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What do Lions Eat in the Wild ?

Are lions more predators or scavengers? How much do they eat? What animals do they eat? In this article, you'll get the answers to all your questions about what a lion eats!

Welcome to The Wild Lion young feline, here we talk about our favorite animal: the lion. Today we will see what the lion feeds on in the wild and some other stuff, so enjoy the article!

lion hoodies

Are Lions Scavengers?

It is estimated that half of the food is hunted and the other half is stolen either from another predator (leopard, cheetah) or from scavengers (hyenas, vultures). But it is considered that the female is more of a hunter while the male is more of a scavenger. Thus, When a male eats a prey, in 76% of cases, it is taken from a female, 12% from a predator and 12% killed by himself. 

lionesses eating

How much do Lions Eat ?

Lions can eat up to 77 lbs (about 20% of their body weight) of meat in one meal, knowing that they must ingest an average of 11 to 15 lbs per day to survive. A lion will always eat only as much as it needs to eat and will not stockpile food.

The rest of the time he sleeps, about 19 hours a day, and only resumes hunting when hunger strikes. But even if on average it sleeps that much, on a dark night it can hunt and eat for 6 to 11 hours at a time.

In northern Tanzania, it has been estimated that there are 2.5 million potential prey for every 2 to 3,000 lions living there. If one counts 11-15 lbs / day / lion, then 60 to 90,000 prey / year are needed for all lions or 3% of the total herd, which is far below the breeding potential.

lion roaring

What Animals do Lions Eat ?

The range of prey is very wide, from mice to elephants. But it is the medium-sized prey that is preferred. Indeed, before going after a prey, the lion "calculates" the profit and loss. Thus, it will hesitate as much in front of a mouse that is not very satisfying as in front of a buffalo that is too dangerous.
Since the lion weighs 550 lbs, it will attack prey weighing 10 times its weight at most.

This hunt has a role in selection because they hunt weak, lonely, sick, old or distracted animals. Only the strongest will be spared.

Preferred preys are : Thomson's or Grant's Gazelle, Impala, Warthogs, Hartebeest, Antelopes, Topi, Wildebeest, Birds, Zebra, Crocodiles, other lions and even man when they are sick or very hungry.

lion running

Do Lions Eat Elephants?

During the dry season, 20% of their prey are elephants either as prey or as carrion. They may also hunt porcupines, but injuries are frequent and severe; turtles and snakes are also popular foods in times of famine. It is not known whether lions have a preferred prey.

Nevertheless, some species are more affected than their population density would suggest. Indeed, Judith Rudnai has shown that wildebeest in Nairobi Park contribute to 25% of the lions' meals while they represent only 7% of the potential prey.

On the other hand, they will prey less on Damaliscus, Hippos, Buffaloes, Giraffes, Elephants and Rhinoceroses. They are less reluctant to attack this kind of prey on a dark night because of the surprise effect it allows. Most of the time, they isolate a youngster that they will knock down. If they have so much difficulty to catch these big preys, it is because that the thickness of the skin defies the best canines. 

lions and elephant

Lions feeding Habits

Their feeding habits are influenced by 4 factors: 

  • The size of the prey: prey such as elephants, hippos, giraffes or rhinoceroses are too big and defend their young so vigorously that lions that lions prefer not to attack them to avoid injury; conversely, lions on the other hand, very small prey are not hunted because the energy expenditure is too important compared to what they bring back.
  • Availability: only a small fraction of lions follow the migrations of herbivores, so a part of the potential prey is unavailable during part of the year.
  • Density: lions tend to stay in the same territory, but preys are not evenly distributed over all areas; the lion will therefore hunt the most abundant species in its territory more often.
  • Carrion: lions like to take their prey from other predators; hyenas (42%), cheetahs (12%), panthers (5%), jackals (2%) or take carcasses of dead animals without predation. Hunting is inversely proportional to the amount of carrion found.
lion eating

Proportionally, male prey are more affected than females. This is due to their distribution on the territory because they tend to disperse whereas females remain grouped around a single male: the leader of the harem.

Moreover, the rivalry that exists between males for the possession of females during the rut literally exhausts the males who no longer have the strength to resist the predators. And when fighting for females, they also lose the notion of prudence which dictates that they stay close to the group and calm.

Do Lions eat Grass?

They sometimes eat grass in times of great hunger or to relieve their stomach. In addition, they consume a lot of water at watering holes, but also by drinking the water in the stomachs of their prey. During the rainy season, there is no lack of water but in dry periods they have to look for it in the river beds or at springs. In some regions, they can thus wander for days without drinking but rarely in the Serengeti where they drink at least once a day whatever the season.

lion drinking water

Are Lions at the Top of the Food Chain?

The lion is a link in the food chain and is at the top of the pyramid. 3 essential rules prevail in nature: to integrate and adapt to the environment, to evolve in symbiosis with it and to reproduce in order not to break the chain.

Thus the herbivores obtain from the earth the grazing necessary for their survival while the carnivores recover from the herbivore what it has acquired and then in the form of faeces and corpses the whole is returned to the earth. Fauna and flora are therefore totally interdependent.

lion with crown painting

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