What Do Lions Eat?

Lions are usually attributed as the most sociable of the cat family, living in groups. They can hunt alone but often in packs to catch their prey more easily. So, what animals do lions hunt, and more importantly, what do lions eat?

Lions are carnivores, so they only consume meat. They can eat approximately 15% of their body weight during just one meal. They prey on any animal they can catch, although most of these are antelope, buffalo, and zebras. If the chance presents itself, they will feed on the young of larger mammal species like elephants.

Let’s look at how lions hunt, what they eat (in the wild and captivity), and other interesting things about the eating habits of Africa’s biggest cat.

A pack of lions feeding on their prey in the Savannah

How Do Lions Hunt?

Different animals have different ways of hunting, depending on their strong suits. While animals such as tigers prefer hunting alone, lions often hunt animals in a group having pre-decided roles for each member. 

They are greedy; as a result, they often hunt even when they’re not hungry. 

Lions are not naturally gifted when it comes to running. The top speed of a lion is 37 miles per hour or 60 kilometers per hour (approximately half that of a cheetah and 20 kph slower than a Jaguar). 

In addition, Lions often go out of breath when they attempt to run longer distances. 

This means lions have to depend on other methods to hunt, which makes them one of the most intelligent predators in the savannah. 

With the help of stalking their prey, lions try to sneak as near their target as possible before the hunt starts. 

They move slowly toward their prey while crouching close to the ground, hiding in the thick dry grass. 

After making sure they haven’t been heard or seen, they can quickly jump on an animal to catch it off guard.

Do Lions Strictly Only Eat Meat?

Lions are described as obligate carnivores, meaning their diet consists of 70% meat

However, at times for domesticated Lions in a zoo, grass is offered to a Lion as a form of medicine. Lions consume grass, not as a regular part of their diet, but to help them settle an upset stomach. 

Grass is frequently the most accessible plant for domestic or captive lions to eat.

Another reason why Lions choose to eat grass is because it is a natural source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber that supports their health and assists them in their digestive process, which is important considering most of their diet is meat-based. 

Eating grass is an evolutionary instinct that benefits their health, and as a result, they nibble on grass for medical reasons rather than trying to end their hunger.

They usually eat a small mouthful of grass sufficient to help them with any digestive issues they are going through. 

Lion feeding on a bloody carcass

Diet for Lions in Captivity

Lions in the wild hunt a wide range of animals, due to which they eat quite a few different kinds of meat. 

Large animals like zebra and wildebeest, which weigh between 100-1000 lb (45-453 kg), are lions’ main prey. Lions will also choose to trap and eat a range of smaller animals to satisfy their hunger during times of scarcity when there are no large animals to hunt.

What a lion receives to eat in captivity largely depends on the facilities providing them with food.

For example, lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo are fed ground beef prepared commercially to satisfy their dietary requirements. 

They get beef femurs or knucklebones twice a week. Additionally, once a week, they get rabbits which helps the lions keep their teeth and jaws strong.

Do Lions Eat Everyday?

Lions eat every three to four days and require an average of 11-15 lb (5-7 kg) of meat daily. 

However, they can go for up to a week without eating, which can be due to the lion not finding prey to hunt before tearing into their prey. 

They can eat up to 110 lb (50 kg) at once, or about a quarter of their body weight.

Lions also choose to scavenge for food at times. 

As scavengers, lions will gladly take food from other weaker animals or consume leftovers from their kill. As a result, lions frequently intimidate other animals into giving up their catch of the day.

Often lions scare off weaker predators like cheetahs, and if they don’t flee, they could become part of the meal.

Scavenging food only works occasionally, as large groups of hyenas may fight to defend their catch from a single lion which can be fatal for the lion.

Lion pride works together to hunt buffalo 🦁 Serengeti II - BBC

Final Thoughts On The Diet Of Lions

Lions hunt most animals found within their habitat and tend to eat whatever they can catch. This includes zebras, wildebeests, buffalos, and sometimes even the young of larger mammals, like rhinos and elephants.

As the “King of the Jungle,” lions also scavenge and take the kill from smaller predators like hyenas, cheetahs, or leopards when the opportunity presents itself.

FAQs

Are Lions Carnivores? 

Lions have a carnivorous diet. They ensure they get energy and fulfill their nutritional needs by predation or stealing catches from weaker predators. Their diet consists almost entirely of animal meat and tissue.

In What Order Do Lions In a Pack Eat? 

Once the pride has caught its prey, the strongest male lion gets to eat first, followed by other members of the group of Lions. The weakest lions are usually left hungry since nothing is left to eat once the lionesses and cubs have eaten their share.

Do Lions Have Predators?

Lions have enemies, such as hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards, but they have no predators that want to hunt them to eat them. Hyenas and leopards often compete with lions for prey and frequently attempt to steal a lion’s catch. 

How Do Lions Eat Their Prey?

Lions have powerful jaws that can open to a width of 11 inches. They kill their prey by biting down on them with their long canines. The flesh is held in place with their small incisors at the front of the mouth while being torn into bite-sized pieces by their razor-sharp carnassial teeth in the back.