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Can Lions Purr? What Sounds Can They Make?

Does Africa’s apex predator purr? We imagine that a contented lion would purr if they could. However, studies show that the King of the jungle cannot purr. However, lions make a gurgling sound that is often mistaken for a purr, and it has been debated back and forth as to whether they can purr or not.

So, do lions purr? If not, what other sounds can lions make? We’ll answer those questions and more below.

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Can Lions Purr?

Only the smaller cats can purr. That doesn’t just include domesticated house cats, however. The ability to purr can be seen in bobcats, ocelots, cougars, lynxes, and others. Big cats such as lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards have a length of tough cartilage that runs up their hyoid bone into the skull, which prevents them from purring.

However, lions have the equivalent of a purr, which is a gurgling or chuffing sound. Older lions make the sound to establish social bonds with other cats in their den.

What Sounds Do Lions Make?

The gurgling sound is unique, but what other sounds do lions make?

Lion Roar

Lion roaring
Image Credit: blende12, Pixabay

On safari, you will often hear the male lion roaring at night. It’s a low-pitched sound that’s incredible yet chilling to hear. On the other hand, Lionesses give out a medium-pitched roar that’s not as easy to hear as the male’s louder roar.

Lions use their roar as a show of power and dominance. It is used to tell interlopers, and other lions, just how big and powerful they are, and it works well. Not only does the roar tell intruders to back off, but it can also be terrifying to tourists walking around a zoo.

Lion Grunts

If you’re on a safari, the most prominent sound you’ll hear from lions is grunts. Some safari guides have learned to mimic the sounds to communicate with the lions. The grunts are low-pitched, loud, and much more forceful than a smaller cat’s purr or meow.

Lion Snarls and Growls

lion in the jungle
Image Credit: Robertgreene674, Pixabay

The growls and snarls you might hear on safari are from lions and are another way of asserting their dominance. The growls are usually short, sharp sounds and are typically used only within the pride and only when the lion is unhappy with the behavior of another pride member.

Lion Hums, Moans, and Puffs

If you get close to a lion pride, though it’s recommended that you don’t, you’ll be able to hear a few sounds, including hums, moans, and puffs. Happy lion sounds include all of these vocalizations, which means the lions are content.

The lionesses in the pride use the sounds to call their cubs. While most other wildlife mothers use high-pitched, loud calls to warn their offspring of danger, the lioness uses a whisper instead of a shout, and the cubs get the point.

The hums are also a way for the lions to communicate within the pride without giving their location away to others. While these are the sounds you can hear from lions, there are other ways they communicate.

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Other Communication Methods Among Lions

Lions use a lot of body language, such as baring their teeth to scare off predators, standing on their tiptoes, hunching their backs, and lifting their tails to show dominance. When they are happy, lions will nick and gnaw at one another. This is a behavior often seen in the pride’s cubs, especially when they are playing.

Lions will also swat a pride member with a paw or bite them gently on the neck when they are unhappy with something. This is a gentle reminder not to repeat the offense.

What Animals do Purr?

While lions and other large cats don’t purr, some animals do, besides the domestic house cat and the ones we listed above.

  • Badgers
  • Foxes
  • Mongooses
  • Black bears
  • Bobcats
  • Cheetahs
  • Cougars

These are just a few of the animals that purr in the wild. Lions make plenty of sounds, and you can hear several if you’re lucky enough to go on a safari.

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Final Thoughts

No, lions cannot purr, but they emit a sound almost like a purr, which has sparked much debate over the years. The large cats use various sounds and grunts to communicate with the pride and ensure the young ones do not stray too far. Although they do not purr, they aren’t shy about showing their family when they are happy or irritated.

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Featured Image Credit: jean wimmerlin, Pixabay

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