Table of Contents
We are all familiar with the saying: “Do not try to fight a lion if you are not one yourself”. Lions are undoubtedly the rulers of the animal kingdom, both feared and respected because of their immense strength and ferocious nature.
However, even the kings of the jungle are not invincible. Despite their apex predator title, they, too, sometimes become the prey. It’s a natural world where the hunters can themselves be hunted.
So, if you have ever wondered what animals eat lions (and, honestly, who hasn’t?), you have come to the right place.
What Eats Lions?
Lions are apex predators and are not typically preyed upon by other animals. However, there are some instances where other animals may kill and eat lions. Besides humans, hyenas, crocodiles, leopards, and wild dogs have been noted to attack and kill lions.
It’s important to say that lions are not usually hunted by other animals for food. In fact, none of these mentioned predators hunt the big cats due to dietary purposes.
Instead, most conflicts between lions and other animals usually stem from competition over resources like food and territory.
In the African wilderness, there exists a timeless rivalry between two of the fiercest predators on the planet – hyenas and lions. Rivalry is conducted on several fronts, while resources (food) are the primary source of conflict.
Both are exceptional hunters, but they don’t always rely on their skills to get their next meal. Sometimes, it’s just easier to steal food from your neighbor. Also, both species are highly territorial and will aggressively protect their turf at all costs.
Being bigger and stronger, lions are usually more dominant than hyenas and are not intimidated by these cunning pack hunters.
However, hyenas are smart and patient predators and will wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. Weak or old lions, as well as lion cubs, are hyenas’ most common targets.
Curious to learn more about the rivalry between these two formidable predators? Here’s a detailed article on the topic: Do hyenas eat lions?
Like lions, giant reptiles sit at the top of the food chain, meaning only a few animals eat crocodiles.
Crocodiles, unlike hyenas, don’t have territorial problems with lions since they spend most of their lives in the water.
Although both animals are incredibly powerful and strong, they usually respect each other and avoid fights unless necessary.
Yet, crocodiles are opportunistic predators and will attack almost anything that comes close to the water’s edge, including lions. In some instances, lions have been known to venture into crocodile-infested rivers to drink water or cool off, where they become vulnerable to attack.
However, crocodiles typically target less dangerous prey than lions, and attacks on lions are relatively uncommon.
You May Also Like: Do Lions Eat Crocodiles?
Another enemy that lions meet in the wild is their relatives, the leopards. Although leopards are proficient hunters, they mostly avoid adult lions, knowing they are much weaker than their Panthera cousins.
Lions are simply too big and strong for leopards to take on. It’s like a heavyweight boxer facing off against a featherweight – the outcome is pretty clear.
However, when it comes to lion cubs, it’s a different story.
When left alone and unprotected, cubs become easy targets for leopards. These cunning hunters will take advantage of the opportunity to strike and won’t hesitate to attack and kill lion cubs.
And while leopards don’t usually feed on young lions (unless starving), cutting down the competition before the competition is able to strike back is a good survival strategy.
Related Article: Do Lions Eat Leopards?
African Wild Dogs
In the wild, encounters between lions and African wild dogs often result in smaller carnivores retreating. While wild dogs are intelligent, they won’t pick fights they can’t win.
Consequently, they avoid male lions, and only attack isolated lionesses when they have enough pack members.
However, wild dogs, like other lion enemies, will kill lion cubs whenever possible. This constant threat from predators means that only about 12% of lion cubs reach adulthood.
But lions are not merciful to other predator young ones either. They will kill the offspring of their enemies purely as a way of displaying dominance.
Additionally, given that wild dogs have one of the highest success rates among all carnivores in hunting, lions will frequently steal their food.
Although humans typically don’t consume lions, we remain the number one predator of these magnificent big cats due to widespread slaughter. Poaching and trophy hunting have put the lion population in such danger that they are now listed as a vulnerable species.
The number of wild lions has plummeted by 60% in the last two centuries, with only about 20,000 lions remaining today. Astonishingly, over 200,000 lions lived in Africa just about 100 years ago.
Sadly, hunting of wildlife, including lions, is still permitted in regions such as Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, exacerbating the problem of their dwindling numbers.
As the top predators in an ecosystem, lions play a very important role, and if they were to disappear, it would have a huge effect on the whole system. Also, these beautiful animals have a cultural and symbolic value all over the world, which makes it everyone’s job to keep them safe.
We usually don’t think of vultures when it comes to animals that eat lions. After all, these scavengers are often associated with death and decay rather than the fierce battles of the wild.
Still, although vultures don’t typically attack live animals, they are always on the lookout for a good meal.
When a lion dies, whether from natural causes or at the hands of another predator, its carcass becomes a feast for buzzards. These birds have keen eyesight and a powerful sense of smell, which allows them to detect a fresh kill from miles away.
Once they have found a lion carcass, vultures waste no time tearing into the flesh. They use their sharp beaks to rip apart the meat, gobbling up as much as they can before other scavengers arrive.
And it’s not just vultures who are interested in a lion’s leftovers – other animals like hyenas may also try to snag a few bites.
How Do Lions Protect Themselves?
Fully grown lions, the undisputed kings of the animal kingdom, face few threats from other predators. But their reputation status isn’t the only way they protect themselves from danger.
Life in Pride
By living in prides, lions have a built-in protection system that’s tough for any predator to crack. Pride is a pack of lions that can consist of up to three males, a dozen females, and their cubs (up to 40 members).
Together, they can defend themselves against other predators and are less likely to be attacked than solitary lions.
Lions are loyal to their pride, while opposite genders have distinct responsibilities within the unit.
Males are the protectors, using their strength to defend their territory and cubs against any potential threat. Lionesses, on the other hand, are hunters, and they make sure food is available for all the members.
Size & Strength
Lions are the second-largest big cats, right after tigers. As such, a lion’s strength and impressive size serve as one of its key means of protection.
A male lion can reach a height of 6.8 ft. (2m) and weigh up to 480 lb. (217 kg). Female lions are smaller than males but still pack a deadly punch.
Both male and female lions have powerful muscles, sharp teeth, and imposing strength, making them intimidating to any predator out there. These features, combined with their speed and agility, make any animal think twice before starting a conflict.
Besides communicating with each other, a lion roar is a warning sign for any potential intruders. This sonic weapon is so frightening that it often dissuades potential attackers, effectively asserting their dominance and securing their territory.
In fact, a thunderous roar can reach up to 114 decibels and travel about 5 miles throughout African fields. To put that in perspective, when a jet plane takes off, it produces a noise of 120 decibels.
No animal on the planet remains indifferent to these monstrous roars of warning.
As the mighty and fierce rulers of the animal kingdom, it’s only natural to question what lions fear. What could possibly make a lion tremble in its paws?
Well, unlike humans, lions don’t have the same fear emotions. Still, lions do avoid some large mammals, not because they are afraid of them, but because of the possible injuries they can get from them.
Some of them include:
Also, in areas where lions come into contact with humans (in particular those with guns and other weapons), they may learn to associate humans with danger and become more cautious around them.
Final Thoughts on Lion Predators
In conclusion, lions are apex predators and generally not preyed upon by other animals; however, there are a few animals that can attack and kill lions.
Hyenas, crocodiles, leopards, and wild dogs are the most common predators threatening lions in their natural habitats. Still, these attacks are rare and are usually driven by competition for resources like food and territory rather than as a food source.
On the other hand, humans pose the biggest threat to the lion population, mainly through poaching and trophy hunting. And unfortunately, the number of lions has decreased significantly in recent years, and urgent conservation efforts are needed to protect this majestic species.