Would the largest living primate overthrow the king of the jungle? The lion is a possessor of great strength and might. But do not undervalue the power of a Great Ape.
Gorillas are stocky and powerful primates with muscular chests and shoulders, massive hands, and forearms much shorter than the upper arms and robust legs. They have a black hairless face with small eyes that are close together and tremendous nostrils. Adult males have a prominent sagittal crest along the midline of their skull indicating exceptionally strong jaw muscles, and gray or silver hairs on the lower part of their back hence their name silverbacks. Females have the crest too but it is not as pronounced as the males.
Lions have been admired throughout history as symbols of courage and strength. Their body is well-muscled with a large head and short legs. The lion’s coat varies in color from buff yellow, silvery gray, or orange-brown to dark brown, with a tuft at the tail tip that is usually darker than the rest of the coat. Being sexually dimorphic creatures, males have a thick mane that covers the back of their head and neck, and shoulders, continuing to the chest to join a fringe along the belly. The manes are dark and make the males look larger and stockier enough to intimidate their rivals.
Both lions and gorillas can weigh an impressive 300 to 500 pounds however, their females weigh around half this size. Gorillas can reach a height of 1.6-1.7 meters (5.5feet) when standing on 2 feet, which is exactly the average height of an adult human though they are much heavier and fatter.
Lions, on the other hand, is about 1.8 to 2.1 meters (6-7 feet) long, excluding a meter tail and a shoulder height of 1.2 meters. Lionesses have a much smaller body length of 1.5 meters and a shoulder height of 0.9-1.1 meters.
Gorillas typically live in the green, volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, although some subspecies are found in montane rainforests with elevations of between 1500 to 3500 meters and in bamboo forests between 2500 to 3500 meters above sea level.
In contrast, lions are well distributed in the grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands of Africa and some parts of Asia and Europe. In Africa, they are largely found in the sub-Saharan region.
Lions live in family units called the pride of about 2 to 40 lions, which comprise of three to four males, a dozen or so females with their cubs. Each pride has a well-defined territory which is strictly defended against intruding other lions by the pride’s males.
Gorillas move around in family groups of more than 40 members, led by a dominant male. This alpha male organizes troop activities such as eating, nesting in leaves, and roaming around in a home range of about 16 square miles. They are charismatic and intelligent giants, sharing 98.3% of their DNA with humans.
A lion’s roar can be heard from five miles away and is 25 times louder than a gas-powered lawnmower. Research suggests that if one was to let out one of these roars beside you, you would become deaf! However, lions can also make purrs, grunts, snarls, hums, meows, and moans. Grunting noises are used to assert dominance while meows and purrs are made to show contentment. Short, sharp snarls are also let out when flaunting superiority as the King of the Jungle or particularly when a dominant male is unhappy with the behavior of another in the pride.
Gorillas use various communication skills to convey information from sound, body posture, and gestures. Laughter-like vocalizations are often made during wrestling, play-chasing, or tickling. These apes can also let out screams, grunts, growls, and roars. Loud growls are made when scaring off intruders while screams are what they let out when angry. This is usually accompanied by the beating of their chests with their hands rapidly as a show to the potential adversary telling them to back off. Grunts are particularly made during mating as a sign of satisfaction or by immature animals between the ages of 1.5-2 years.
Gorillas maintain a vegetarian diet, feeding on stems, bamboo shoots, and fruits. Other subspecies have an appetite for termites and ants, breaking open termite nests to eat the larvae.
Lions are top of the food chain predators with the lionesses the chief hunters of the pride. They prey on antelopes, zebras, wildebeests, and other large animals. Teamwork is key while hunting as most of their prey is faster than the lions. Males may assist in hunting particularly when prey is extremely large.
Strength and bite force
The jaws of the gorilla are strong, supplemented with long sharp canines. They have a bite force of a significant 1300 pounds per square inch, tough enough to grind the barks and roots of plants. If their sharp canines have you wondering, their purpose is to scare off external threats.
Their counterparts, the lions, have a considerably weak bite force of only 650 pounds per square inch. Perhaps hunting in groups is a major contributing factor. Although when compared to a human’s 162 pounds per square inch bite force, they are quite the champion chompers.
Gorillas are fast compared to their heavyweight. If you were to be chased by one, you better have wheels underneath as they can cover about 20 to 25 miles per hour (30-35 km/h).
Lions have quite the top advantage as they can run as fast as 50 mph (80km/h) and leap up to 36 feet. However, due to their lack of stamina, they can only reach top speeds in short bursts.
Both species have proven to be quite aggressive. However, with the lions being the laziest of the big cat family, they are quick on their toes and responsible for around 250 human deaths a year.
The same tale goes for the gorillas but severe aggression is rare in stable groups. Even so, they might use their canines to scare away humans or fight an intruding alpha male.
Who will win?
A pound to pound fight between the King of the Jungle and this Giant Ape would be gruesome and one to behold.
The silverback’s jaw is insanely tremendous and strong compared to those of a mere lion. Moreover, it is bulkier and stockier with robust forearms that could give the lion quite a deadly blow. Though gentle and peaceful, a silverback can be a menace when spooked. It will fight back.
However, do not underestimate the anatomy of the lion who is also a true predator, and knows how to kill. He is strongly built with a muscular body and sharp claws that could scath the silverback, causing a lot of damage. Although, the mass of hair on their forearms is to protect them from deep wounds. Even so, lions are not as intelligent as the gorillas who can use tools such as barks of trees for defence.
The combat can go either way. This is because a gorilla has a greater chance of scaring away a potentially dangerous lone lion with its intimidating size and expertise in lifting and throwing. Unless a pack of lions attacks an outnumbered silverback, the silverback will most likely be the prizewinner.