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7 Animals that Eat Lions (A to Z Predator List & Pictures)

what eats lions

Animals that eat lions include African wild dogs, cheetahs, crocodiles, hyenas, leopards, and vultures.

Most animals do not attack healthy lions because they are big and strong. But animals like leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs hunt, kill, and eat lion cubs (baby lions). These predators also attack and kill sick, weak, and old lions.

Recent studies show that humans are the most dangerous threat to lions. Human poachers will hunt them for sport as well as illegal fur trade.

What Eats Lions?

1. African Wild Dogs 

african wild dog
Scientific Name Lycaon pictus
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAfrica
DietCarnivore

The African wild dog is also called an African hunting dog or African painted dog. This animal is native to the same habitats as lions and the largest wild canine in sub-Saharan Africa. 

African wild dogs and lions are natural enemies. Whenever their paths cross in the wild, it usually ends badly for the smaller wild canine predator.

However, African wild dogs are intelligent enough to know they don’t stand a chance in a fight with lions so will often retreat.

Hence, they stay away from the healthy and strong lions and hunt isolated and weak vubs or lionesses in packs. Furthermore, they also eat baby lions when they have the opportunity to do so.

2. Cheetahs

cheetah
Scientific Name Acinonyx jubatus
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAfrica, Iran
DietCarnivore

This wild cat is the fastest animal on land, and they are primarily found in central Iran and Africa. It’s estimated that the cheetah can run 80 to 128 km/h. 

Cheetahs love to eat other wild animals, including lions. However, they prefer to hunt and kill cubs since they cannot kill an adult lion.

Furthermore, the cheetah will kill and eat any injured animal, including the lion, if they have the opportunity.

3. Crocodiles

crocodiles
Scientific NameCrocodylidae
Type of AnimalReptile
RangeAustralia, Africa, Central America, Florida, Asia, Northern South America
DietCarnivore

Crocodiles are large reptiles mainly found in the tropics in Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Australia.

They mostly spend their time in the water. Crocodiles possess physical traits that help them to be successful predators including their amazing ability to roll and spin their prey into submission.

These semiaquatic reptiles are among the most successful predators. They can win fights against lions that go cooling off in shallow water because the water is the crocodile’s domain. 

Crocodiles ambush lions when they are drinking or cooling off in water. Then they will drag the wild cat straight into the deep water, drowning the lion before eating it.

4. Humans

human
Scientific NameHomo sapiens
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeGlobal
DietOmnivore

Lion meat is not a staple meal for humans, but it has been eaten by humans in the past. Furthermore, humans are still the main predators of lions by a distance.

Humans will shoot at lions to safeguard their territory against these dangerous wild cats. Furthermore, lions are culled due to their economic benefits. Their skin, tail, and nails are worth quite a fortune.

Today lions are listed as endangered species due to the frequent trophy hunting and poaching by humans. And all these activities have reduced the population of lions drastically in the past 200 years.

For instance, the number of lions estimated to exist during the 19th century is one million. However, since 1980, humans have been responsible for the decline of lions by 50 percent.

Nevertheless, hunting lions and other wild animals is still allowed in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. This can significantly contribute to the declining numbers of lions.

5. Hyenas

hyena
Scientific NameHyaena
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAsia, Africa, Arabian Peninsula
DietOmnivore, mostly Carnivorous

Hyenas are eternal enemies of the lions!

This animal forms a crucial component of many African ecosystems. The four hyena species which are well-known lions predators include;

  • Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
  • Brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea
  • Aardwolf (Proteles cristata)
  • Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena)

Hyenas are highly territorial and would instead steal food from their competitors than embark on a hunting spree.

This predator can also steal and eat lion cubs, sick and old lions, and even a lone lioness. However, a group of hyenas will only go after a single lioness if they have the numbers.

So, whenever a lion senses the threat of a large group of hyenas while feeding, it will protect itself by giving up its meal and allowing the hyenas to steal its prey.

6. Leopards

leopard
Scientific NamePanthera pardus
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAsia, Africa
DietCarnivore

The leopard and lions may belong to the same family, but they are natural enemies. 

This wild cat is a powerfully built carnivore with a broad head, long body, and relatively short legs.

Leopards are mostly found in African savannas, woodlands, grasslands, bushvelds, and forests. This large cat is identifiable by its black speckles and golden coats.

Furthermore, the leopard has a huge appetite and would eat only large animals, including lions, to stay well-nourished and full of energy.

However, leopards would not dare to go after a pride of lions because they are not as strong as them. Instead, these solitary cats prefer to go for unprotected baby lions and eat them. 

Leopards also eat trapped or injured lions that come their way.

7. Vultures

vulture
Scientific NameCathartes aura (Turkey vulture)
Type of AnimalBird
RangeEverywhere except Australia and the Polar Regions
DietCarnivore

Vultures are well-known scavengers that feed on carcasses, including recently deceased lions.

Vultures rarely go for living animals, but they wouldn’t hesitate to eat carrion meat, including lions.

Vultures eat lions that die from natural causes or carcasses left behind by other predators. For instance, when a lion dies, its carrion becomes a meal for a large group of vultures. 

How Lions Defend Themselves from Predators

Lions protect themselves with their sharp teeth, strong claws, and large size. 

They also live together in “pride,” which gives them the strength in numbers to protect themselves from predators.

A pride of lions is made up of several females, their young, and a few males. While the female lionesses do most of the hunt due to their agility and speed, male lions use their intimidating size and strength to defend their pride.

Male lions spend a significant part of their time on guard, watching and marking the pride’s territory.

Furthermore, some lions approach any intruder whenever the pride is under threat, while others stay behind and guard the cubs.

Related Article: Do Lions Eat Snakes?

Conclusion

Lions are dominant and powerful animals which makes other predators sit up and take notice of their presence. As a result, other predators rarely hunt lions. Most creatures they stand no chance against a healthy fully-grown lion.

Hence only a few animals eat lions, including hyenas, vultures, leopards, crocodiles, African wild dogs, and cheetahs. Mostly, they will pick off weaker lions such as injured lions or cubs.

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