Sitting pretty at the top of the food chain, the mighty lion seems untouchable. But what about their relationships with one another?
It’s only natural that fights will break out in prides with such a strict hierarchy, especially among the dominant males. This can sometimes lead to one lion killing another but do lions actually eat other lions?
Unless times are desperate and food is scarce, lions will not eat other lions. Although they might kill one another, they will most often abandon the carcass rather than eat it.
The eating habits of apex predators like lions are interesting and complex, as are the internal politics of the pride. When lions are pitted against one another, what happens to the loser?
This article is going to explore this beautiful predator, get to know their diet a little better, and figure out, once and for all, if lions will eat other lions.
Wildlifely Fact: Lions are naturally diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. However, if their habitat has been threatened or interrupted, they have been known to adapt to nocturnal hunting.
Lions are naturally diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. However, if their habitat has been threatened or interrupted, they have been known to adapt to nocturnal hunting.
Let’s Get to Know Lions
Before we get into the details of their diet, let’s look at an overview of lions as a species.
|Distribution||Across Africa and India|
Lions are a species of large cats with a large, broad-chested build and distinctive tan fur. The males have a large mane that sets them apart from the females. They can weigh anything between 130 and 190 kg, so these cats are very formidable.
They tend to live in large prides with one dominant male among a group of lionesses and their young. Occasionally younger male lions will leave or be driven from the pride by the dominant male, and they will live as bachelors until he finds himself a pride.
The females are responsible for hunting, which they do in groups. They catch their prey by using their claws and taking down a kill from the backside.
In their native Africa and India, the lion population has been dwindling due to habitat loss caused by humans. This has led them to be classified as a vulnerable species.
Male lions are famous for not hunting, but this is not entirely accurate. While they will not hunt in groups like the females, bachelors will hunt independently when they are not part of a pride. He will only kill to feed himself, which leads to gorging on his kills, eating up to 50kg in one sitting.
What Do Lions Eat?
Before we find out whether lions will eat each other, we need to familiarize ourselves with their diet.
The preferred prey of lions is ungulates, meaning large hooved mammals like buck, buffalo, and zebras. Due to their diet, they are the most nutritious for lions and provide a large amount of meat per kill.
Your average lion requires five to seven kilograms of meat per day, but they only eat every three to four days. Taking into consideration how many lions these kills need to feed, the prey needs to be around 420 to 1200 lbs to provide for them adequately.
This is why lions will target larger game over smaller ones that may be easier to catch. For instance, lions will eat warthogs on occasion, but they are small and don’t provide as much sustenance as a whole wildebeest.
Do Lions Eat Other Lions?
Although some species in the animal kingdom are known to cannibalize, lions are not one of them.
This is not to say that lions will not kill other lions because they will.
The males are the ones that are most likely to fight and kill other lions. Fights can break out over things like territory and females, which may end in death for the unfortunate loser. However, what happens in most cases, is that the victorious lion will merely abandon the carcass and move on.
If a bachelor wins a fight over the dominant male of a pride, he may go on to kill the cubs and younger males that he sired to assert his new dominance. He will not eat them, however.
Lions will also occasionally fight other predators like leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas to the death, but they will not eat them either.
At the end of the day, carnivores are less nutritious than other carnivores, and they are far riskier to kill. This is why lions prefer to stick to their grass-eating prey and avoid cannibalism altogether.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do lions fight to the death?
When bachelor lions challenge a dominant male for mating rights, it can often end in a fight to the death.
Lions are very territorial, so they will fight ferociously to protect their position within the pride. The winner of these battles will take control over their pride, so leaving the loser alive could result in future challenges. For this reason, lion fights are usually deadly.
What animals can kill a lion?
Although lions are keystone predators sitting at the top of the food chain, they will occasionally be thwarted by another animal. Most of the time, however, it is not a result of the animals actively hunting the lion.
Lions have been known to be killed by larger prey that bests them in a hunt; this includes giraffes, buffalo, snakes, and porcupines. These deaths are primarily a result of bad luck and are not very common.
So, at the end of the day, lions will not eat other lions, but they might kill each other in fights.
As we have explored, there are many instances where lions may fight or pray on a rival’s cubs to assert dominance, but in most cases, they will stop at killing them and leave the carcass to the carrion feeders like hyenas and vultures.
We hope this has taught you something new, if gory, about these wonderful creatures.