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Are Lions Dogs? 5 Things You Need To Know (2023)

Are Lions Dogs

You may have seen a Chow Chow or a Tibetan Mastiff…

And you gave them a second look due to their ‘beastly’ look.

Now, these Fidos are no Simba from Lion King nor Aslan from Narnia.

But how come they look similar?

Are dogs and ‘King of the Jungles’ related?

Keep reading to discover:

  • If lions are related to dogs.
  • 5 mind-blowing facts about lions and dogs.
  • Whether a lion can breed with a dog or not.
  • The relatives of lions and 7 dog breeds that resemble them.
  • And a lot more…

Are lions dogs?

Lions aren’t dogs. Although they both eat meat and some Fidos resemble a lion, they’re in different orders of mammals. Lions are members of the Felidae family. Along with pet cats, tigers, jaguars, and cheetahs. In contrast, dogs belong to the Canidae group. Like wolves, foxes, coyotes, and jackals.

Are lions related to dogs?

Lions aren’t related to dogs. They don’t share the same genes and are part of 2 different species groups. However, lions and dogs had a common ancestor 30 to 60 million years ago.

We’ll talk more about the latter so let’s dive right in.

Lions’ relationship with dogs – 5 things you need to know

#1: They have a common ancestor

Once dinosaurs exited the Earth 65 million years ago…

The great ancestor of lions and dogs appeared.

It’s a group of carnivores called Miacids.’

Scientists found their fossils in North America and Eurasia. And they lived for around 25 million years.

“What do they look like?”

Miacids are small animals. But they have long bodies and tails.

Imagine a shorthair cat with a head of a fox. And that’s what you’ll get.

Also, most of them lived in trees. And their diet comprises these:

  • Birds.
  • Lizards.
  • Smaller mammals.

Notice how they only ate meat?

And due to their diet, Miacids have similar teeth to meat-eating animals we see today. Like lions, dogs, bears, and many more.

Those molars helped them cut flesh. And survive in the wild.

So, experts believe they’re the earliest ancestor of those mammals.

And they might be at the top of lions’ and dogs’ family trees.

Reading tip: Are foxes more cat or dog?

#2: They’re both in ‘Carnivora’

“What’s that?”

To explain it simply, it’s a group of mammals that mostly eat flesh. And both lions and dogs belong to this.

It’s the 5th largest order, with ‘Rodentia’ as the biggest one. 

And Carnivora includes other animals, such as:

  • Cats.
  • Bears.
  • Hyenas.
  • Weasels.
  • Sea lions.
  • Raccoons.
  • Mongooses.

However, the name ‘Carnivora’ can sometimes be misleading.

“Why’s that?”

The prefix carn- means ‘flesh’ in Latin.

So you might think that all animals in this group only eat meat.

But dogs and bears are ‘omnivores.‘ So they also consume plants.

Moreover, Carnivora is a large order. So it’s divided into 2 groups.

“What are they?”

The ‘Caniformia’ and ‘Feliformia’

Neat, right?

By only looking at their names…

You know how the 2 suborders differ.

The former, ‘Caniformia,’ has ‘dog-like’ traits. So this is where Fidos and wolves belong.

On the other hand…

‘Feliformia’ is a group of ‘cat-like’ animals. Say lions and tigers.

These usually have shorter faces. And they also have retractable claws.

So even though lions and dogs share the same ancestor…

They’re still not closely related to each other.

They belong to different groups. And they only share one thing – they love meat!

#3: They have ‘carnassials’

Both lions and dogs won’t say no to a yummy steak – raw or cooked.

But besides this love for flesh…

These animals share one more trait.

“What is it?”

They both havecarnassials.’

These are pairs of last upper and lower molars.

They’re sharp and are mainly used for cutting flesh and bones.

So it’s like a pair of scissors that lions and dogs use to shear meat easily.

#4: They both enjoy having company

Lions And Dogs Both Enjoy Having Company

Most dogs love being around people and other Fidos. And vets also say the same thing.

Some pooches can be so clingy that they’ll follow you everywhere.

Do you hear me, German Shepherds?

Also, other Fidos don’t thrive well alone and can develop separation anxiety.

So it’s safe to say that…

“No dog is an island entire of itself.”


“How about the majestic lions?”

They belong to the Felidae group with cats, right?

And we know that felines are usually solitary.

But guess what.

Most lions are the opposite. So they’re the only ‘kitties’ that like to live in groups.

Fun fact: You call a pack consisting mainly of female lions a ‘pride.’ While a group with more male lions is a ‘coalition.’

According to NatGeo, lion packs are like families with parents and kids. And a group can have 2 up to 40 lions.

Woah, talk about a bond.

Now, dogs aren’t pack animals like lions and wolves.

Fidos don’t hunt together like them. But dogs love being part of a family.

Trivia: Like lions, wild dogs also live in groups. They’re also social like domestic Fidos. And a female in their pack can have 2 to 20 puppies.

#5: They can be best buds

Last but not least.

Although lions and dogs are as different as apples and oranges…

It’s not a reason for them not to befriend each other.

Like pet cats and Fidos, a friendship between a lion and a dog can blossom too.

“Wait. What?

A mighty king of the jungle can be friends with a small canine?”

I know it sounds insane at first. But trust me, it’s possible.

Watch the story of a male lion named ‘Bonedigger’ with his Dachshund friends.

They grew up as a cub and puppies together. And now they’re best buddies.

Plus, they even live in the same space.

Can a lion breed with a dog?

A lion can’t breed with a dog. It’s impossible as they’re not in the same family of mammals to mate and have offspring. Lions belong to Felidae while dogs are members of Canidae.

So different dog breeds may have offspring together.

On the other hand, other felines like cats can’t also breed with a dog

However, although lions can’t breed with dogs…

There are some canine breeds that resemble a lion or have the word ‘lion’ in their names.

You may also want to check out: Can Dogs And Foxes Breed? 7 Things You Need To Know 

Top 7 dog breeds that look like lions

#1: Tibetan Mastiffs

In a contest of the most ‘lion-like’ Fido…

Most people will surely vote for Tibetan Mastiffs or ‘Lion heads.’


They’re giant dogs with dense fur. And some also have a yellowish-brown coat.

So you can mistake one for a ‘King of the Jungle’ at a glance.

#2: Chow Chows

Next, these Fidos didn’t get their name ‘Lion dogs’ for nothing.

Like the Tibetan Mastiffs, Chow Chows also have thick fur. 

And it’s specifically dense around the neck, so it’s similar to a male lion’s mane.

#3: Newfoundland dogs

Strong and large like a lion?

Well, it’s no other than Newfoundland dogs.

Although they look like large scary beasts, these Fidos have gentle hearts.

They’re calm and excellent with kids.

But they’re strong and big enough to help people in pulling carts.

Check out also: 7 Reasons Why Big Dogs Are Nicer Than Small Dogs

#4: Leonberger

At first, these large, dense-coated Fidos might intimidate you.

But once you get to know them, they’re actually calm and quiet.

So they got the name ‘Gentle Lions.’

Now, here’s a short story of the breed’s origin.

Leonberg is a town in Germany. And its coat of arms has a lion in it.

So legend says that people bred Leonberger dogs to give homage to it.

They’re a cross-breed of a female Newfoundland dog and a male Saint Bernard. 

And some say there was also a Pyrenean Mountain Fido.

So, as a result, they created a large Fido with a male-lion-like mane. 

#5: Shih Tzu

You may have heard about this before.

But Shih Tzu means ‘lion’ in Mandarin.

People bred these small Fidos to look similar to the lion in Chinese traditional art.

If you’re familiar with their culture, you may have watched a ‘lion dance’ during the Chinese New Year. Or you may have seen how they depict a lion in their art.

The lion there has a big head and eyes with short legs. And it’s just like Shih Tzus.

That’s why people call them ‘Chinese Lion dogs.’

#6: Löwchen 

This dog breed is rare and they’re presented with a ‘lion cut.’

So you can dub them as ‘Little Lion dogs.’

The ‘lion cut’ is what people usually do to dogs like Pomeranians.

They shave these Fidos’ rear ends and back legs. While people leave the rest of the coat, which looks similar to the mane of a male lion.

#7: Pekingese dogs

Due to this breed’s similarities to a lion despite its small size…

There are 2 legends about its origin.

One is a love story of a lion and a marmoset. 

Because the former is too big, they asked Buddha to make them smaller. So the lion shrank and…


They made a Pekingese dog.

Meanwhile, the other legend tells a story of a lion and a butterfly who fell in love.

And same with the first one, Buddha also made the beast smaller. Resulting in a Pekingese pooch. 

#BONUS: Rhodesian Ridgebacks

People also call these Fidos the ‘African Lion Dogs.’

“But why?”

They don’t look like the kings of the beasts. 

These dogs got their name because they used to hunt lions. Plus, they came from Southern Africa.

The canines weren’t trained to kill them. They’re only used to bay lions to the hunters.

What are the closest relatives to lions?

The closest relatives to lions are jaguars and leopards.

A study in 2011 proved this.

Based on it, ‘Panthera’ has 2 groups:

  • Group 1: tigers and snow leopards.
  • Group 2: jaguars, lions, and leopards. 

Note: A ‘Panthera’ is a subgroup of the ‘Felidae’ family.