How loud is a lion’s roar?

Debuting this year with a UK tour, the new children’s theatre production, The Lion Inside, tells the story of a mouse who wants to roar like the lion who lives nearby. Fed up of being ignored, he decides to ask the lion to teach him - but what if the lion wants to eat him instead? In this heartwarming tale aimed at kids aged three and up, the mouse learns that “No matter your size, we all have a mouse and a lion inside”.

The lion in the story is always roaring to show how important he is - after all, he’s the king of the desert. But how loud do lions really roar and why do they do it? Let’s find out.


How loud do lions roar?

Lions have the biggest roar of all big cats. The volume of their roar can reach 114 decibels, which is only a little bit quieter than a chainsaw, which is 115 - 120 decibels. It’s so loud it can be heard up to five miles (8km) away! The roar is typically delivered in bouts lasting up to 90 seconds at frequencies of 40-200Hz, which is considered a low frequency range.


Why do lions roar?

Like the lion in The Lion Inside, male lions roar to show their power and establish their dominance over their territory. They also roar to scare off intruders. Female lions roar to stay in contact with the rest of their pride and to maintain territorial boundaries. Lions can tell how strong another pride is by the number of roars they hear from it.

A 2021 study of the roar of male lions revealed that they roar mainly at night, and are most likely to roar when wind speeds are low and air humidity is higher. This enables the sound to travel further. While they tend not to vocalise outside of their home territory, they are more likely to roar repeatedly when they’re near rivers or water sources, as these are valuable to the wellbeing of the pride and need to be protected.


What creates the distinctive roar?

Research conducted in 2011 showed how lions make their distinctive roaring sound. It’s all to do with the shape of their vocal cords. Most animals have vocal cords that are triangle-shaped where they protrude into the airway. In lions, however, the vocal cords are flat and square where they protrude into the airway. The shape enables the tissue to respond more readily to passing air, producing a bigger sound with less lung pressure. The vocal cords are also loose and gel-like, causing irregular vibrations which create the characteristic rough sound.

If you’re looking for things to do as a family this spring and summer, don’t miss The Lion Inside. Touring the UK from 14 March to 29 August, it’s tailored to young audiences, lasting just 55 minutes with no interval. Book your tickets today and discover your own roar with this exciting new production.