Lions Eyes


It is nothing new for us as humans to know that Lions have excellent eyesight. This is an advantage for their predominantly nocturnal hunting.
There are several reasons why Lions eyesight is so strong, and I will unpack some of those reasons below.

Facial features

The simplest is an easily seen physical feature where there are “White” markings under the eyes to help reflect more light into the eye. This obviously would help them see better under low light conditions like mottled lighting. (Thick Bushy areas).

Lion white patches under eyes

Make up of a Lions eye : Rods & Cones

Lions have more Rods in the makeup of their eye than Cones. The Rods are for nocturnal vision, so aid reflection of more light into the eye and the Cones are for colour vision. At night-time the sensitivity of Vision due to their increased number of Rods in their eye is impressive. They can see 6 to 8 times better than humans under low light conditions.vIn Lions eyes there are about 25 Rods to each cone compared to humans which have about 4 rods to 1 cone.

Type of Cones

There are three different types of Cones for:-

  • Short waved light (Blue),
  • Medium waved light (Yellow)
  • Long waved light (Red).

Cats only have two, Blue and Yellow.

Interesting Colour Fact ….

Lions and all cats cannot distinguish Red colours.

Lion eyes vs human eyes


Nocturnal animals have inside their eye something called the Tapetum Lucidium, which acts as a mirror. Light passing through the cells of the retina hit this layer and are reflected through the cells. This gives the animals brain two chances to the refine the image.
It is this reflected light which we as humans see when game viewing at night and interpret as the “Eye shine”.


Eye Shine

Lion eyes Lioness


This “eye shine” is primarily seen in nocturnal species which require good vision in low light to survive, like the Lion.
As humans and many daytime animals, we have many more Cones than Rods which gives us a wider spectrum of colours that we can see.
Lions eyes are large with round pupils, which are three times larger than human pupils.

Lions Eyes : Second Eyelid

They also have a second eyelid called a nictitating membrane which pushes any dust or anything which gets blown into the eye, into the corner of the eye.
It is animals with larger pupils which have more “red eye shine” reflection because of light picking up the rich blood supply to the retina.
So basically, even an antelope or deer with more Rods than some other animals will reflect with “red eyes”.
It is therefore a myth that only predators eyes shine red at night. It is however possible that if the light catches the animals’ eye at a certain angle then, for that moment could reflect a red shine colour.

There are other spectrums of light which need to be discussed:

Infrared Vision

Infrared light and vision are a whole different story. There are so many spectrums of light and as humans we miss quite a lot. Infrared light is given off by anything that has heat, so if we were to stand in front of a snake, we would be seen by the snake using its infrared “vision”.
There are few animals that can see in infrared and Lions are NOT one of them. Some animals which do see in Ultraviolet light are; Snakes, Fish, Blood sucking insects and Frogs.
Infrared light is at the far right of the colour spectrum below.
Human vision is limited :from Violet light to Red light and this is in the daytime due to our higher number of Cones. Lions eyesight in the daytime only extends to Orange light however they can see Ultraviolet light which we cannot. The interesting thing about Ultraviolet light is that Lions see images with more contrast and much sharper than humans.
Ultraviolet light is at the far left of the below colour spectrum.

Light Spectrum

Visible Light Spectrum

All these factors make the Lion a truly magnificent creature with eyesight that is far beyond what we could imagine.

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