Lions may be the ‘King of the Jungle’ yet they are actually only the second-biggest cat species on the planet.
Some species of tiger can grow even larger than the African lion, but there are many other species of big cat roaming the plains for food.
Since lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs all share a common environment, you may be wondering if these species ever hunt or eat each other as prey.
It would be nice to believe that all the feline predators can live together in harmony, but is this really what happens in the natural world.
Do lions eat leopards? Read on to find the answer to this question and many others.
Comparing Lions And Leopards
Lions and leopards are very closely related, with both species belonging to the genus Panthera.
As such, they share many common features such as retractable claws, and a unique larynx formation that allows them to roar.
However, there are some significant differences between lions (panthera leo) and Leopards (panthera pardus).
The main distinction between these two species is their average size and weight.
The African lion is the largest of all lions and can grow to be 4ft tall and 10ft long from head to tail.
On average, these creatures can weigh up to 550lbs, with the females of the species generally being smaller and lighter.
The African leopard on the other hand is considerably smaller.
The cats normally only reach a height of 2 to 3ft at the shoulder and a length of up to 6.25ft.
As with lions, the males of the species weigh more than the females and can reach a weight of up to 88lbs.
As such, it should be clear that even on its own, a fully grown adult lion won’t have much problem killing a leopard in a straight fight.
However, their smaller size does lend the leopard a significant advantage over their large feline counterparts.
Since they are so lightweight, leopards can climb trees and are masters of stealth.
Also, just because they are smaller and weaker than a lion overall, doesn’t mean a leopard can’t fend for itself.
Do Lions Eat Leopards?
Lions mainly hunt their food, but they will scavenge when the opportunity arises.
However, even if a lion comes across a leopard that is already dead, it is unlikely to eat it.
The same would apply if a leopard came across a dead lion by chance.
This isn’t out of respect for a fellow feline, and more because there is very little benefit either species can derive from eating the other.
Lions and leopards are both apex predators and therefore are unlikely to eat each other due to a phenomenon known as ‘10% energy rule’.
The 10% Energy Rule
A food chain is made up of primary producers along with primary, secondary and tertiary consumers.
Plants are the primary consumers, taking energy from the sun and converting it into glucose via photosynthesis.
Primary consumers like herbivores then eat these plants to gain their energy, and they in turn are eaten by secondary and tertiary consumers.
These different levels that make up the food chain are known as trophic levels.
The 10% energy rule states that only 10% of the energy stored as biomass can actually be passed from one trophic level to another.
This means that a buffalo only gets ten percent of the energy stored in the grass it eats, which is why it needs to consume so much to survive.
By the same token, a lion only gets 10% of the energy stored within a buffalo when it kills and eats it.
This rule is the main reason that animals on the same trophic level are unlikely to eat each other, as they simply will not get enough energy to make it worthwhile.
A lion would need to eat 10 times more leopard to get the same amount of energy it would gain from eating one buffalo.
As such, lions will generally not eat leopards unless they are starving and incredibly desperate for food.
Do Lions Kill Leopards?
Just because lions won’t eat leopards as prey, doesn’t mean that they get along.
If a Lion encounters a leopard or leopard cubs, then it is very likely to attack them, even if it won’t eat them afterwards.
Often the reason behind this is to remove competition for territory, food and water.
Generally, leopards will avoid lions and choose to remain hidden in trees or dense undergrowth.
This is due to the difference in size between these two feline species, which means a leopard will often only attack a lion in self-defense.
Often, a leopard will be able to escape most attackers by quickly climbing a tree, which they can do thanks to their small size and low weight.
Lions are also known to hunt in groups, which is another reason why a leopard may avoid tangling with one.
Are Leopards Frightened Of Lions
Just because a leopard will avoid direct confrontation with a lion does not mean that they are afraid of them.
As we said earlier, the main advantage that leopards have over other big cats is their stealth and ability to remain hidden in areas that other big cats cannot reach.
If forced to defend its cubs, or backed into a corner, a leopard will fight a lion with everything it has.
Who will emerge victorious depends on many factors, including the age and general health of the lion and leopard involved, as well as if the leopard is severely outnumbered.
Lions and leopards share the same genus, but that doesn’t mean they are friends.
These two species will frequently attack each other when presented with the opportunity, since they inherently compete for food and territory.
That said, once a lion has killed a leopard, or vice versa, they will leave the corpse to rot rather than eating it.
Unless either animal is incredibly desperate for food, the amount of energy that they would get from eating each other, is not worth the effort of chowing down in the first place.