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Are Lions Dangerous & Do They Attack People?

Lions are dangerous apex predators, especially aggressive around their cubs. Lions occasionally attack people and are more than capable of killing us with their powerful bites and sharp claws. They kill around 200 people every year.

Lions are some of the largest felines in the world, only smaller than some tigers. They are fierce animals, easily capable of killing other animals and humans.

While lions don’t usually hunt humans, there are many recorded cases of them seeking out people to prey upon.

So how dangerous are lions, can they be friendly, and what do they normally eat? 

We’ll answer these questions and more about the most iconic feline, the lion.

Are Lions Dangerous?

Yes, lions are dangerous. They are among the most capable hunters in the world. They are the apex predators, capable of killing most other predators in their habitats. Lions are also dangerous to humans, even though they don’t regularly hunt us. 

Lions are fierce, powerful predators. They are one of the most iconic animals in the world and the most recognizable feline. They live throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the Gujarat state of India.

Lions are efficient hunters due to their pack-like hunting tactics. They use group hunting tactics but are more than capable of catching large prey by themselves. 

They generally avoid hunting small animals as these aren’t worth the effort. Instead, they hunt for medium to large animals, commonly targeting gnus and antelopes. 

While lions are capable of killing massive animals like elephants, they usually don’t.[1] Animals like rhinos, hippos, and elephants and risky and dangerous, as they put up a good fight.

Dangerous Lions

Lions are more than capable of hurting and killing humans. There’s not much an unarmed human can do against a lion. 

They don’t regularly hunt people, but man-eating lions exist.

Not all lions are the same. Lions in the south of Africa are larger and more powerful than lions in East Africa and India. Nevertheless, even small lions can kill a human.

Can Lions be Friendly?

Yes, under certain circumstances lions can act friendly towards people. Lions that have been helped by people can get used to their caretakers. Those that are used to people are still wild and dangerous animals though.

Lions are wild animals, the apex predators in their habitat. They are powerful, deadly animals but they can still show affection and act friendly towards people.

Fully wild lions don’t seem to mind people watching them. Sitting atop the food chain, they are generally relaxed. They don’t fear other animals but are cautious of humans.

Lions raised by people in captivity or in reservations are generally friendlier. They usually show affection towards their caretakers.[2] This affection can turn violent if the person doesn’t respond appropriately to the lions

While lions raised in captivity seem friendly, we still have to be careful around them. You can easily make a wrong move, causing the lion to attack. 

Their predatory instincts can get triggered at any point and a “friendly” encounter can turn deadly.[3]

Related article: Are Lions Friendly?

Can Lions be Friendly

Do Lions Eat Humans?

Yes, lions eat humans. It’s not a usual occurrence but lions have eaten humans in the past. They tend to ignore humans and keep their distance, but they are capable of killing us. They will eat most of the things they kill, including people.

Lions sometimes hunt and eat humans. 

They are efficient animals and they eat most of the creatures they kill, including humans. While humans aren’t lions’ preferred prey by any means, they can still hunt us.

Lions are efficient predators, and certain factors might push them into becoming man-eating:

  • Prey depletion.
  • Habitat loss.
  • They can’t catch their usual prey.
  • Opportunity.

While they don’t hunt us under normal circumstances, these factors can push them to do it out of necessity or because it’s easy.

Prey Depletion and Habitat Loss

Due to human expansion into wildlife territory, many animals are forced out of regions they inhabit. 

Besides being pushed further from humans, many predators (like lions) have to migrate because they can’t find enough prey.

Lions unable to find sufficient prey to sustain their needs can turn to hunting humans. There have been such attacks in the past. 

Some lions are bold enough to grab humans even from the middle of large villages. They’ve done so frequently in Tanzania.[4]

Prey Depletion and Habitat Loss

They Can’t Catch Their Usual Prey

Besides prey depletion lions there are other factors that affect a lion’s ability to hunt:

  • Tooth decay
  • Disease
  • Injury

Unhealthy lions are prone to hunting unconventional prey. Hunting is risky, and a kick from a zebra or antelope can hurt or kill a lion. So, they turn to humans as we are easier to catch and kill. 

We can’t outrun lions, and we don’t have any chance of substantially injuring them (unless we are armed). 

Lions that are injured or suffer from tooth decay or other diseases are more likely to hunt people.[5][6]


Lions are opportunists. They won’t turn down easy meals, even if it’s not what they’re used to, including people. Humans are large enough to be worth catching and eating. 

We are also too weak to effectively defend ourselves against a feline as large as a lion. Without a weapon, there’s little chance that a human survives a lion attack, let alone win.

Lions also hunt people more frequently at night. As for the villagers in Tanzania, most attacks happened at night.[7]

Lions are opportunists

How To Avoid Lion Attacks

You can avoid lion attacks by using common sense and not taking unnecessary risks. Don’t travel alone, especially outside of a vehicle. Do not go out at night, or leave your camp. If you see lions or any wild animals don’t do anything that may provoke them.

Do the following on safari to avoid lion attacks:

  • Don’t walk alone.
  • Don’t go out at night.
  • Do not leave your camp or shelter.
  • Don’t run away from lions. (Back away slowly)
  • Don’t turn your back on lions.

The best way to avoid a lion attack is to avoid situations in which it can happen.

How To Avoid Lion Attacks

What Do Lions Hunt?

Lions hunt most of the animals found around them. They prefer large ungulates like zebras and African buffalos. They don’t hunt for small prey as it’s too much work for a little meat.

Lions hunt a variety of different animals. Their prey spectrum is wide as they are apex predators.

They prefer hunting large animals, especially ungulates. These animals offer enough nutrients and they are more convenient to catch than many smaller species. 

The following are some of the lion’s favorite prey:

  • Buffalo
  • Gemsbok
  • Giraffe
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra
  • Deer (in India)

Lion may also hunt for smaller animals like baboons and warthogs if they are available. They can also occasionally hunt juvenile elephants, rhinos, and hippos. Large lion prides can even take down sub-adult elephants.[8]

Related article: What Do Lions Eat?


Lions are dangerous animals. They are the apex predators in their environments, able to kill some of the largest animals on earth. They work together and effectively use group tactics to catch their prey. Lions can also kill humans. They don’t generally hunt people, but there are so-called man-eating lions that regularly try to catch and eat humans.

About Codrin Frunzete

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