It’s not every day that people come across two male lions attempting to get it on, but recent photographs of a duo from a Kenyan animal reserve are reportedly sending mixed signals to animal experts.
Image Credit: Cover Images/Paul Goldstein
Paul Goldstein, the photographer, claims that the male lion who mounted the other seemed to exhibit a passion behind his actions. Rather than stopping after a few seconds, he kept at it for quite a while.
"I have heard of this happening … this, however, was astonishing," Goldstein said of the experience. "When lions mate it normally lasts a few seconds, these two were at it for over a minute, and the obvious affection afterward was very evident, as opposed to the violent withdrawal when male and female mate."
The rare public display is prompting a lot of confusion. While some believe this was an act of homosexual courtship between the lions, not all animal experts are onboard with this interpretation.
Lion researcher Craig Packer from the University of Minnesota instead suggests that it could have been a display of dominance. Acts like these can occur when social stress is afoot or when the lions feel like they need to remind one another who’s the boss inside of shared territory.
"There have been several observations of male lions mounting each other without intromission, and the males subsequently resumed their normal patterns of mating with receptive females," Packer explained while emailing the Associated Press about the incident.
"Male lions form stable coalitions, and they are very affectionate with each other, but this affection is expressed by rubbing their heads together, licking each other's faces and flopping on top of each other."
While Packer's judgment seems to make sense, it's not the only point of view regarding what happened. Other animal experts have offered conflicting theories, such as that it may have been an act of social support or that perhaps both lions weren't actually males as initially thought.
At this point, we may never know whether the behavior was an act of homosexuality, or something else. Nevertheless, it doesn't seem to be uncommon for male lions to engage in this kind of conduct with one another, whether they're in the public eye or not.
The uncertainty encompassing the matter underscores just how little we understand about this component of lion behavior; perhaps it might even spark renewed interest for scientific study.