Fascinated by Lions 😻 you have surely watched many documentaries exposing the impressive image of a Lion 🦁 all bloody lips, near the carcass of an animal that it has just torn apart. Indeed, panthera leo leo (from its scientific name), is the largest predator of the savannah. And for good reason, this carnivorous mammal of the felid family measuring from 2 m to 3m50 and weighing between 120 and 250 kgs, has been generously provided by nature.
To meet the nutritional needs of this maned colossus, it takes no less than 5 to 7 kilograms of meat 🥩 per day. This is an average, he can go several days without eating. When he is hungry, he is able to gobble up to 30 kilograms of meat if the hunt has been good. That is about the weight of a 4 month old lamb!
You’re probably wondering what the Lion consumes to satisfy such a voracious appetite 🙀 ?
So let this burning question simmer, time to learn more about the physiology as well as the lifestyle of this unusual animal. This is to better understand its food choices.
1) Create for Devouring Kills !
The taxonomy of the Lion 🦁 reveals to us that it is part of the order of carnivores, it belongs to the feline family and the subfamily panthera. Thus the Lion belongs to the same family as the tiger 🐯, the snow leopard and the leopard.
In Africa, there are 5 subspecies still living in the wild which are:
- Panthera Leo Senegalis (which lives in Senegal 🇸🇳);
- Panthera Leo Massaicus (which lives among the Masai in Kenya 🇰🇪 and Tanzania 🇹🇿);
- Panthera Leo Krugeris (in the Transvaal region of northeast South Africa 🇿🇦);
- Panthera Leo Bleyenberghi (in Katanga, DRC 🇨🇩).
In Asia, only 1 subspecies remains thanks to the conservation efforts of the Indian authorities. It is Panthera Leo Persica. Its numbers have increased from 15 specimens in 1965 to 350 in 2005.
As for the Atlas Lion which had for territory the north of Africa, you will be able to observe it only in captivity.
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2) the Lion, a Natural Predator
The Lion ⚜️ is the only gregarious feline, i.e. to live in a group (tigers for example only gather during mating season). It lives in a hierarchical community 👑 with very distinct roles depending on the physical ability of each member.
At the head of the clan, the Lion 🦁 dominant, who imposes with his powerful stature, his thick dissuasive mane and his audible roar 🔊 up to 8 km. He ensures the surveillance and protection of the territory against intruders (the Lion’s only predator is man!) and especially against attacks by other Lions who want to take over the territory.
He sometimes carries ” strong paw 🐾 ” to the lionesses in the hunt when they encounter difficulties to kill a big beast 🐃, to thus benefit from a well-stocked buffet.
His brothers if he has any, or at least those with whom he has formed strong bonds of brotherhood, assist him and generally remain under his authority. The social life of the Lions being complex, it can happen that there are several dominant males at the head of the herd. Coming from the same family, they are then on an equal footing and share the paternity of the cubs 🐱.
Several lionesses, having links of filiation between them (sisters, aunts, cousins…), mate with the dominant Lion.
With a slimmer morphology and without mane, they hunt in groups with cunning 😈 and strategy. They nurse the cubs until 3 months old and introduce them to hunting around 6 months old after they are weaned.
When the lionesses go hunting, the clan leader 🦁 metamorphoses into a real father hen and watches over his offspring.
A clan can gather up to 30 individuals. To recognize each other, touch is very important to the Lions 🦁. Indeed, when they are grouped together outside of hunting times, they rub against each other, caress each other with their heads, groom each other on the areas they cannot reach themselves. They exchange their smell.
The Whiskers that are located around the eyes 👀, mouth and on the chin collect this sensory information through the blood vessels and nerve cells they contain. All this contributes to create a group cohesion and allows them to better apprehend their environment 🏞️.
So it’s all this beautiful people who gather for family meals 🍽️. The lionesses after serving the meal, honor the sovereign by letting the dominant male “carve out the lion‘s share”. The maned glutton will eat until satiated before feasting on his efforts 💤 for 20 hours! Then follow the other males if the group is composed that way, then the females and finally the cubs.
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3) the Lion ; a Bloodthirsty Hunter and Lover of Fresh Meat
With a short sandy to dark brown coat, the Lion 🦁 and more specifically the lionesses that do not have a darker mane, blend easily into the tall grass of the savannah. They lurk and attack the target animal by surprise at the right moment.
The big cat muscular build contains a flexible spinal formula, identical to that of the cat 🐈, which allows it to run fast and dart with agility.
Its powerful forelimbs ⚡ allow it to bring victims to the ground. The tips of its lower limbs are stronger than in other felines, giving it an ability to hunt large prey. Its long legs terminated by retractable 🐾 claws help it to vigorously grab its catches to leave them no chance of survival.
Its long tail, bushy at the tip helps it keep its balance.
Its rectangular head with its large skull protects a brain whose parts that control sight, hearing and smell are particularly developed and allow it to be very active at night 🌙.
Its ultra-sensitive whiskers are additional assets to guide it 😈.
Its mouth with a powerful jaw can open wide thanks to the thick bone of the lower jaw and strong ligaments connecting the 2 parts of the jaw. It can thus easily break the bones 🦴 of its preys.
Its most amazing dentition is adapted to the diet of carnivores with long canines of about 6cm to seize the booty, aligned and well-developed incisors to slice and carnassial (very sharp molars) to tear the meat 🍖.
Such deadly weapons speak volumes about the savagery with which the ferocious predator 🦁 swallows its meal.
4) What Do African Lions Eat ?
You will have understood it, because of its organization in clan, of its enormous food needs, the Lion eats preferably of big game 🦓. The physical utensils he has at his disposal make his task easier.
A. Feeding of Lions
Under the blazing African sun 🌍, the territory of the Lion always includes a water point. It not only allows him to quench his thirst after his copious meals, but also constitutes an obligatory place of passage for all the animals, which will refresh themselves there. It is therefore a strategic point to supply the herd with rich and varied meat.
The rainy season 🌧️ is a good time to live in the savannah. The riverbeds and other water sources are swollen to the brim, the game is abundant 🐃.
The Ghoul King of the Savannah 👑 feasts on ungulate herbivorous mammals (mammals whose last phalanx of the finger or fingers is wrapped in a hoof) such as:
- Zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, cob, eland, giraffe 🦒 as far as large prey is concerned.
- The gazelle, the impala, the oryx, the warthog 🐗 for the medium catches.
Herbivorous game, 100% natural, is low in fat and contains no carbohydrates. Rich in protein (between 20 and 30%), it will provide energy, strengthen muscle tissue, bones and all organs. All that the Lion 🦁 needs to keep its excellent physical shape.
B. Hard, Hard Life in the Dry Season
In dry periods, the vegetation is much less dense, water becomes scarce and so does meat 🥩 . Herbivores, by herds transhumant to greener lands. With some exceptions, the maned dominator and his clan generally remain on the territory. He must then fall back on small vertebrates such as birds, snakes 🐍, shrews.
When the clan is big and to avoid going hunting often, crocodiles 🐊 and even elephants 🐘 make up the menu of the Lion.
C. Digestion of the Lion
After filling up on what constitutes its breakfast, lunch and dinner 🍽️, the savannah feline takes a digestive break. The digestive system of the lion, like that of all carnivores, is very simple. It consists of the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder and short intestines. The latter are only 3 times the size of its body. Compared to the cow which has intestines 5 times the size of the Lion 🙀.
Since plant fibers are harder to digest than animal fibers, the prey eaten by the Lion 🦁 have complex digestive systems. They have already done the job of processing fiber very well.
So why would the king of animals ⚜️ exhaust himself in a long and complex digestion when his subjects already do it very well for him?
Once ingested 😋 food undergoes a first stage of transformation with the help of salivary glands. It then passes through the esophagus to reach the stomach. In the stomach, chemical digestion and mechanical takes place. The food then transits to the small intestine where the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream takes place 🔴. The process of nutrient absorption continues in the large intestine (or colon) as well as the formation of fecal matter. The liver produces bile, which helps to eliminate toxins. This is how the digestion of Leo 🦁 takes place.
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5) the Meal of the Asian Lion
We mentioned it above, there is a subspecies of Lion in Asia 🦁 more precisely in India. You can imagine that the beasts to devour there are not the same as in Africa. The Asiatic Lion also called Panthera Leo Persica or Panthera Leo Sinhaleyus lives now only in the north west of India 🇮🇳 in the Gir Forest National Park 🏞️. In the past you could meet it from Syria to eastern India.
Its population composed of only about 500 individuals (compared to 25,000 in Africa) also lives in clan on a rather small territory 😩. Because of this the social groups are less important than in the African cousin (1 dominant male for for 2 or 4 females against 18 females for the African Lion).
A. Smaller but No Less Dangerous
With a size not exceeding 2m50 and an approximate weight of 190 kg, it is much less imposing than its African counterpart 🦁. It is not for all that less dangerous and its wild killings 😈 are not for all that lessened. It also differs from its African cousin 🌍 by its mane which is less voluminous, by its apparent ears and by its much denser coat. In addition, a gusset (a pocket of skin) extends from its belly to its hind legs 🐾.
B. In Asia too, the Predator Is Fond of Herbivores
In India 🇮🇳, hunting is also the prerogative of lionesses, who to satisfy the hunger of their herd prey on deer such as chital, sambar, antelope and deer 🦌. Cattle are also part of their diet due to the proximity to the Indian population.
Indeed, while the territory of the Lion 🦁 of the savanna can extend to 500 m2 that of the king of the jungle 👑 Asian does not exceed 100 m2. The flat plains of the savannah give way to steep terrain, rocky mounts, deep ravines and various bodies of water in the forest of Sasan Gir.
The climate in India is tropical, there is no extreme dry season. So the Asian Lion does not suffer as much from lack of food 🥩 as its African counterpart.
Of course, like many rulers, the Lion sometimes practices abuse of power ⚜️by squandering the catches of hyenas or wild dogs that feed on the same animals. In India, this kind of conflict is rarer because the Lion‘s adversary, the tiger 🐯 does not live on the same territory.
The Lion’s menu now has no secrets for you. Despite being the last link in the food chain, Panthera Leo is seeing its numbers decline over the years. Man is not a stranger to this. However, the actions carried out as in India for its conservation are tremendous bursts of optimism that presage a more glorious future for the king of animals 😺. As you learned earlier, the Lion’s digestion is fast.
So why do you think he sleeps 💤 so much if not because of a long digestion process 🍽️? The floor is yours, tell us all about it in the comments!
Also read our detailed post about the Animals that the Lion Eats, you’ll be surprised !