How Do Lions Hunt and Kill Their Prey

How Do Lions Hunt and Kill Their Prey ?

Have you always admired the lion? But you never understood why the lioness hunts for food? The lion is a powerful predator, the way it hunts proves it every day.

We give you all the explanations in this article. As well as the preconceived notions about it. 🦁

To enlighten you, we will talk about :

  • how lions are organized
  • what they eat
  • the techniques lionesses use to hunt
  • how food is shared in a lion pride

Without further ado, read on to find out everything you need to know.

The Lion, that powerful Predator

The lion is one of the largest land predators of all time and the largest in Africa. It is the most fearsome of the felines and, in terms of weight, it is just behind the tiger. The weight of the male varies between 150 and 250 kg, while that of the female varies between 120 and 180 kg.

Its jaws are able to seize and squeeze a prey until it suffocates. We can appreciate the very sharp canines that it has. Its teeth are capable of breaking bones, tearing flesh and choking its prey. 🦷

Like any other felid, the lion has 30 teeth in each of its arches, and on each arch there are 2 sharp canines that reach 8 centimeters in length.

lion in African bushes

Lions Organization

Knowing how these animals organize themselves is very important to understanding how lionesses hunt in the future. These carnivorous predators are very social and each group, or herd, consists of one or two males, five or six related females and young of both sexes. When the young males reach maturity, they are expelled from the group to form their own “team. Something similar happens with females that have already raised their young.

If there are already too many cubs in the harem, they are banished and not accepted by the other packs. The only option left to them is to pair up with another lonely female and reunite their group when they find a lone male. 🧐

For their part, males stay within the confines of the horde area; they protect their territory, their female and their young. This is one of the reasons why lionesses are in charge of feeding them. If we analyze the physical appearance of the male and female, we can get an idea of why it is the females that go out hunting. The lionesses are smaller, lighter, faster and less striking, since they do not have a big mane. The hunting process requires some strategy.

lion group hunting

What Do the Lion Eat ?

Although lions prefer to hunt animals weighing between 50 and 500 kg, they will take the opportunity to eat anything they can find, including birds, rodents, reptiles and hares.

Their favorite animals are medium-sized mammals such as zebras, buffaloes, antelopes, gazelles and warthogs. Hyenas can also be eaten by lions. The daily meat intake of these felines is about 14 kg for males and between 10 and 14 kg for females (depending on the size of the prey, they can reach up to 20 kg per day). In addition to active hunting, they supplement their diet with carrion and the remains of other animals. 🦌

It is very unlikely that a lion attacks an animal much larger than himself, such as an elephant or a large rhino. It knows very well that it poses a threat to its life or could be severely injured.

We covered a full article on lion feeding earlier, find out more!

lion eating meat

How Do Lionesses Hunt : Techniques

Hunting is done by lionesses, they are more agile and slender than males. It should be noted that they do not have a heavy mane, which can cause heat during the hunt and be more quickly spotted by their prey. Hunting is a complicated matter. There are three distinct techniques:

1) The Hunt

This is the lioness’s bread and butter. In general, this step is like the method used by cheetahs, except without the jet-pack they have at their disposition. The lioness stays hidden for as long as possible, crawling on her belly when necessary, staying hidden in the grass (which is often the same color as her fur), in order to get as close as possible to the prey. When she (and her fellow lionesses) finally get noticed and the template is in place, it’s a mad dash towards the prey.

Inevitably, one of the lionesses attacks the prey, and then if necessary, the others join in to immobilize the prey until the throat is crushed and the game is over. 😵

This same stealth method is used when a lioness is hunting alone (which can sometimes happen). In this scenario, the prey can be any animal, a wildebeest, a zebra, a lost young buffalo, various antelope or gazelle ungulates, etc. It is the medium sized prey that makes up the majority of the lions diet.

2) The Collective Attack

lionesses and young males hunt in open spaces where they can be easily spotted by their prey. Therefore, the chances of success are much higher if the hunt is a group effort.

Usually, the lioness pack is spread out and hidden in the savanna grass along a specific path. The pack leader’s skill is to direct the attack of prey along this path. Each lioness has a preferred position during the hunt, some strike on the hips, others move to the center of the herd and jump on the prey, using other lionesses as a springboard.

The attack is short and powerful, consisting of a powerful shot that ends in a fatal leap. Normally, the preliminary attack is made with claws, to protect the teeth from possible collisions with horns, hooves or protruding bones. The prey is in most cases killed by strangulation following a bite to the neck which can cause cerebral ischemia or asphyxia.

If it is a large mammal, it is quickly transported to a sheltered area where the herd can defend it from opportunistic predators. Clever felines such as hyenas and jackals that quickly reach the hunting ground for several kilometers, attracted by the vultures’ canopy. 🦅

When it’s time to go to the table, fights or quarrels often break out within the pack. This is very common and confirms the hierarchical relationships. The adult males usually eat first, followed by the females and finally the cubs who start to annoy the prey from 3 months. In fact, they only participate in the hunt in their first year. They play an active and effective role from the age of two years.

lions killing buffalo

3) The hunting of males

In this case, we are talking about adult Cape buffalo, giraffes, maybe hippos and even elephants, in some parts of Africa. That’s where the big guns are needed! We are referring to the big, heavy maned lions. Yes, they get involved too. They don’t always get lazy. Getting the occasional “big kill” is important, and males have no problem participating.

In this type of hunting, there is no stealth in the grass. This type of whole pride hunt is more like how a wolf pack might hunt. It’s organized. It starts with all the lionesses taking up positions on the flanks. They maneuver in a coordinated fashion to try to separate the target, the big target. If things are going well, that’s when the lion comes into play. The huge Cape buffalo and the lion look each other in the eye with the full knowledge that something is about to happen. 👀

So when it comes to brute strength and bravery, there is no shortage of prey or predator. If the prey gets help from the rest of their herd, they usually win. If not… the pack of lions and lionesses wins.

But it’s the fighting spirit, aggression, size and weight of the lion that makes the difference here. Too big for the lionesses to approach themselves. So, having said that, we can’t really say that the lion is only made to fight other lions. They certainly can and do hunt.

lion and cub eating buffalo

Dinner is served !

Once the prey is dead, the first to be “served” is the male, who gets the best and freshest part. When he is satisfied, it is the turn of the hunters and the other females of the pack. And finally the cubs are fed, so in times of shortage some cubs may die of starvation.

If a female approaches the food before the male finishes, the male will demonstrate his power by growling and scratching. This is enough to make them wait their turn, even if it seems contradictory. But what follows is also interesting: the lion is more likely to allow the cubs to eat at the same time as him.

After dinner, the male devotes himself to rest and digestion: he may spend 20 hours a day sleeping and only wake up when he is hungry. The lion may take the remaining prey to the top of a tree to help himself whenever he wants, especially to prevent scavengers such as vultures or even hyenas from “stealing” his food. 🥩

Now, back to the hunt. How efficient is the lioness at hunting? We know she is super fast. We know that it is capable of blending into its environment. We know she is flexible and stealthy.

Is the Male Lion Made for Hunting ?

Well, he’s slower. Not an expert in harassment compared to the lioness. And, one of the main things, with a big black mane, he doesn’t really blend in with his environment. This black mane stands out like a ball of soot in a factory of white balls. So basically, the more virile and healthy the lion, the less of a hunter he is. It appears that lion kings are not meant for hunting`. They are dark in color, they are easily affected by heat (and ironically, the darker the mane, the greater the chance of overheating and getting out of breath in a chase).

The only time big older black lions are partially successful hunters is when they are hunting in dense forests or bushes. This type of thick covering helps them get close before they are detected, despite their relatively clumsy tracker skills and slower speed. 🤨

But when this scenario happens, it usually signifies that the Pride King has been ousted and banned. In that case, they do the best they can on their own, but the forecast is usually not very good for these deposed leaders. They are not great at hunting. They are rather skilled at fighting. Moreover, if they have the privilege of lazing in the shade while the lions hunt, it is not so obviously because they feel allowed to do so, but because of the heat. They must Their bodies can’t handle the heat, especially the bigger, crinklier, darker and more regal ones.

big lion lying on rock

Plus, they have to stay in shape to prevent a young stallion from wandering into the den, beating them and crushing all their cubs to death while they meow and cry until their last breath. Their father has to protect them, so he has to take care of his cubs as much as possible. This makes him look lazy, but he’s not, for all the reasons listed above.

These cats are made to fight. It’s their job. They risk their lives for their families, for their pride. The number of lionesses that die in battle is relatively small compared to the number of male lions and cubs. So, yes, the lions, especially the king lion of the pride, do let themselves go. And everyone else in the pride is doing everything they can to keep him relaxed, healthy and protecting them.

Things to remember

The lion is a fierce predator who spends his days looking after his cubs. During this time, the lioness goes hunting alone or in the company of other lionesses. This is to bring back food for the lion and their cubs. Once the lioness brings back the food, the leader lion of the pride helps himself first and the others handle after he is done. 🍽

You have learned all of these things and more about the king of the forest. You now know quite a bit about this fearsome feline.

lion and lioness sitting on rock
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