What Do Lions Eat? A Closer Look At Lion Diet & Food Chain

What Do Lions Eat? A Closer Look At Lion Diet & Food Chain

Lions are apex predators that are well known for their ferocious natures and voracious appetites, and when it comes to their diet, one might wonder: “What do lions eat?”

They can consume just about anything depending on their environment: livestock, wild animals, and even people.

When opportune, lions will preferably hunt zebras, warthogs, wildebeests, and Grant’s gazelles.

Why? Because they prefer prey that stays in small groups, is slower, and provides enough meat to last them days. 

To discover the lion’s dietary habits and the place they occupy in the food chain, read on!

Lion Diet: What Do Lions Eat?

Pride of Lions Eating Zebra in the Wild

Lions are carnivorous by nature and are one of the deadliest animals in the wild.

They consume just about anything that contains meat.

When hunting, however, their animals of preference are zebras, warthogs, wildebeests, and grant’s gazelles because these animals are slow and move in small groups. 

Alternatively, they’ll hunt deer, antelopes, and giraffes. They do have a size limit, so they rarely attack giraffes or elephants.

The animals mentioned above provide enough flesh to keep a lion fed for days. 

Can Lions Eat Plants?

Lions are carnivores meaning that they can eat only meat. However, there have been rare cases where lions have been spotted eating fruits. 

Also, when lions have an upset stomach, they’ll eat grass to push their system to rebel so that they can vomit. 

How Much Do Lions Eat?

Group of Lions Eating a Buffalo

Out of ten humans, five consume about three to four pounds of food a day.

This means that if you’re a 200-pound male, you’re consuming about 2% of your body weight a day.

Even this little percentage is considered overeating, as you’d be fully stuffed.  

Lions eat over 20 times more than the average human in one sitting. This is because lions often go days without food between successful hunts. 

They can consume about 32 kilograms (70 pounds) in just a go!

When a group of lions hunts down a creature weighing about 2000 pounds (African buffaloes, hippopotami, occasionally giraffes), they can comfortably feast on it without leaving many remains for scavengers (vultures, hyenas). 

How Do Lions Hunt?

Lions Hunting Down a Buffalo

Lions hunt in units that are comprised of about a dozen females, their cubs, and three males at most. These units are called prides.

Although male lions are much larger than their females, they are significantly slower than them.

Females have a slender build that makes them much more agile on their feet. 

Consecutively, hunts in open terrains are mostly led by female lions.

When males are on a solo hunt, they prefer denser habitats that enable them to have the element of surprise on their prey. 

Grouping themselves into prides makes lions successful predators. A study of 1300 lion hunts was made some years ago.

During this, researchers discovered that lions who hunt alone have about 18% of catching their prey while a group hunt has a success rate of 30%!1

Why Are Lions Apex Predators?

African Lion Eating a Giraffe

Lions are considered apex predators because they are at the top of the food chain and can’t be defeated.

This position given to them by Mother Nature is for a reason; being one of the strongest animals in the wild, they regulate the herbivorous population.

This population includes impalas, buffaloes, zebras, deer, and even elephants.


The natural course of things is that lions hunt down the weakest animals in a herd (those suffering from diseases or have birth defects) to keep the other animals of said herd healthy and strong. 

When lions are absent, smaller carnivores thrive. They are incapable of managing large populations of herbivores.

This could lead to a degradation of habitats, overgrazed vegetation, and even an epidemic! 

An extensive study in Ghana, where the lion population was culled, showed a proliferation of olive baboons.

Intestinal parasites appeared and plagued other animals and even neighboring human populations. 

Do Lions Have Enemies?

Few animals come close to lions in matters of strength, speed, and tenacity.

Tigers and cheetahs are the only animals that come close to them, but even in a fight, the lion would probably win.

Their natural enemies are hyenas and cheetahs. Hyenas tend to compete with lions for their kills and can also steal their young.

However, the biggest threat lions face is humans, who attack their habitats and hunt them down.

Related: How To Survive A Lion Attack

Frequently Asked Questions

Do lions eat other lions?

While it is rare for a lion to eat another lion in the wild, it does happen! This occurs when their food source is scarce, and it becomes a matter of survival. 

When in captivity, however, this behavior becomes common. Male lions in zoos and other holding places tend to fight each other when mating season arises; the winner will feast on the carcass of the loser. 

What animals do lions rarely eat?

Although lions are carnivores and eat every type of meat, there are some animals that they rarely go after. This is because they are bigger and are hard to take down. These animals are giraffes, tigers, and elephants. 

Where do lions live?

Most wild lions live in sub-Saharan Africa, with 80% in East and Southern Africa. a small population exists in Asia, precisely in India’s Gir Forest. 

What animals are not scared of lions?

Honey badgers are the perfect definition of a small but mighty animal. They are not afraid to take on larger animals and comfortably hunt down poisonous snakes

When Do Lions Hunt?

Lions usually hunt in the early hours of the morning or at night. This is because they have a huge amount of fur, which makes it hard for them to track animals in the day’s heat.

Final Thoughts

Lions are very interesting creatures to study, and there’s so much to learn about them.

They are carnivorous animals who can be devouring prey in one minute and enjoy eating watermelons in the next!

These animals have a patriarchal society, with the males leading hunts and choosing the best part of their prey.2

Mind you, they are extremely protective of their females and cubs and will not hesitate to attack any threat to them. 

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Predatory Behaviour. Lion Hunting.
  2. Lion. Wikipedia.