The cave lion received its common name because large quantities of its remains are found in caves, but it is doubtful whether they lived in them.
It had a wide habitat tolerance, but probably preferred conifer forests and grasslands where medium-sized to large herbivores occurred. Fossil footprints of lions, which were found together with those of reindeer, demonstrate that lions once occurred even in subpolar climates.
Panthera leo spelaea was one of the largest lions. The skeleton of an adult male, which was found in 1985 near Siegsdorf (Germany), had a shoulder height of around 1.2 m (4 ft) and a head-body length of 2.1 m (7 ft) without the tail. This is similar to the size of a very large modern lion. The size of this male has been exceeded by other specimens of this subspecies. Therefore this cat may have been around 8%-10% bigger than modern lions and smaller than the earlier cave lion subspecies Panthera leo fossilis or the relatively huge American lion (Panthera leo atrox).