The short answer to ‘what do lions eat?’ is ‘a lot’ – both in terms of variety and amount.
But despite their fearsome looks, 20% hunting success rate, and need for around 8kg of meat per day, these apex predators don’t spend too much time eating. In a 24 hour period lions famously sleep and rest for 20 of these hours, leaving them four hours each day to fit in their other activities of hunting, eating, and socializing. It’s estimated that lions spend just 50 minutes eating each day on average (though they may not actually eat every day).
Still, the question remains what lions actually eat in those 50 minutes. Before going to this section directly, let’s quickly know about what lions should eat to sustain themselves.
Lion are ‘generalist hypercarnivores’
Lions are, of course, carnivorous animals that need meat.
They are generalists: Lions are different from most other carnivores as they’re able and willing to adapt their diets to their environment. This behaviour makes lions a generalist species. Put simply, lions just want meat and aren’t that picky when choosing their prey to hunt or scavenge – hunting whatever is available, unlike specialist species.
They are hypercarnivores:
Lion, a hypercarnivore
A lion eats more than 70% of meat in his diet. For this reason, a lion is called a hyper carnivorous animal. The prefix “hyper” added to “carnivorous” refers to “something in excess”. So, lions are carnivorous but they have this feature in excess. Yes, they eat too much meat!
From the two points mentioned above, it is clear what should be in the daily diet of a lion. It starts with a capital M. It’s MEAT, definitely!
Now, let’s quickly know about the diet of the lions, the die-hard non-vegetarians!
How much food lions need?
Lions are generally not that hungry all the time. They hunt when it is needed. Otherwise, they stick to their spot and take rest.
However, an adult lioness requires an average of 5 kg of meat each day. In the case of adult lions, they require 7 kg of meat on an average. This is not the case in reality. There is a difference between need and greed.
For their greedy attitude, they eat up to 30 kg of meat in just one season! If a lion can’t eat that much, he takes a nap for a few hours. Then comes to eat again.
However, they need a significant amount of energy during hunting and killing an animal. It can be said that the spirit of hunting boosts a lion’s appetite. That’s why they are generally seen more hungry after completing a hunt.
Here’s an interesting fact for you. A lion doesn’t hunt along with the group. He goes solo in the wilderness, grabs his prey, and kills it with ease. There is no need to assist him in his venture.
A lioness hunts with the group but not a lion!
What do lions actually eat?
Lions hunt mainly mammals and they particularly prefer ungulates.
Ungulate is a biological term that means “hoofed animals”. Generally, large mammals such as horses, tapirs, rhinoceroses, cattle, pigs, giraffes, deer, and hippopotamus are called ungulates.
Lions prefer them the most! A mammal weighing 190-550 kg is not a big deal for them.
What do lions eat in the wild?
As it is said earlier lions are carnivorous animals. They feed mostly on the flesh of wild animals. After killing a prey a lion consumes first and others in the pride eat after or with him. They tend to avoid the part of the prey from which the lion is eating.
According to “Prey preferences of the lion (Panthera leo)” by Hayward et al., lions prefer the following animals:
These animals are generally found in Africa. We can say it’s a diet of African lions.
Sometimes, lions are seen eating decaying flesh of dead animals. They don’t prefer it but have to eat it for their survival. It is believed that dead animals provide a large part of a lion’s diet.
Lions are dangerous animals and are known to occasionally eat humans. Read the incredible story of the Tsavo man-eating lions.
What do Indian lions eat?
Indian lions have to eat the mammals that are available in the Indian subcontinent. Here they mostly eat sambar deer and chital. Lions in India are often found feeding on domestic animals and some other wild prey. In India, lions take a mixed type of diet. There are both wild animals and domestic animals on their eating list.
What lions don’t eat?
In the wilderness, there is a constant struggle for existence. In that tough scenario, they have to compromise with some mammals for their own sake. Some animals are so big that they can take a lion’s life within minutes. Some mammals can harm them badly with their body parts used in defense. Some of them are more aggressive than lions. That’s why they avoid passing their way no matter how hungry they are.
Let’s have a look at the list of the animals that lions don’t eat:
They also avoid some little animals for the small quantity of meat they offer. Here’s the list of such animals:
As the father of Simba in The Lion King says, a lion doesn’t eat everything for maintaining the balance of the jungle. They are the rulers, it’s their duty to think about every animal.
However, lions king other predators like leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas too. But they don’t eat them. You can read about Savanna Animals here.
Do lions change their food preferences?
The latest studies of D. Joubert in 2006 and R.J. Power in 2002 presents recent developments about lion’s changing food preferences.
In Chobe National Park, Botswana, lions are observed hunting African bush elephants up to 15 years old. In other cases, they are seen to hunt juvenile elephants roaming alone.
It’s not a natural phenomenon in the wild. For the changing environment, lions hardly find any food in some specific seasons during a year. At that time, they had to make a very tough choice and hunt such a big animal together.
Frequently asked questions about “what do lions eat?”
What would a lion eat?
A lion is a carnivorous animal. It prefers the flesh of mammals. Lions generally like the hoofed animals the most. Sometimes they eat the decaying flesh of dead animals. It’s not a regular case with lions. They eat it when they can’t find sufficient prey to hunt.
Do lions eat humans?
The lions living in jungles eat wild animals. They can eat humans but they don’t. In some cases when a lion has accidentally killed a man and eaten it. Then it can hunt a man again if it finds one.
Do lions eat fruit?
Lions feed mostly on meat. It amounts to 70-75% of their daily diet. However, in some extremely rare cases, they are seen to eat fruit. But, it’s very rare. So, it’s safe to say a lion generally doesn’t eat fruit.
What do lions eat first?
While hunting a lion first holds the backside of the prey. Then he tries to destabilize the prey’s motion. After that, a lion grabs its throat with his strong jaws. A lion doesn’t leave the jaw until the prey is fully dead. Then they start to eat from that portion. So, the answer is a lion eats the upper portion of prey first. In some cases, it starts from the belly, or legs, or back.
And that’s your lot for the elephant’s diet. Did any of these facts on what elephants eat surprise you, or any relevant facts you think we should add? Please do join in using the comments section below!
According to the Syyabona Africa site, in the Savute region of Chobe National Park lions learned to kill adult elephants.
Lions do kill hippos of all ages
Sub-adult lions are taken down by lions as well.