An adult male lion with a receptive female in oestrus will pair off to spend a few days courting and mating. The female becomes sexually receptive for 2 to 4 days every second year if she raises her cubs to the point where they are weaned. If her cubs die before weaning she can come on heat within a month. The behaviour of a pair of mating lions is more aggressive and unpredictable than normal and they do not generally take kindly to intruders.
The male is very possessive of the female during this time and is constantly at her side. Either may initiate mating. The female may crouch in front of the male or rub herself against him. The male may take the initiative by testing the females genitals and showing Flehmen, by grooming her or by mounting.
Copulation takes place over a period of one to two days about once every 15 minutes, lasting less than a minute each time. The male bites the back of the females neck softly during the final few seconds of mating and the female usually growls and appears to act aggressively upon the males withdrawal. After mating the pair may groom or rub against each another, or lie and sleep in close proximity. As the intensity of mating increases the initiative passes more and more to the female who may even turn her attentions to other members of the pride as the male begins to tire.