Do Lions Eat Other Lions (When And Why)?

Members of the Panthera genus and Felidae family, Most of us recognize lions for their majestic looks and adorable cubs. However, the second largest big cat predator in the world is actually a fierce predator that sits firmly in place at the top of the food chain. 

Thanks to its sheer speed, muscular body, and powerful bite, the lion is a hunting master, easily taking down prey in a matter of seconds before feeding on its kill. 

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This fierce nature and ability to kill with ease has left many people wondering just what lengths lions go to eat. For example, one question asked is whether or not lions eat other lions.

The fact that you’re reading this post would suggest you want to know the same.

Well, today, we want to teach you everything you need to know about lions eating other lions. We will look at whether or not they do, when they might do so, and the reasons behind it. 

If you want to learn more about this big cat, make sure you keep reading.

Will A Lion Eat Another Lion?

Let’s get straight to it. Generally speaking, no, a lion won’t hunt, eat, or kill another lion. They have plenty of other food options available to them that they would much prefer to go for.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some desperate situations in which a lion might actually have to. When times get tough during extreme famines, lions might have no choice but to eat the weakest or oldest members of the pride. 

Although it doesn’t happen very often, there are also occasions when male lions kill and eat the cubs of another lion in order to show dominance over a lioness. 

We will look at why lions might eat another lion in more detail further down in this article.

Why Don’t Lions Usually Eat Other Lions?

The main reason lions don’t typically eat other lions is down to the fact they aren’t by nature cannibals. Despite being carnivores, lions would much rather hunt grazing animals. Grazing animals are the lion’s natural prey so from their point of view it makes much more sense.

As a result of it being a lion’s natural instinct to hunt grazing animals, they very rarely eat any species that also eat meat. Interestingly, this is actually very important for the lion as non-meat-eating animals provide more essential nutrients that the lion needs to survive.

Like people, lions are also quite picky. To a lion, the meat from herbivores tastes a lot better than that of a carnivore.

When And Why Lions Might Kill Other Lions

Above, we briefly touched upon why lions might eat other lions despite not actually liking the taste too much and not being cannibals by nature. In the next part of this article, we will go into more detail about these reasons and why they happen.

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Strange Behaviors 

Much like people, it isn’t uncommon for lions to behave strangely or unexpectedly. Just like we see in our world, some people are born differently with serious behaviors that impact the way in which they treat others. This can also be the case with lions.

It isn’t that uncommon for a lion to be born with unusual behaviors that lead to them being much more aggressive than other lions. For example, in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, there is a family of lions that displayed unusually aggressive behavior towards other prides.

This aggressive behavior led to the lions hunting and killing up to 100 lions in 12 months. They would even eat some of their victims. 

Food Shortages

While it doesn’t happen too often, during times of extreme food shortages, some lions might kill and devour older or weaker lions. If this does occur, it will only usually be during times of desperation and when the elderly or weak are seriously ill or injured. 

As more and more of the lion’s territory is destroyed by human activity, the likelihood of this happening increases. This is a result of huge reductions in prey numbers. 

Killing Cubs To Show Dominance

In the wild, lions have to show their dominance in order to take control of the pride. To show dominance, a challenger will fight the alpha male until he concedes. Whoever wins the battle will be the leader of the pride, inheriting all of the lions within it.

As a result, new alpha’s also inherit the cubs of the previous leader. Unfortunately, the new leaders don’t want other male cubs to be part of their pride, therefore, the young cubs are killed.

The new leader might also eat the cubs to show dominance over the female lions in the pride. 

The reason they do this is that they don’t want the genes from the other leader to be passed on.

Another reason they do this is to prepare the females for breeding. A female will not breed again until they have finished nursing its cubs. This can lead to the male eating the cubs so he can produce his own offspring.

Sadly, some cubs may also be eaten due to a lack of food and resources. 

What Do Lions Eat?

Now you know lions don’t eat other lions, let’s take a closer look at the food they do eat.

A lion’s diet primarily consists of meat and a lot of it. On average a lion will eat approximately 5 to 8 kilograms of meat every day. That may not seem like a lot, but when you consider there’s also a whole pride to provide for, a lot of food is needed.

Lions obtain their daily intake of meat by hunting medium to large-sized grazing animals. In Africa, where most lions are found, this includes animals like the wildebeest, African buffalo, zebra, and antelope. 

Final Thoughts 

You should know now a lot more about lions and whether or not they eat other lions. While it is relatively uncommon, it isn’t completely out of the ordinary for a lion to snack on another lion. 

Usually, this will only happen in dire circumstances, but with varying lion behaviors and an ever-evolving world where lions are becoming more and more endangered and prey numbers are dropping, who knows what might happen in the future. 

Joe Edwards