Lions are one of the apex predators found in Africa and they dominate the savannah, living in large groups known as prides and hunting down their prey in groups.
In areas like the savannah where there are so many different species living in one biome, it seems that lions have a lot of animals to choose from when it’s time to catch their dinner – but what exactly is on the menu?
If you want to learn more about lions, then this is the place for you. Here we are going to be taking a closer look at lions and their diet so we can answer the question if lions hunt and eat antelope.
So, let’s dive in!
What Do Lions Eat?
As one of the largest apex predators on the savannah, lions have a pretty varied diet. However, there are many factors which lead to lions eating certain types of animals over others.
The first thing to remember is that lions live and hunt in groups which means that one single kill needs to go around many mouths.
While other solitary big cats like cheetahs and tigers only have to feed themselves (and their cubs if they have any), lions have to feed around 15 mouths with a single kill.
Lions also need to eat around a quarter of their body weight during each feed.
Combine these facts with the fact that only around 20% of hunts end in success, it’s important that lions go after sources of food that are easy to kill and have enough meat on their bones to feed a large number of lions.
So, this means that lions tend to go after the same species of prey – large, hoofed mammals known as ungulates which are more likely to try and run away rather than stand and put up a fight.
This is because lions are less likely to be killed or injured while hunting these animals, they tend to live in smaller groups, and they are large with a lot of meat to feed plenty of lions.
Species that fall into this category include warthogs, zebras, wildebeest and gazelles, which means that they often end up on a lion’s menu for lunch.
But what about antelopes?
Do Lions Eat Antelopes?
Antelope are a species of prey-like deer that live in various areas in both Africa and Eurasia.
Although not ungulants, they belong to a similar group known as ruminants – grazing hoofed herbivores with a few slight differences from ungulants.
However, to lions, they have enough similar qualities to make them prime prey. This means that lions often hunt down and consume antelopes just as they do with buffalos, bison, wildebeest and zebras.
However, antelopes have evolved to try and improve their own odds when hunted down by lions. They usually stick together in large herds, making it difficult for a lion to isolate and hunt one down.
They also tend to stick with wildebeests which are far more likely to injure and throw off lions due to their massive size and curved horns.
Speaking of horns, some antelope also have antlers and horns that allow them to fight back when escape is not an option.
Overall, antelope are fast and have evolved to make hunting them down difficult for lions.
But, lions have to eat so they often still try to take down one of these antelope – which is probably why only a fifth of their hunts end in success.
Do Lions Eat Antelopes In Captivity?
Zoos are supposed to feed their animals a diet that closely resembles one they have in the wild but when the food is miles away on another continent, it can be tricky for zoos to source appropriate foods for their predators.
With lions, zookeepers often end up feeding them beef from local farms along with some variety meats like sheep, rabbit, chicken and even horse to help enrich their diet.
These animals are closely related to the ones they eat in the wild so they make for great alternatives. Also, doing this means that zoos can save on purchasing meat from miles and miles away.
However, many people assume that sometimes a zoo will feed their predators other animals born and bred in the zoo.
For example, if a zoo has a herd of antelope, can’t they just release some into the lion enclosure?
Zoos have to provide a level of care and quality of life to justify their practice and business.
To release live antelope into a lion enclosure is an act of cruelty that is restricted by law. Not only that but there are a range of other factors that make this practice impossive.
For example, lions can chase and stalk their prey for miles so their enclosures are way too small for this to give them any genuine exercise.
Plus, these lions are most likely born and bred in captivity – so they have next to no skills when it comes to hunting down actual live animals. This can result in all parties involved seriously injuring themselves.
So no, lions are not fed antelopes (dead or live) in zoos. Instead, they are served up local animal produce from ethical sources such as farms and slaughterhouses.
So, antelope regularly end up on a lion’s dinner menu out in the wild. This is because they are prey that can provide the lions with a lot of energy with just one kill, making them prime targets alongside other species including zebras, wildebeest and buffalo.
However, when kept in captivity, antelope are quite safe from lions and have no need to worry about ending up in a lion’s stomach.
Lions are instead fed a diet of ethically sourced meat from local slaughterhouses, meaning they usually eat foods like beef and sheep instead of species of animal they usually would in the wild.
This is so zoos can feed their lions a diet similar to the one they have in the wild with locally sourced alternatives.