Can Lions Climb Trees? (Why They Do so and How)

Lions usually spend their days under the shade of enormous trees in open savannas. Since they spend their time in this particular spot or territory, you may wonder if they can chase animals on top of trees or even sleep in its branches. Thus, you may ask:

Can lions climb trees? Lions can climb trees, but not every lion. In general, any lion can climb a tree. However, it depends on the availability of trees and the weight of lions that will climb. Thus, the big and adult lions don’t climb because they are too big or too heavy.

Lions are lazy animals, and you can usually see them hanging out under a tree’s cool shade. Thus, they often stay on it and climb its branches to sleep or to play. Although they look like runners (which they are), they can also be great climbers.

In this article, you’ll see how great climbers lions are despite being the usual running. Moreover, you’ll understand how they climb and why they do so.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Do lions climb trees?

Lions do climb trees, but it depends on many factors. Among the factors are their weight and the availability of trees to climb.

The first one is their weight. Only a few lions can climb a tree, and these are usually the younger ones.

Most of the full-grown lions are heavy enough for any branch of a tree to hold them.

Moreover, some lions are heavy enough that they stay on the ground instead of climbing trees.

Can mountain lions climb trees?

Mountain lions don’t fall short when it comes to the ability to climb trees. In general, any lion can scale and climb a tree. 

Still, it would depend on the type of tree they are going to climb. For instance, lions in open savannas usually have acacia trees which have branches ideal for these animals to climb.

If a lion lives in the mountains, its trees are usually stiff and have no branches easy for them to hop.

Although these animals spend their time on the ground, they can also scale a tree, climb it, and hang on it.

Another thing to note is that lions can climb trees to escape threats. It’s handy for lion cubs which often has other animals lurking to hurt them.

Are lions good tree climbers?

Lions are pretty adept at climbing trees, which means they are pretty good climbers.

Of course, due to their body’s size and weight, they can only climb on the lower branches of trees. 

The younger lions are the usual tree climbers, but even these can only go for a certain height.

In general, lions only climb a tree to get a great sleeping position. Thus, they don’t need to go higher and rest on smaller branches and tend to break. 

Why do lions climb trees?

Lions climb trees for many reasons. Among these are:

Protection from insect bites

Insects are expected in a lion’s habitat. Thus, it can be annoying and disturbing for these animals. 

Thus, instead of staying on the ground where insects stay, they tend to climb to avoid insect bites. 

Protection from extreme heat

Extreme heat is another reason why they stay under a tree’s shade. However, even the ground can get too hot.

For this reason, lions tend to climb so they can rest on the branches, which are more relaxed and more comfortable.

Better sleeping position

Another reason is that lions tend to find comfortable positions as they rest. Since they usually sleep for 16-20 hours per day, finding an excellent sleeping or resting position makes a lot of difference.

In short, lions climb trees to search for better resting positions. It’s quite a conducive spot to sleep since it’s more relaxed and has no insects that will bite them. 

lion sleeping on tree

How big trees can lions climb?

Lions usually climb big trees such as acacia trees since these are usually their shelters.

However, while they climb such trees, it doesn’t mean they can reach the tip of their branches.

Lions usually remain in the lowest branches of acacia trees, just a few feet higher from the ground.

The level would be enough for them to get a good position while avoiding the downsides of staying on the ground.

Besides acacia trees, lions also climb other kinds of trees, such as sycamore-fig trees. 

How and when do lions learn to climb trees?

It’s uncertain how and when lions learn and start climbing trees. However, it’s safe to say that they learned to do such out of necessity and plain curiosity.

Lions typically spend all the time of their days under these giant trees. Thus, even the lion cubs stay in it all the time.

Since the trees allow them to explore, these animals may have started jumping until they reach the branches.

Now, since younger lions tend to do so, the lion cubs may have started imitating them until they learned to do so. 

Can lion cubs climb trees?

Lion cubs spend more time under the trees, unlike full-grown lions who go out for a hunt. However, due to their small size, lion cubs may find it challenging and even impossible to climb trees.

In short, these baby lions may start climbing once they can jump from a height enough to reach the branch.

However, since cubs are small enough, they may remain on the ground until they reach a certain age to jump high enough to climb a tree. 

Are there tree-climbing lions?

There’s no such thing as tree-climbing lions, as almost every lion with the right size can do so.

In general, almost every lion can climb trees since they can jump high enough to reach the branches of big trees.

Of course, some lions are big enough to climb a tree, and these animals typically prefer to stay on the ground to rest.

However, the younger ones climb more because their body size is an excellent fit to rest on the branches.

What other big cats can climb trees?

Among all the big cats in the wild, the leopard is the best tree climber. These animals can climb trees even with the prey of double their size.

The reason why leopards can easily climb trees is their long legs that can leap seven times their length.

Other big cats such as tigers can also climb trees, but they don’t do it often.

If there’s one big cat that can’t climb trees, it’s a cheetah. Cheetahs can do many things, but they can’t climb trees as other big cats do. 

Also Read: Can Lions Swim?


So, can lions climb trees? Lions can climb trees, but not every one of them does. In general, any lion can climb a tree. Still, some lions choose not to because they are already too heavy and too old.

It also depends on the availability of trees. Some lions live under trees with branches that are hard to climb. However, some live under trees with branches that are easy to reach.

Since lions are lazy animals, they usually hang out under a tree’s cool shade. Thus, they often stay on it and climb its branches to sleep or to play. Although they look like runners (which they are), they can also be great climbers.


Image credits – Canva

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I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more