Do Lions Eat Lions: Here’s When and Why Lions Eat Other Lions

Most know of lions being a natural predator of other animals, but we never think of another interesting trait of lions, that of eating each other. So do lions eat lions?

In this article, we’re exploring all aspects of lions eating lions. Males, females, cubs, and other lion’s cubs. When they do and don’t, and why, plus more. Here’s the quick summary to start us off…

Lions eat other lions in certain circumstances. Through a desperate need for food, rivalry, or to remove lion cubs by a previous male from a newly acquired pride of lions. They mostly kill but do not eat them. As a general rule, lions do not seek to hunt and eat other lions unless food is scarce.

So there are indeed occasions when lions do eat other lions, or at least will kill them. If you want to know more about what lions eat. I’ve compiled a complete list of what lions eat.

Lions are the emblem of wildness and ruthlessness. And the lion who is the strongest in strength and leadership is seen as the ‘King of the jungle‘. But do these kings of the Jungle eat each other? Let’s get into some of the circumstances when a lion might eat a lion.

Do lions eat lions: Some background on lions

Lions are a member of the big cat family. They belong to the Panthera genus and Family Felidae

Among the cat species, the lion is the second-largest species in the world. They’re found in large parts of Africa, and only in Africa.

Lions are apex predators. They spend around an average of 50 minutes eating during any 24-hour period. Lions are hyper-carnivores, which means an average adult lion requires an average of 7kgs of meat. 

Do lions eat lions?

Lions are not usually known to be involved in cannibalistic activities. However, often in nature events can be unusual and create unusual behaviors.

There are documented cases of lions killing cubs of other lions eating them, and abandoning the carcass afterward. They brutally kill or injure each other in rivalry combat, but usually, they let go of the loser. 

The most interesting cannibalism behavior of lions took place in the reign of the Mapogo brothers of the Sabi Sands, where a pride killed more than 70 lions. Here’s a short video of their story.

Do lions eat other lions’ cubs? 

Lions eat and kill cubs to eliminate them from a pride they have just inherited. They claim their lioness to come under their possession. When cubs are not biologically related, they may kill the cubs of their former fathers when they take over the new territory. 

The female lion takes two years to mate again after she gives birth to cubs. So male lions have been known to kill and eat the previous cubs when they want to instigate the lioness to breed again – this time with their own cubs. 

Do female lions eat male lions?

The lioness of the pride is the one that does the hunting most of the time, and male lions offer assistance.

Incidents have been documented where female lions attack the male. One such incident occurred in 2018 at the West Midland Safari Park in the UK.

Another incident also in 2018 was reported when a lioness attacked and killed a male lion in captivity at the San Diego zoo in the US. The pair had been living together in the zoo for eight years before this unusual incident occurred. 

Why does a lioness kill a lion?

Usually, female lions do not kill other lions. But in the wild disputes can arise over food and pride leadership which may lead a lioness or group of lionesses to attack male lions.

Often this is over food disputes but may also be to protect their cubs or their territory. And on occasions when they simply do not want to mate with the male lion in question.

Sometimes, a male lion may kill a female lion who refuses to mate with him.

do lions eat lions

Do lions eat mountain lions? 

The mountain lion is recognized by its distinctive “M” shaped paw marks, smaller head, and slighter build. Known by a number of names, including cougar, mountain lion, panther, puma, el lion, and catamount. 

Mountain lions are found throughout North and South America. If there were ever mountain lions in Africa or Asia then there are non currently recorded. So African lions and mountain lions do not come in contact with each other, therefore there is no competition of competing territories.

Mountain lion habitats include lowland forests, grassland, dry brush country, swamps, and forests. 

Usually, mountain lions do not prey on other mountain lions in order to feed their hunger demands. But,  should they need to defend or maintain their territory, they may attack, kill, and even cannibalize the cubs along with other rival mountain lions.

They are opportunistic hunters and eat elk, turkey, feral hog, coyotes, rodents, raccoons, and many more.

Are mountain lions dangerous to humans?

Generally, mountain lions are silent stalkers and are among the same species of big cats like lions, but are not as outwardly visible as lions.

Mountain lions are fairly timid and shy away from confrontation with humans. Recorded incidents of mountain lions attacking humans are extremely rare. If you do happen upon a mountain lion it’s both rare and exciting. You are unlikely to be attacked, however, always stay safe and be cautious. 

Do lions eat dead lions?

Generally speaking, lions do not eat dead animals but may steal recent kills from other animals like hyenas. They are not known for eating carrion or scavenging, particularly kills of other lions. However, there are reports where lions have eaten dead animals or leftover carcasses due to hunger.

They need meat nutrition for their survival, and if they cannot locate prey to hunt and kill then they will consume whatever comes their way in order to survive when times become desperate.

So when forced, they will eat dead and decayed animals, but they do generally eat the carcasses of other lions except in exceptional times of hardship. 

Why don’t lions prefer eating other lions?

Lions do not prefer eating other lions until and unless there is a desperate need to do so. Besides being from the same family of species, lion meat does not provide as much energy and nutrition as other potential larger prey.

They eat big to medium-sized mammals, which are mostly herbivores. These herbivores are rich in fat which provides the perfect nutrients to the lions. Typically, lions do not prefer to eat other carnivores. 

Lions take advantage of favorable circumstances and conditions when hunting their prey. However, eating unusual meat is usually an act of desperate need.

Do lions eat leopards?

Leopards are included in the genus Panthera, the family of lions. They are primarily found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mara’s leopards have been known to be killed and eaten by lions. Leopards are camouflaged and stealthy hunters, but can still fall prey to lions. 

To finish

I hope this has helped to answer the question do lions eat lions. Be sure to check out my other related articles:

What do lions eat

Can tigers mate with lions

Do lions eat giraffes

Do lions live in the jungle

What do hyenas eat

Difference between variety and species


A Certified Ecologist and an Entomologist, Michael has been interested in all aspects of Nature for many years. It's only now he's decided, along with his partner Fran, to begin documenting what he knows.

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