Cave Lion

Pantera leo spelaea

The cave lion of Siegsdorf, Germany.
The cave lion of Siegsdorf, Germany.
The cave lion of Siegsdorf, Germany. Reconstruction.
Cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) from the Sloup cave.

The Cave Lion (Pantera leo spelaea) lived about 900,000 to 10,000 BP in Europe. They vanished at the end of the last Ice Age. It seems they were not able to survive the climatic changes at the end of the cold period and the vanishing of the wide grass plains with its many animals. But probably the extinction was caused by man. Either they were hunted because they were Konkurrenten, or they starved to death because the humans hunted and ausrotteten their prey.

Being about 30% bigger than their modern African relatives, they reached a shoulder height of 1.5 m. This bigger size was useful to hunt some of the larger herbivores of the European tundra, namely bison. Most likely it was the biggest cat which ever lived on Earth.

This so called European Lion is also called Cave Lion, because it lived in natural caves during the winter. Several scientists doubt that they really used caves, except probably for a very short time as shelter, so the name is not really deserved. In contrary to the cave bear, there is no good evidence of cave lions living in caves, lion bones are often washed in or carried in by hyenas, which probably used the caves much more frequent, but are generally not called "cave hyena".

There are several cave paintings of European lions, although they are rather rare, compared to other animals. And there is also a famous ivory figurine showing a lion headed person. All those depictions show no mane and no tuft at the end of the tail. Although it could be passible that all the paintings are of females, it is rather unlikely that only female animals were drawn. So generally it is assumed, they really did not have a mane or a tuft.