The pride gets a good lickin’

11 07 2011

Social licking, although less prevalent a social interaction than head-rubbing, also helps to reinforce social bonds but can also be considered a utilitarian function as lions cannot clean their own head and have limited ability to clean other parts of their body as their bone structure is not particularly flexible.  After feeding lions often lick the muzzles of pride mates to remove blood, licking is also common after rain, possibly helping to dry out the coat of another lion.  Social licking may be brief but can also continue for as long as five minutes.  It has been suggested that social licking in combination with head rubbing may indicate close functional relationships.

Because we know our readers expect a little bit more (and also because the more ways we can compare the pride’s behaviour with wild lions the better) we are taking a look here at licking behaviours compared to a study by Schaller on lions in the Serengeti.

The following table shows the percentage of where on the body a lion licks split between female to female, female to cub and cub to female interactions.  We can see that our females tend to lick each other’s back and sides more than expected, which is also true of female to cub interactions.  I guess we must bear in mind that AT1 is shorter, so the easiest parts of her to reach are the top of her head and on her back.  AT1 gets in on the licking action and is using her tongue skills in much the same way as her wild-borne cousins

But lions do not just lick each other, they also spend large amounts of time grooming themselves.  Which bits do they lick most I hear you ask! (ok, so no-one asked, but we found out for you anyway).  So here is the percentage of which bit is licked, their own head being out of reach.  Our lions seem to spend more time on their shoulders, neck and chest rather than their own groin.  We’re not exactly sure of what to make of this finding to be honest but its probably an aspect of lion life better left alone.

We shall continue to bring you the latest data as and when we can.  In the meantime, here is a photo of a lion getting a good lickin’






One response

11 07 2011
Joyce Kinton

So thats one of the ways Lions keep clean !! But its also a wonderful bonding with each other….
A bit like Monkeys sort out the fleas etc from their family…they seem to spend ages looking for the little “Things”… we, as humans have different ways of caring, but we can learn from these animals what we need from each other, to show we care…
Bless licking and “valleting” !! Bless hugs and big kisses from one family unit to another…xx

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