Home /


/ Lion’s Diet: What Do Lions Eat?

Lion’s Diet: What Do Lions Eat?

Lions are carnivores. Their diet is mostly comprised of meat as they can’t digest plants. They are apex predators that usually hunt large animals from their environments. Groups of lions can catch and eat even some of the largest animals in Africa. If they are pushed into a corner by the lack of usual prey, they can even start hunting humans.

Lions are among the largest felines in the world. They are powerful hunters by themselves, but thanks to their cooperation within groups they can bring down huge prey, like juvenile elephants.

These effective predators are well known for their hunting ability. But what animals do they eat, how often do they feast, and how do they catch their prey?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions and find out more about the lion’s diet.

Are Lions Carnivores?

Yes, lions are carnivores. Like all felines, they are obligate carnivores, meaning they have to eat meat to survive. As hypercarnivores, most of their diet is made up of meat, with the rest being mainly other animal materials.

Lions are carnivores. Because they are obligate carnivores, meat is a required part of their diet. They can’t survive without it.

They are also considered hypercarnivores (animals that need a diet of over 70% meat). While they can be spotted consuming some grasses every now and then, lions can’t digest vegetal materials. It doesn’t provide any nutritional value for them.

Are Lions Carnivores

What Do Lions Eat?

Lions eat meat. They prefer hunting large animals weighing more than 400 pounds. This is more energy efficient for lions as their stamina is lackluster. Chasing small prey would tire them out for little reward. As hypercarnivores, they consume a lot of meat to stay healthy.

Today, lions are found across sub-Saharan Africa and in northwestern India. The biodiversity across their habitat is impressive giving them plenty of large species to hunt. Especially in Africa.

Lions have a preference for large ungulates (animals with hooves). They prefer catching these bigger animals to save energy. Getting a lot of meat in a single hunt is more efficient than hunting smaller prey frequently.

These are the wild animals that lions generally hunt:

  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra
  • African buffalo
  • Gemsbok and Elands
  • Giraffe
  • Deer



Wildebeests or gnus are large antelopes found throughout eastern and southern Africa. These antelopes are the favorite prey of many African predators, including lions.[1]

Wildebeests are strong, horned animals. They are fast and generally travel as a group. Even the females have horns so they can pose a danger to any predator attempting to hunt them.

When lions hunt for wildebeest they attempt to isolate one animal from the rest of the herd. This usually results in them catching older wildebeests since the older individuals protect the younger ones in the herd.



Zebras are wild animals that graze on grasses across eastern and southern Africa. They are closely related to the domestic horse and are part of the same genus, Equus.

Zebras may not have weapons in the form of horns like other herbivores, but they can still defend themselves. A well-placed kick from a zebra’s powerful back legs can badly hurt or even kill a large lion.

When they sense lions nearby zebras keep a safe distance. Lions, alongside spotted hyenas, are the zebra’s greatest predators. Lions are generally successful when hunting lone individuals, generally older males.[2]

African Buffalo

African Buffalo

The African buffalo is a huge animal that can be dangerous for anyone that crosses its path. They are sometimes aggressive towards people and can attack and kill them.

African buffalos are known to be intelligent and dangerous animals. Big game hunters in Africa report that injured buffalos ambush their pursuers and try to kill them.[3]

Lions are capable of killing this large herbivore that usually weighs over 1,000 pounds. Buffaloes use the herd as a means of defense against predators, keeping the young and vulnerable in the middle.

Buffaloes are much riskier prey than antelopes but the reward can comfortably feed a lion’s pride. They are intelligent enough to call for help from the herd when isolated, which can make lions retreat.[4]

Besides the high risk of hunting African buffalo, it’s still the main prey of lions in some regions.

Gemsbok and Eland

Gemsbok and Eland

Gemsboks and elands are large antelope found across Southern and eastern Africa. Their horns and hooves can pose a threat to predators.

Large male gemsboks weigh up to 530 pounds, so they aren’t that large. Male elands can weigh as much as 2,200 pounds, making them riskier prey. Elands are the largest antelopes in the world.

Lions regularly hunt gemsbok if they are available in their area. Since they can take down much larger animals, gemsboks aren’t hard to kill.



Adult giraffes are hard to kill. These towering animals have a high chance of a long lifespan once they reach adulthood. Large adult giraffes aren’t generally at risk of predation.[5]

Lions regularly hunt giraffes, despite the high risk. They usually target juveniles and individuals under 1,200 pounds who aren’t as much of a danger to the felines.[6]

In Kruger National Park, giraffes make up about one-third of the diet of lions and other large cats. Only a small portion of these giraffes are hunted, most of them die of other causes and are scavenged.[7]



Different species of deer are also part of the lion’s common prey, especially in India, where other large herbivores aren’t available.

Deer aren’t as large as some of the other animals lions generally hunt. They are fairly easy to catch, as long as lions ambush them.

Smaller Animals


While not their preference, lions may hunt smaller animals. This depends on the availability of their usual targets and on the abundance of smaller animals.

Here are some of the smaller animals that lions hunt:

  • Warthogs
  • Porcupines
  • Reptiles
  • Monkeys
  • Dik-diks

Massive Animals


Lions generally steer clear of dangerous heavyweights like hippos, rhinos, and elephants. If the opportunity arises they may attempt to hunt small or juvenile individuals.

Humans and Livestock

In some areas livestock can make up a large part of a lion’s diet. It’s easy to kill and it can be found in many places, especially because of human expansion.

Besides livestock, lions can also become man-eating. Human expansion, habitat loss, and prey depletion is pushing lions and humans closer together.

Lions are more than capable of hurting humans and have deliberately hunted and eaten humans in the past.[8]

The Lion’s Diet

The lion’s meat diet varies from region to region according to the animals available to them in that area. Lions in India have different diets compared to lions in South Africa.

Here’s a brief overview of what lions in different parts of the world eat:

East and South AfricaLarger animals: Wildebeests, zebras, buffalos, large antelopes (elands, gemsboks), and giraffes. Livestock and smaller animals sometimes.
West and Central AfricaSmaller animals: Roan antelopes, kudus. waterbucks, porcupines, warthogs. Also livestock.
Gujarat, IndiaSpecies of deer like the chital and sambar deer, livestock like cattle, and Asian water buffalo. Sometimes during the dry season, lions kill mugger crocodiles.

What Do Baby Lions Eat?

Baby lions drink milk from their mother and other females of the pride until they can start eating meat. After that, they slowly transition to the carnivore diet of adult lions.

They will exclusively drink milk until they are about three months old. After this point, they can start eating some meat and they will be completely weaned by the time they are ten months old.

Related article: Baby Lions

Baby Lions’ Life Cycle

How Often Do Lions Eat?

Lions eat every two to four days. They need over eleven pounds of meat every day but they generally eat much more every couple of days. Hunting larger prey every couple of days is more energy efficient for them than catching smaller animals regularly.

Lions will generally eat every two to four days. They need about 11 to 15 pounds of meat every day on average. Since they don’t always catch something, they gorge on a kill, eating over 60 pounds in one sitting.

If a group of lions can’t completely eat a kill, they rest for a couple of hours before continuing. They defend their kills against scavengers and other predators.

Lions are tough animals that can go for more than a week without food.


Lions are carnivores. They have to eat meat to survive, and since they are apex predators in their environments they can hunt most of the animals around them. Lions prefer hunting larger prey since they don’t have much stamina, and catching large animals is more energy efficient. Among their favorite animals to hunt are the iconic wildebeests, zebras, and African buffalos. If large animals aren’t available, lions will hunt smaller ones.

About Codrin Frunzete

Looking for something?

Try searching our website!