Home /


/ Melanistic Lion: Do Black Lions Exist?

Melanistic Lion: Do Black Lions Exist?

Melanistic or black lions aren’t real. There is no proof of black lions ever existing. Theoretically, black lions can appear as a result of melanism, but no individuals have been seen so far. Lions can have many colors, from their usual buff to a darker brown and even white.

Mutations like albinism, melanism, and leucism can cause animals to have unusual pigmentations. They can be completely black, white, or partially lose some of their pigmentations.

As for lions, they generally live in dry savannah-like environments with green or buff grasses all around them. They use the environment to stalk and hide from prey, blending in with their natural buff color.

In this article, we’ll look at the different colors lions have, cover the use of their colors as camouflage, and look at the possible mutations that can occur.

Lion Colors

Lions have easily recognizable colors. They range from a light buff, silverish color to a darker orange, or brown. Their colors help with camouflage. As lions don’t have many visible markings like other felines, colors are important.

Lion colors are subtle and a perfect fit for their usual environments. Their colors are generally a lighter or darker tan, which matches the dry environments they live in. 

Thanks to their colors lions are camouflaged in the dusty ground and the dry grasses.

Lion colors are generally a shade of tan but they can vary a lot:

  • Gray / Silvery Tan
  • Light Buff / Tan
  • Buff or Tan
  • Golden Yellow
  • Orange-brown
  • Brown
  • Dark brown
Lion Colors

Melanisitc or Black Lions

Melanistic or black lions aren’t real. In spite of myths and legends, no black lions were ever seen. If you see photos of black lions online, keep in mind that they’re edited. Although melanism can theoretically occur in lions, there aren’t any officially confirmed cases.

Black lions aren’t real. Lions are already majestic creatures, but the thought of an all-black lion has captivated people throughout history. 

Unlike other felines, there aren’t any confirmed sightings of black lions. Any photos you have seen of black lions are edited.

Other animals, can be all black due to the effect of melanism. Melanism is a phenomenon that increases the amount of melanin in an animal. This turns the animal from its usual colors to black or nearly black.

Melanism occurs in other felines. The infamous black panthers are in fact melanistic leopards or jaguars, given their striking look by the additional pigmentation. 

Bobcats, servals, and other feline species can also exhibit the traits of melanism.[1]

There aren’t any confirmed sightings or real photographs of melanistic lions. Melanism can theoretically happen in lions but it wasn’t observed so far. 

Sightings can’t be confirmed, but here are some notable ones:

  • In the 1880s a particularly dark brown lion was killed in Iran.
  • In 1975 a partially black lion cub was born. The cub had a black chest and one black leg.
  • Multiple sightings were reported in Kruger National Parks, South Africa, and in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

Due to the lack of real information and confirmed sightings black lions are more in the domain of cryptozoology.[2]

Melanisitc or Black Lions

White Lions (Leucism)

White lions are real and can be found in the wild in South Africa, as well as in zoos and wildlife reserves across the world. These beautiful animals don’t suffer from albinism. White lions are the result of a rare mutation called leucism. They’re as healthy as normal lions.

Unlike black lions, white lions are actually real. These animals may be light blonde or almost completely white. 

White lions are native to South Africa, and they are a mutation of the South African lion, Panthera leo melanochaita.

These lions aren’t white because of albinism, but due to a less severe mutation called leucism. Unlike albinos, their skin and eye pigmentation are unaffected. They are perfectly healthy and their coloration doesn’t seem to impact their survival.[3]

Due to their beauty and exotic nature white lions are selectively bred. The genes that cause leucism are recessive so as long as both parents carry them there is a chance that the offspring will be white.

White Lions

Lion Mane Color

Male lions are easily recognizable by their mane which can be the same color or darker than the body. The lion’s mane is the most recognizable trait they have.

The mane is a growth of hair on the head, shoulders, neck, and chest. Male lions start developing manes after they’re one year old. Manes are considered a sign of health and maturity, with darker and fuller manes being ideal.

The color of a lion’s mane varies depending on several factors:

  • Age: Older lions have darker manes.
  • Temperatures: Lions in colder climates have darker manes.
  • Genetics: Some lions naturally have lighter or darker manes.
  • Testosterone: Increased testosterone production is tied to a fuller and darker mane.
  • Region: In some regions, lions may have smaller, lighter manes, or lack manes altogether.

Female lions generally prefer males with a fuller and darker mane. Since testosterone greatly affects the size, fullness, and color of the mane, it is a good indicator of a lion’s virility and genetic potential.[3]

The colors of a lion’s mane can be the same color as their coats but also darker. Sometimes manes are dark brown or even black. A black mane is a sign of power, aggression, and health.

Originally the white lions of the Timbavati region in South Africa didn’t have manes.

Lion Mane Color

Lions Eye Color

Lions generally have light-brown, golden, or amber eyes. Lion cubs have light eyes, that get darker with age. Their eyes can be anything between light grey and blue. 

Adult lions may also have blue eyes. This trait is common in the white lions of Timbavati.


Black lions aren’t real, but black-maned lions can be seen across their range. A dark mane is a sign of virility and power. Lions are generally a buff or tan color and can appear darker or lighter. White lions also exist. These lions have a lighter color due to leucism, and they are common in the Timbavati region of South Africa.

About Codrin Frunzete

Looking for something?

Try searching our website!