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Do lions purr? © Getty Images

Do lions purr?

Asked by: Kamila Magomedova (aged 13)

Lions can make gurgling noises that sound purr-like, but opinion is divided as to whether these are true purrs. True purrs, as practised by domestic cats, occur on both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ breath, and are produced when a solid bone at the back of the throat – the hyoid – resonates.


Lion gurgles, in contrast, are made only on exhalation, and the animals have a flexible hyoid bone that prevents them from purring properly. Purr-dantic? Maybe, but it’s a big deal if you’re a big cat!

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Helen Pilcher
Helen PilcherScience writer, presenter and performer.

Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer, with a PhD in cell biology.


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