Do Male Lions Eat Their Cubs?

Lions are very social creatures and depend on their Pride for that aspect of their life. But in some situations, the male lion can turn on members of his Pride, be it for territorial reasons or even what they would consider logical reasons.

This includes eating their cubs. Although they are more likely to kill cubs rather than eat them, it does still occasionally happen.

Do Male Lions Eat Their Cubs

In this article, we’ll be talking about why Male lions sometimes eat their cubs and some other interesting facts about lions.

Are Lions Cannibals?

Lions are carnivores and they only eat raw meat. Because they are territorial and always striving to be the Alpha Male in their Pride, the males will often get into fights with other lions, and occasionally, though not often, they will eat other lions.

Lions fight for many reasons, usually for territorial purposes. Some lions get jealous and want to challenge the Alpha for the top position. Sometimes this works out, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Male lions fight brutally, and they can wound each other quite badly. Sometimes the victor of the fight will let the loser go, but other times he will fight until the loser is no longer alive.

On the occasion when male lions do kill each other, they will sometimes eat the loser. But this is not a common practice. More often than not, they will simply leave the corpse after the fight is finished.

Why Do Lions Eat Their Cubs?

Males do kill their cubs, but surprisingly, lionesses get their paws dirty too. Although lionesses are maternal, they are quite brutal by human standards.

If a cub is born and is deformed, unhealthy, or weak, the lionesses will often kill the cub. Sometimes they simply abandon them instead and go about reproducing all over again.

A weak or ill cub won’t survive long within a Pride. If a cub behaves too differently from the other cubs, the lionesses usually just abandon them, especially if it’s only one.

If it’s more than one though, the lioness will no longer recognize it as a cub and kill it instantly.

When cubs reach the age of two, they leave the Pride and go their own way. After they leave, the lionesses begin reproducing again and this cycle continues.

Male lions, however, are very territorial when it comes to male cubs. Sometimes, they will kill male cubs as young as nine months old.

They do this because they sometimes feel threatened by the cubs, believing that when they get older, they will try and take their spot as leaders of the pride.

When lionesses are still nursing their cubs, they aren’t fertile and won’t be into the prospect of mating until their cubs no longer need their attention.

Male lions can get impatient with this because they only have a two-year period where they can mate themselves. If they wait too long, their chance of having their own cubs may end up being zero.

So on occasion, male lions will kill the nursing cubs. The lionesses try their hardest to fight them off, but this isn’t always successful.

Having her cubs killed prematurely like this isn’t good for her though, and if she mates with a new lion, her fertility is likely to drop.

When A New Alpha Leads The Pride

Do Male Lions Eat Their Cubs

It’s very common for male lions to take over already an already existing Pride. With this, comes a whole rearrangement of that Pride.

When a male lion challenges the already existing Alpha male, a few things can happen. Firstly, he is defeated by the Alpha and either runs off or is killed.

Second, he scares the Alpha off and takes over the Pride, but more often than not, he will kill the Alpha and take the Pride anyway.

Usually, the original Alpha is a lot older, and the new male has youth on his side.

When the old Alpha has been taken care of, the new Alpha will rearrange the Pride to make sure none of the old Alpha’s bloodline is still a part of it.

This means that the first thing he will usually do is kill any cubs he can find.

By disposing of the cubs, the new Alpha doesn’t have to worry about being challenged when they are older.

The Alpha also does this because he doesn’t want any of the old Alpha’s genetics left, so the bloodline has ended.

The old Alpha is seen as weak by the new Alpha, so he does not want any more of that bloodline to continue.

Sometimes the new Alpha will then eat the cubs too. Again, this doesn’t always happen, but it isn’t uncommon.

When the cubs are disposed of, the lionesses will try to save the older ones, because they know they’ll be leaving the Pride soon anyway.

They do try to save the younger cubs, but they can only do so much when a new Alpha takes over.

The lionesses are very intelligent and if they are already pregnant when the new Alpha takes over, they can sometimes trick the new Alpha into believing that the offspring is actually theirs.

The lioness can even hide some of her cubs long enough, presenting them to the Alpha later and he will believe they are blood-related. So lots of times, new Alpha’s end up with offspring that aren’t even theirs.


So overall, yes. Male lions do eat their cubs and also the cubs of other lions, but it isn’t as common as you might think.

Lionesses also eat their cubs if they believe they are too weak. It is statistically proven, however, that male lions are more likely to eat cubs than females.

It’s all circumstantial on whether or not cubs will be eaten by the males though. More often than not, they will just kill them rather than cannibalize them.

Whereas this may seem horrific to humans, lions have a whole different system and way of being. The animal kingdom is both a beautiful and frightening place!

Joe Edwards