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Lion Sounds: Roaring, Growling, & Other Vovalizations (With Video)

Lions make very recognizable sounds, including a loud roar and growling. They are social animals and use vocalizations with body language to communicate with one another.

Lions can make a variety of different sounds. They use these to communicate with other lions, intimidate other animals, and scare of rivals.

While they don’t meow or purr like domestic cats, they can growl, hiss, chuff, and roar. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the different sounds that lions make, we’ll learn about their powerful roars, and much more.

What Do Lions Sound Like?

Lions’ sounds are powerful. They are large animals and sound very different from our domestic cats. Many of the noises they make can seem similar to those of a smaller feline. Lions have a certain gruff to their “voice”, making them sound wild and intimidating.

Every lion has a slightly different “voice”. Some large males have a much rougher and lower vocalization than young lions or lionesses.

While lions sound a lot different than regular cats, they do have sounds in common. Both animals hiss, growl, and lion cubs make some “meowing” noises. 

Unlike domestic cats, lions can’t purr. Instead, they can roar.

As they are much larger and stronger than common cats, their voices are also more powerful. You can almost tell the size of lions by the sound of their vocalizations.

Not all lions use vocalizations the same way. Some lions use certain sounds more frequently than others. What sounds they use depends on their personalities, age, and external factors.

What Do Lions Sound Like

What Sounds Do Lions Make?

Lions make a variety of sounds. They make some noises that domestic cats also make, but because they are much larger, their vocalizations are deeper and more powerful. Lions can growl, hiss, and snarl when they feel threatened. These huge felines also roar to communicate over larger distances and intimidate others.

Lions may not be as vocal as their rivals (hyenas) but they still make a variety of sounds. They use these sounds to communicate with other lions and animals, but not all sounds serve the same purpose.[1]

The sounds lions make are quite distinct, so they are hard to mistake for another animal in the wild. In captivity, they may be mistaken for other large feline sounds, especially tigers.

These sounds can be split into five categories:

  1. Grunts
  2. Hums, Moans, and Purrs
  3. Chuffs, Huffs, or Puffs
  4. Hisses, Growls, and Snarls
  5. Roars

They generally use each type of sound for a different purpose:

GruntsGeneral communication used similar to meows.
Hums, Moans, and PurrsUsed for general communication, and when lions are content.
Chuffs, Huffs, or PuffsUsed like domestic cat purrs.
Hisses, Growls, and SnarlsShows aggression, used for intimidation and dominance.
RoarsUsed to assert dominance and make their presence known.

1. Grunts

Lions produce loud and forceful grunts. They quickly expire air and make a low-pitched sound. These grunts are loud and powerful.

Grunts are generally used for normal communication, similar to how domestic cats use meows and purrs. Of course, the grunts produced by lions are much louder.

Grunts are one of the most used types of vocalization by lions.

2. Hums, Moans, and Purrs

These sounds are generally used to communicate between the different members of a lion group. They usually make such sounds when they are happy or content.

Lionesses may also use hums and moans to call their cubs. Unlike domestic cats and other smaller felines, lions don’t meow to communicate with their offspring.

These types of sounds are also useful for communication while on the hunt. Using a different sound like a growl or roar would scare off any potential prey.

3. Chuffs, Huffs, or Puffs

Chuffs, huffs, and puffs are similar noises. Lions make them by forcefully blowing air out while making a softer grunting sound. Air is emitted in short bursts which results in a cough-like sound.

The chuffs made by lions aren’t the same as the ones made by tigers or snow leopards. These cats make a chuff that is called a prusten. The prusten is made without opening the mouth, sounds similar to an air snort, and is a sign of a happy feline.

A lion’s chuff is used similarly to a roar, and unlike in the case of tigers, it’s not a show of happiness. It means the lion is making its presence known.

4. Hisses, Growls, and Snarls

Lions use hisses, growls, and snarls similarly to other felines. They use them to warn and intimidate other lions and animals. They are regularly used by groups of lions while eating a fresh kill.

All three sounds are variations of the same vocalization. Hissing is a continuous “s” sound accompanied by spitting. Growling is a low rumbling guttural sound and snarling is a more aggressive growl with snapping of teeth.

These sounds are usually accompanied by a show of teeth and a generally aggressive demeanor.

5. Roars

Roars are the most recognizable sounds that lions can make. Both lions and lionesses can make a prolonged, powerful, and full-throated roar. Males are noticeably louder than females.

Lions and other large felines like tigers can roar thanks to their unique anatomy. Unlike smaller felines, their larynx is much more flexible and it allows them to make impressive sounds.[2]

A lion’s roar is exceedingly powerful. Roars can be heard from as far as five miles away under the right conditions. This sound is so low and powerful that you can ”feel” the vibrations in your chest if you’re close enough.[3]

Why Do Lions Roar?

Lions roar as a show of strength and dominance. They roar to assert their control over a territory, and sometimes to locate distant group members. They generally roar at night. 

Lions and lionesses can both roar. Lions are more likely to respond to the roars of other lions, and lionesses to those of other females. 

They also seem to judge another group’s strength by the number of roars they hear.[4]

Baby Lion Sounds

Baby lions make similar sounds to adults. They even try to roar, but they usually aren’t too intimidating until they grow a bit. Cubs are much more vocal than adults and vocalize more frequently.

Lion cubs can make all the sounds that adults can. They hiss, growl, meow, purr, grunt, and even roar. They usually make a lot of sounds while calling their mom and playing around.

Their purrs aren’t the same as those of domestic kittens because lions can’t purr. Still, they make some purr-like noises.

While they make the same variety of noises as the adults, they don’t sound nearly as intimidating. they are small and their voices are high-pitched.


Lions are the most social of the big felines, and they also make a variety of sounds. They hiss, growl, grunt, moan, chuff, and roar. A lion’s roar is one of the most recognizable sounds in the animal kingdom. This powerful call can be heard from up to 5 miles away. Lion cubs are even more vocal than adults, although they sound much cuter.

About Codrin Frunzete

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