Do Male Lions Actually Hunt, Or Leave it To the Females?

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: October 3, 2022
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When it comes to the question of whether or not male lions actually hunt, the answer is somewhat ambiguous. Lions, the pride of Africa, are a highly sexually dimorphic species. In plain terms, this means that males and females are physically, and behaviorally, different from each other. For the most part, lions aren’t solitary creatures. Instead, they live in prides made up of males, females, and cubs. But, who does the hunting?

Here, well learn more about lions in general, before diving into lion hunting strategies. We’ll learn whether or not male lions actually hunt, or just leave all the hunting to the female members of the pride. We’ll also find out a little more about lion conservation, and whether or not lions are in danger of extinction.

Keep reading to find out whether male lions actually do any hunting!

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Lion Background

Male Lion, Kalahari, South Africa

Male lions are larger than females and can be more than 8 feet long

©SeymsBrugger/Shutterstock.com

Lions are the quintessential African cat. Reaching up to 8.3 feet long and weighing up to 570 pounds, male lions are among the largest of all big cats. Females are smaller, reaching up to 5.7 feet long and weighing up to 400 pounds. Both males and females are tan in color, with heavy, muscular bodies and long tails tipped with dark brown or black tufts. Male lions have long, thick fur manes around their upper shoulders and necks.

Habitat and Range

Later, we’ll find out if male lions actually hunt. For now, let’s learn a little more about these apex predators. Lions live in grasslands that provide both cover for hunting and shade for sleeping. They’re most common in areas with tall grasslands and open woods and brush.

Lions were once common throughout nearly all of Africa, as well as vast parts of Central Europe, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Today, they occupy dozens of disparate, fragmented habitats throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Lions exist in the wild outside of Africa in only one place: Gir National Park, in western India. Humans are solely responsible for the lion’s declining habitat and population over the past 2,000 years.

Behavior

Lions live in prides which consist of several males, females, and cubs

©Tekken50 / Creative Commons

Lions might be scary, but they actually spend the majority of their time sleeping. Unlike tigers or leopards, which live solitary lives, lions come together in groups known as prides. Prides generally consist of at least a few adult females, 1-3 adult males, and their cubs. Males generally leave their pride once they reach sexual maturity, whereas females often stay with their birth pride.

Diet

As apex predators, adult lions have little to fear. They eat everything from warthogs to water buffalo. Lions have even been observed hunting and killing giraffes and elephants. Gazelles, zebra, and wildebeest are among their most common prey.

So, who does the Hunting?

African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) being caught by Lions (Panthera leo).

Female lions do the majority of the hunting.

©iStock.com/jez_bennett

For decades, scientists believed that female lions did all the hunting for their pride, while males lazed around waiting to be fed. But, recent research has led many in the scientific community to reframe this idea. While males with an established pride do not hunt as often as females, mounting evidence shows that they are just as capable of hunting as the females. In pride groups, females do the majority of hunting. But, male lions have been shown to bring down prey just as often as females—when they do hunt. 

Differences Between Male and Female Lion Hunting

Lion - Feline, Eating, Animals Hunting, Male Animal, Africa

Male lions are capable hunters though and are typically ambush predators

©iStock.com/diane39

So, do male lions actually hunt? The answer is yes, especially if they’re not part of an established pride. Male lions are just as capable of hunting as females, though research suggests that they use different methods.

When female lions hunt, they almost always do so as part of a pack of female lions. Like wolves, they use their numbers to bring down game. Males, however, have been shown to rely much more on ambush style hunting, as they generally hunt alone. This means that males are much likelier to hunt in tall grass, or dense bush, where they can easily hide.

Are Lions Endangered?

Lions are currently listed as vulnerable to extinction. There are an estimated 6,000-10,000 lions left in Africa, with fewer than 500 Asiatic lions left in the world. Unfortunately, lions are at risk from irresponsible hunting practices, poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and conflict with humans. Today, stable lion populations exist only in protected wildlife reserves.

Saving the King of the Jungle

Now that we’ve learned whether male lions actually hunt, let’s learn what you can do to help conserve wild lions. One of the easiest ways to support lion conservation is to avoid supporting the illegal wildlife trade. Lions are often poached for their skins, teeth, bones, or other body parts. So, don’t purchase anything that might have come from a lion, or any other endangered animal.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © SeymsBrugger/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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Sources
  1. , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/lion
  2. , Available here: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/lion
  3. , Available here: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/lion
  4. , Available here: https://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/41825/Loarie_Lion_2013.pdf?sequence=1