Lions of Africa

Learn about how Lions hunt.
When they stalk their prey,
how they attack and
feeding after a successful kill!
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Physical Characteristics
  Hunting Times
  Hunting Methods
  After Death
  Feeding Hierachy

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Lions are social animals.
By hunting together, they can go after bigger game.
Bigger game means more food for everyone.
The typical prey animal that is taken by lions is in the 250 pound (112.5 Kg.) range, but much larger game (Such as buffalo) is hunted when conditions permit.
(In the SavutiNational Park in Botswana, adult elephants and hippos are occasionally taken.) Prey species more commonly taken include:

  • zebra,
  • wildebeest,
  • gazelles,
  • antelope.
  • waterbuck.

Lions will also hunt smaller animals, when they are hungry and nothing bigger is available. Even crocodiles are occasionally hunted.
Lions are also expert scavengers, and obtain as much as 40 percent of their food by stealing it from other predators, or finding already dead animals.
Although they are the largest, lions are by no means the best hunters in their ecosystem.
Lions survive because there is so much food available around them, and they tend to hunt in groups.

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Hunting Times

Hunting is done most frequently in the evening, or early morning. Much hunting is also done at night.
The moonless part of the night is preferred for hunting.
Less hunting is done during the day, due to the heat, and better chances of being spotted by the prey.
Lions do hunt during the day, and their best statistical chance of a single animal making a kill is when they stumble across a lone prey animal who is caught by surprise.

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Hunting Methods

Group hunting methods are ruthless and scientific.
The younger members of a pride will often 'drive' a herd of prey animals towards the more experienced hunters who are waiting in ambush.
Sometimes, one or more lions will wait in ambush at a waterhole, and jump on unsuspecting animals coming for a drink. In any case, the hunts are surprisingly well organized. Once a lion has selected an animal to attack, it will sprint to it and attempt to grab hold of it. Often several individuals will assist in making the kill.
Making a kill is generally done in two stages

Bringing Prey Down

lions hunting In most cases, this process starts by a lion jumping onto the back of the selected prey animal, and working it's way towards the neck.
It will use it's needle-sharp claws to hold onto the animal while doing this.
Many animals who are sucessful in escaping being killed will undoubtedly later die from the severe lacerations inflicted by the sharp claws.

The Kill

lion using suffocation to kill The most frequently used killing method is suffocation.
A single lion will often get a good bite on it's victim's throat, and crush the windpipe. Especially when killing large prey, one lion of a group will clamp it's mouth over it's victim's nose and mouth while the other lions hold it down.
It is not unusual for the other lions to open the abdomen and begin eating while the animal is still being suffocated. In fact, this often kills the animal faster than the suffocation does.

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After Death

As soon as the prey is dead, a single lion will often drag it's catch to a less open spot.
The abdomen is opened, and the meal usually starts with the entrails. Lions vary widely in their tastes, which tend to vary on a region by region basis.
Almost all lions eat the heart, liver and kidneys. Other lions will eat everything in the body cavity except the stomach, showing a strong preference for the intestines.
The meal then proceeds with the hindquarters, which is the fleshiest part of the animal. The lions will then work forwards towards the head.
It is also unusual for lions to open the skull.

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Feeding Hierachy

If the pride male is present, he will often (but not always) hog the kill for himself, until he is sated.
The females eat next, and then, the cubs.
Some the males prefer the flesh and will start eating the hindquarters of a fresh kill while the females fight over the entrails.
Lions are scavengers, too. They will eat most anything they find dead. For many old males too old to run down live game, scavenging may be their only way to find food.
A lion will gorge itself, if possible, on a kill. An adult will typically eat 40 pounds (18 Kg.) of meat at a time, with reports of as much as 75 pounds (34 Kg.) consumed in one sitting. A single lion may take two or more meals from a kill over a 2-3 day period, while prides usually cannot get more than one meal for everybody after an average kill. After eating a large meal, lions will sleep for as long as 24 hours (what a life!). A good, full meal for a pride may result in four days of little activity, and no great desire to hunt until the sixth day.

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