Do Lions Eat Other Lions? (Cannibalistic) 🦁

Male lions are known for killing lion cubs when they take over a new pride, but they rarely eat them. Female lions can kill males for breeding advantages too.

Male lions are known for killing lion cubs when they take over a new pride, but they rarely eat them. Female lions can kill males for breeding advantages too.

Are Lions Cannibalistic?

Although there are always videos online of male lions killing cubs – as well as male lions fighting each other to the death – they rarely ever eat each other.

Big cats like lions (Panthera leo), don’t tend to actually eat other big cats at all. Either they don’t like the taste of them or the idea of killing them is for the dead animal to be seen as having been defeated. Nobody really knows.

Male lions have to prove their dominance to other males to retain their breeding rights for their ‘pride’. A pride is a group of related females that they protect from other male lions and predators and who will produce their cubs the following year.

Fighting other males is part of that dominance. Ideally, though, just their scent and their posturing will be enough to put off any rival lions from encroaching on their patch. However, if intruding lions don’t take the hint, then the pride leader or leaders (sometimes sibling males lead a pride together) will take decisive action.

A lot of other animals don’t eat predators either – for example, humans. We don’t eat any carnivores in our diet; mild omnivores are about as far as we will go. And it is the same with lions. They aren’t cannibalistic by any means – even if they sometimes do have a bit of a chew on a fresh young pup.

Why Do Lions Kill Other Lions?

It sounds mean and wasteful for an adult male lion to kill a young pup – but nature has different rules for humans.

An animal’s life is all about reproduction and producing the next generation with your own genes.

Therefore, if a male lion takes over a pride from an older or weaker male – they don’t want to waste valuable time feeding and caring for someone else’s offspring. There is no evolutionary advantage for them to do that.

It will take another year before the female lions come back into heat for him to try to produce his own offspring and male lions aren’t that patient.

Therefore, by killing the previous lion’s cubs he will trigger the females to come back into heat and allow him to sire his own pups much sooner. The females don’t seem to hold it against him for this strangely and hormones win the day. They will mate with this powerful new male when the time is right – and of course – a new powerful male will certainly be a better father for their new offspring.

It works the other way too. Female lions who aren’t producing pups, or feel that their current male isn’t doing a very good job of looking after them, will often attack him or kill him so that they are available for a new lion to come in and take over. They never eat the male when they do this – but they can certainly look like they have after he has passed at their hands.

Do Lions Kill Other Big Cats?

Lions like to be the most dominant animal in their patch and will actively kill other big cats that they come across. They are much bigger than both cheetahs and leopards and will steal their prey from them for sure if they get the chance. If these smaller cats try to fight back or are caught unawares in the wrong place they may well be killed or left for dead.

Lions will also kill other predators too like hyenas and hunting dogs who encroach too closely – they aren’t typically animals who like sharing. They will also steal catches off other predators where they can. It is only really hyenas who can stave off a hungry lion.

Lions never eat these big cats or other predators when they kill them – they just want them gone.

Would A Lion Eat A Human?

YES, Lions can, and do, actively attack humans once they get into a situation where this is an option. Often there are stories of repeat offenders (not always true though) who not only attack and kill humans – but also eat them.

These gruesome stories are usually found in strange circumstances where the lions are on the edges of their ideal habitat, are sick or injured in some way or something else isn’t quite right with their living state. Some say toothache can cause a regular man-eater – but nothing is proven.

Also, Remember to Read Our Other Articles On Lions