How Long Do Lions Live: The Oldest Lions

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key point

  • The average lifespan of a female lion in the wild is about 15-16 years, while male lions are usually 8-10 years old.
  • For lions in captivity, the average lifespan may be longer because they have no natural threats.
  • Arjun is the oldest lion ever.

Lions are majestic apex predators that roam the wild where issues such as food availability, natural threats and disease can affect their lifespan. Even with their status as top predators, there are still many threats that cause them to have shorter lifespans in the wild than in captivity.

lion is   You are born strong. Their bodies are programmed to grow strong bones and muscles so they can attack and kill large animals.

in the wild

The average lifespan of a female lion in the wild is about 15-16 years, while a male lion's average lifespan is 8-10 years, depending on the nutrition they receive and their natural habitat. However, once lions reach the age of 10, they start to weaken and cannot support themselves as well as before. Even with these challenges, lionesses live longer than males.

Due to conflicts with other male lions, most of these big cats are unable to enjoy old age and become their proud alpha males. Males must leave behind their innate pride in adulthood, but the struggle to find the strength needed to thrive can lead to an early death.

Lions 10 years of age or older may be exiled for lack of ability to perform tasks required of the pride. Other males challenge each other's authority over the pride before the defeated male is driven out.

If anything, hunger is the biggest killer of lions in this era. Females are raised to hunt in prides, which gives them the advantage of knowing how to feed themselves. They're also able to live with an innate sense of pride when they're older because they don't have to fight for power. In fact, when male lions attack each other, they leave each female lion alone.

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how long do lions live
An old lion patrolling his territory. Lionesses live longer than males because they are used to hunting in packs.

©Peter Betts/

in captivity

For lions in captivity, the average lifespan may be longer because they have no natural threats. Instead, they are cared for by zookeepers who provide them with healthcare, food and other necessities.

There is no challenge of strength that can overthrow a male lion, and no lioness needs to forage for them. The only possible cause of death for most captive lions is their old age.

It's not unheard of for lions to be over 20 years old if the right environment is provided. In some cases (like Arjun and Zenda) they can even live to be 25 or 26 years old. Lions tend to do well in captivity, thriving with the constant attention of their caregivers.

longest life

The record for the longest-lived lion or lioness is somewhat confusing, suggesting that there was once a lion that lived in captivity for 29 years. However, the two animals below appear to be the oldest of all recorded lions or lionesses, thanks to the care they received in captivity.

Types of Leopard Cats - Lions
The average lifespan of a female lion in the wild is about 15-16 years, while that of a male lion is 8-10 years.

©Shawn Levin/

Arjun: The oldest lion ever

While most lions only live to be around 20 years old in good care, Arjun is the longest-lived lion in recorded history. He lives in an animal rescue center in India. He has never spent a day in the wild in his life because he was raised in captivity.

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There are many accounts of his actual age at the time of his death, suggesting that he was between 26 and 29 years old when he died on May 17, 2018. The cause of his death was multiple organ failure, most likely due to his advanced age.

Zenda: The second oldest lion ever

In second place was Zenda, who lived to be 25 in captivity before his death. She lives in the Philadelphia Zoo in the United States and is their African lion. This longevity is much higher than other African lions, as their average lifespan is about 10-14 years in the wild and about 20 years in captivity.

She was born at the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa, where she lived until 1993. When she was transferred to Philadelphia, she came to a pride with two other lionesses and a male. For a brief period between 2004 and 2006, Zenda was transferred to the Columbus Zoo and soon returned to her home at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Zenda passed away on December 29, 2016 after being held in captivity at the Philadelphia Zoo. Her former longtime caregiver of 24 years – Kay Buffamonte – said Zenda was her proud calming peacemaker. At the time, she was healthy, having eaten 10 pounds of steak the Monday before her death.

After suffering more than 24 hours, she was eventually euthanized.

The only sign of her health problems was her sudden loss of appetite.

Ram: Oldest lion living in the wild

While it's difficult to track every known lion in the wild, one named Ram, who appeared to be the oldest living in the wild, died at the age of 16. Since 2009, he has lived in the tourist area of Gir Reserve.

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While most lions don't maintain territorial control for more than three years in the wild, Ram and his brother Shyam managed to maintain it for almost seven years. Ram's death made guards nervous because the cubs under the big cat's dominion would be threatened by other male lions trying to rule the area.

Ram died in India in November 2015.

amazing lion facts

In addition to learning about the oldest lion ever lived, there are many amazing facts about lions that remain to be known. Here are a few, but for more, check out our article 13 Exciting Lion Facts:

  • A lion's roar can be heard 5 miles away!
  • The World's Most Famous Lion – The MGM Lion – Survives Plane Crash!
  • Lions have lost 94% of their habitat and more than 90% of their population.
  • Lions are the only big cats that live in packs.
  • Lions used to be the most widespread of all mammals – except humans!


  • Discover the world's largest lion! Check out the largest living lion. Their size will surprise you.
  • Types of Lions: Every Lion and Lower Classifications. Read about how lions are divided into different species and how they differ.
  • How many lions are left in the world? Are lions an endangered species? Read on to learn about the decline in the world's lion population.

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My name is Rebecca and I have been a professional freelancer for nearly ten years. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessed with cats and pet mice.

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