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Ask the Expert: What makes a lion roar?

Question: What makes a lion roar, and do they roar a lot?

- Liam, age 8


Answer: Just like humans, one of the ways animals communicate with each other is through a variety of sounds. On a visit to the Zoo you may hear many animals huffing, grunting, panting, and, for some big cats, roaring. Lions are very social for large carnivores, living in prides in the wild. Male lions will use their roar to scare off intruders and warn the pride of potential danger. It’s also a show of power among other males.

Lion roars can be heard for up to 5 miles away. That means when the Zoo’s male lion, Doc, roars, everyone notices!

“Now that he’s three, Doc is maturing to the point where he’s starting to vocalize more and more. His roaring is him calling out to everyone that this is his territory and this is his pride,” said Kevin Scotti, a keeper who works with lions and other animals in African Savanna.

Scotti said when Doc first came to Cleveland as a young lion, he didn’t vocalize much, but as he matures and finds his place with females Nala and Serena, he’s gaining more confidence and roars more.

“Whenever I hear Doc roar it makes me stop and check him out – it’s so amazing. When he roars inside his habitat it literally shakes your chest it’s so loud.”

Ask the Expert: Why do lions roar?

Interestingly, there are only four species of the Panthera genus that can roar: lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar. The bones and voice box of these cats can extend and stretch more than other species, which helps create the deep, loud ROAR sound. Cheetahs, snow leopard, puma and other species have anatomy closer to smaller cats - even house cats - so they have vocalizations that sound more like a common “purr.”

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