ^ Estimates of the people killed vary; Patterson stated 135; see discussion: Modern research.
  6. ^ Frank, L., Maclennan, S., Hazzah, L., Hill, T., & Bonham, R. (2006). Lion Killing in the Amboseli-Tsavo Ecosystem, 2001-2006, and its Implications for Kenya’s Lion Population.PDF Living with Lions, Nairobi, Kenya, 9.
  7. ^ Caputo, Philip (April 2002). "Maneless in Tsavo". National Geographic: 40–53. Retrieved 23 February 2013.