1. Homepage
  2. »
  3. Blog
  4. »
  5. Do Lions Eat Other Lions? (Are Lions Cannibals?)

Do Lions Eat Other Lions? (Are Lions Cannibals?)

do lions eat other lions

Do Lions Eat Other Lions? (Are Lions Cannibals?)

Hey there, big cat enthusiasts! If you are anything like us, you probably find lions to be fascinating creatures – from their majestic manes to their fearsome roars, they are truly the kings of the jungle.

But have you ever wondered if these big cats can turn on each other and become their own worst enemy? Do lions eat other lions?

While it’s not common for lions to eat other lions, it’s not unheard of either. In fact, there have been documented cases of lions preying on their own kind. However, cannibalistic behavior is relatively rare as lions don’t prefer eating the meat of another predator and are more likely to hunt herbivores such as zebras, antelopes, and wildebeest.

Circumstances in Which a Lion Might Eat Another Lion

While lions normally avoid eating other carnivorous animals, especially those of their own kind, there are several exceptions to this.

Food Shortage

One of the reasons lions would practice cannibalism is in times of food scarcity. 

The members of a lion pride work together to hunt and protect each other, and there’s a strong bond between them. As such, it’s not common for lions within the same pride to turn on each other and resort to cannibalism, even in times of scarcity.

However, life in the wild is difficult and unforgiving, and sometimes desperate times demand desperate measures. If a pride of lions is starving to death, they may turn on each other in order to survive.

Still, this is an extremely rare occurrence and is not a common part of their diet or behavior.

Territorial Disputes

Male lions are known for their fierce competition for territory and mates, and these fights can escalate pretty quickly. 

Sometimes, in fights between the two males, one of the lions suffers fatal injuries. Most of the time, the winner leaves the crime scene without eating the carcass.

Still, in extreme cases, the winning male will eat parts of the other lion’s body to show off his strength to any potential rivals.

Dominance Establishment

In the world of lions, lions frequently challenge one another to a duel for the pride throne. When a challenger emerges victorious in a fight, he assumes the leadership of the pride, taking over the role of the previous leader.

When the new alpha male lion takes over the pride, it’s common for him to claim his dominance by eliminating any cubs fathered by the previous alpha. In some cases, the new male might even eat the cubs.

This behavior is rooted in the fact that the new leader is not biologically related to the cubs and wants to ensure that only his own genes are passed on.

Also, females are not ready for mating until they stop nursing. By eliminating cubs, the new alpha stakes his claim on the females.

While infanticide in lions is common, there are cases where mother lionesses are able to protect their young. In some instances, when a new male takes over a pride, the mother lioness may try to convince the male not to harm her cubs. If the new alpha male accepts the cubs, he will spare and protect them.

Even though it may seem shocking to us, the occasional instances of lions eating other lions are simply a part of the natural cycle of life and death in the animal kingdom.

In the end, while living in the wild can be ruthless and unforgiving, it’s important to remember that lions are driven by their instincts and are simply trying to survive and thrive in their environment.

do lions eat their cubs

Related Post: How Strong Are Lions?

Do Lions Eat Their Cubs?

It’s widely known that lionesses are fiercely protective mothers, but there are rare instances where they may take drastic actions, such as ending their cubs’ lives. 

Even though it doesn’t happen often, lionesses may kill their young for two main reasons.

  • Food Scarcity

The main reason for infanticide is when there is a lack of food supply in the lioness’ territory. In case of starvation, the lioness may have to make the difficult choice of choosing between her own survival and that of her cubs. 

Sadly, she may choose to kill her cubs as a means of increasing her chances of survival.

  • Genetic Disorder of Cubs

Another reason is when cubs display unusual behavior or have physical issues that cause the lioness to reject them as her offspring. 

In these cases, the lioness’ maternal instincts may not be present, and she may see her cubs as a threat to the survival of the rest of the pride.

When this happens, the mother lion might end up eating the disordered cubs to eliminate any evidence and avoid attracting unwanted attention from other predators. This is a gruesome but effective way of removing any traces of the act and keeping the rest of the pride safe.

Do Lions Eat Dead Lions?

Yes, lions do sometimes scavenge the remains of dead animals, including other lions. Still, this is not as common as lions prefer to hunt and consume fresh prey rather than rely on decaying carcasses. 

Scavenging is more of a backup plan for lions when food is scarce or when they come across flesh that is still relatively fresh. However, being opportunistic feeders, scavenging provides lions with an additional food source when prey is scarce or when they are unable to hunt successfully.

In other words, feeding on dead animals’ remains is an adaptation for survival in the wild, but it’s not the lions’ primary method of acquiring food.

Do Lions Eat Other Big Cats?

There have been some rare instances where lions have been known to kill and eat other big cats, such as leopards and cheetahs. Again, these incidents are rare and usually occur when food is scarce.

Despite this, it’s important to note that the meat of another predator doesn’t provide as much nutritional value as other types of prey, and it may not even taste good. Therefore, if there are other food sources available, a carnivore would not typically target another carnivore for food.

However, when it comes to competition, things can get more complicated. Lions are known for their aggressive behavior towards other predators and will often kill their enemies to establish dominance and reduce competition. This can lead to instances of lions killing other cat species, not for food but as a means of eliminating rivals.

So, while it’s rare for lions to prey on other big cats, it does happen under certain circumstances.

What Do Lions Usually Eat?

In the wild, lions’ diet consists almost exclusively of meat. As a result, the kings of the jungle consume more than 70% of meat out of their total diet. Lions are considered both apex predators and keystone species because of their wide prey range.

The go-to source of food for these big cats is mammals weighing from 400 to 1200 lb, including zebras, African buffalos, wildebeest, gemsboks, and giraffes, among others.

Lions generally avoid adult elephants, rhinos, and hippos. But, in rare situations, a pride of lions would try to take down these giant mammals as well.

The majority of prey comes from female lions, and they are the ones who usually hunt.

During a hunt, lionesses work as a team. They try to surround the herd they are after and attack from different directions. Due to their limited stamina, they aim to get as close as possible to their prey before initiating an attack. 

In general, lionesses rely on short, intense bursts of energy to take down their prey. They usually pounce on their target’s back and deliver a fatal bite to the neck, resulting in a quick and efficient kill.

The strongest males usually eat first, followed by the hunter females. However, if the large kills are secured, the prey is widely shared with other pride members.

In Summary: Do Lions Eat Other Lions?

In conclusion, while it may surprise some, lions do eat other lions, albeit rarely. The instances of cannibalism in lions are usually a result of food scarcity, territorial disputes, or the establishment of dominance within a pride. 

Similarly, infanticide by lionesses is a rare but natural occurrence in times of food scarcity or when cubs display unusual behavior or physical issues. 

But, despite occasional cases of lions eating other lions or scavenging on their remains, hunting and consuming fresh prey remains the primary food source for these big cats.

Thank you for reading!

You might also be interested in similar lion articles if you liked this post. Here are some recommended ones:

Do lions eat giraffes?

Do hyenas eat lions?

Related articles