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Do Lions Eat Leopards? The Answer May Surprise You!

do lions eat leopards

Do Lions Eat Leopards? The Answer May Surprise You!

Ever thought about what happens when lions meet leopards? Do lions, the big bosses and leaders of the pride, view the elusive leopards as potential meals, or do they follow a code of conduct amongst these top-tier predators? 

In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between the two cats and answer the big question – do lions eat leopards?

Do Lions Eat Leopards?

Lions usually do not eat leopards as their diet comprises herbivorous animals that provide them with larger and more nutritious meat sources. However, in extreme situations, when food is absolutely scarce, lions might end up having a leopard on the menu. In general, lions do not feed on carnivores, and the killing of leopards stems from a competitive perspective.

For instance, if lions decided to pursue leopards rather than buffaloes, they would need to eat a staggering ten times more leopard meat to match the energy that buffalo meat provides.

Also, the act of hunting itself is a high-stakes game of chance, with the lion only triumphing roughly one-eighth of the time. This slim margin of success would likely become even slimmer if the lion targeted leopards, solitary and elusive creatures compared to a vast herd of lumbering buffaloes. A solitary predator is far more difficult to corner and capture than a member of a large, relatively slow-moving herd.

Moreover, the risk factor escalates when dealing with other predators. Although lions clearly outrank leopards in terms of raw power and strength, they are not immune to harm. An encounter with a cornered leopard desperate to defend its life could result in severe injuries to the lion.

On the other hand, most herbivores, despite their potential to fight back, predominantly opt for flight over fighting when confronted with danger. Their survival strategy leans more towards evasion, making them less of a threat to a hunting lion.

Furthermore, the natural balance of the animal kingdom comes into play. Predators like leopards are significantly fewer in number compared to herbivores like buffaloes. The scales of abundance tip heavily towards the herbivores, providing a larger, more easily accessible food source for the lions.

Read Also: Animals That Eat Lions

Do Lions Eat Leopard Cubs?

While it may be true that lions do not typically include leopard cubs in their diet, it would be a mistake to assume that these vulnerable young predators are safe from the territorial king of the savannah. The reality of the wild is much more ruthless.

In some regions, lions are implicated in a staggering 70% of leopard cub mortality, making them a force of nature that significantly shapes the fate of these young felines. When lions come across leopard cubs, they don’t see potential meals but potential rivals. 

The wilderness operates on the principle of survival of the fittest, and part of that survival includes neutralizing threats before they can grow into genuine challenges. This may sound harsh, but it’s the stark reality of life in the untamed expanses of the wild, where every creature is fighting for survival.

Lions, being apex predators, won’t hesitate to eliminate the offspring of any competitor species when given the chance. This infanticide extends beyond leopard cubs, reflecting a broader strategy to maintain their position atop the food chain.

However, leopards, though smaller and more solitary, are formidable predators in their own right. If given even the slightest opportunity, they will return the favor, hunting and killing lion cubs to reduce the potential threat to their own survival. 

Related Article: Why Do Lions Roar?

Why Do Lions Kill Leopards?

Lions and leopards, both apex predators reigning supreme in their habitats, frequently find themselves sharing the same ecosystems. Sharing the living environment sometimes escalates into deadly confrontations.

Here are the main reasons lions kill leopards:

  • Territorial Disputes

Confrontations are also often seen because of territorial rights. Lions are highly territorial animals, and they protect their pride from any potential danger around them.

  • Competition for Prey

Considering they are carnivores, lions and leopards often hunt the same prey. If food resources are scarce, this can lead to direct competition and potentially violent encounters.

  • Protection of Cub

Lionesses are fiercely protective of their young. If a leopard comes too close, they may perceive it as a threat and attack to protect their cubs.

  • Predator Elimination

Predators will sometimes kill other predators to eliminate competition. This is not the primary motivation for lions attacking leopards, but it does happen.

However, it’s worth mentioning that deadly encounters between leopards and lions are not the norm. Both feline species will more often try to avoid each other if possible, and lethal fights are relatively rare events.

Are Leopards Scared of Lions?

While leopards certainly have a healthy respect and wariness for their larger, more powerful relatives, fear is a concept that seems almost foreign to these solitary big cats.

They understand that lions, unlike themselves, often operate as part of a cooperative unit, multiplying their threat level. Given these circumstances, leopards wisely choose not to engage in a perilous face-off against a pride of lions, valuing their survival above a futile show of bravado.

As creatures, leopards are the embodiment of elusive stealth. Despite being the most widely distributed big cat species across the globe, they are often the most challenging to spot, a testament to their masterful camouflage and secretive nature.

Evolution has sculpted leopards into solitary, nocturnal animals, masters of caution and silent hunting under the cover of darkness. Does this imply fear? Far from it!

It merely showcases the leopard’s survival strategy, honed over millennia to ensure its continued existence.

Take a look at this dramatic video below and judge yourself:

Are There Any Animals That Hunt Leopards?

Being apex predators, no animal eats leopards as a food source. With few natural enemies in the wild, they command fear and caution from other creatures and not the way around.

That said, the leopard, being the smallest among the four big cat species, is not entirely invincible. Sharing their habitats with larger feline predators makes them susceptible to confrontations and possible attacks.

In the diverse ecosystems of Africa, lions and hyenas primarily, and also occasionally pythons have been known to kill and consume leopards. While on the Asian continent, tigers are a significant threat to leopards.

However, the most considerable danger to leopards is not from other animals, but from humans. While people (usually) do not consume leopards, their actions pose a grave danger to these magnificent creatures.

Unfortunately, we stand as the predominant predator of most wildlife. Trophy hunting is a notorious example of this threat. Each year, over 125,000 diverse animals fall victim to the brutal pursuit of trophy hunters.

The perverse objective of this deadly game is to target and slaughter the animal with the most superior genetics, often the strongest and healthiest individuals of a species.


To conclude, lions don’t generally include leopards in their dietary habits, but the relationship between these two powerful predators is not peaceful. The rivalry between these two apex predators is rooted in survival rather than a desire for a meal.

Lions will kill leopards to eliminate potential competition, maintain territorial boundaries, and ensure the safety of their cubs. On the other hand, leopards, despite being the smallest in the family, are not passive victims, and they display an impressive degree of wariness and survival instinct when dealing with lions.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post, we would like to recommend you another similar read: Do Lions Hunt and Eat Hyenas?




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