- A young, large hippopotamus strays away from the water and from the other hippos.
- Adult elephants and hippos are very rarely hunted by lions.
- Lions are stalk and ambush predators so this behavior is typical. A male lion is large enough to take on a small hippo.
If you are struggling with the concept of an ‘opportunistic predator’ – watching this may help to explain things! It shows what is probably a young but nevertheless, large hippopotamus straying away from the water and from the other hippos. It presents this male lion with the perfect opportunity to try out his predatory skills to great effect. The encounter starts with the lion racing towards the hippo and then having to slow down rapidly as he realizes that speed is not one of the skills that are necessary here. He then relies on brute force and some targeted bites to secure his meal. As the video at the bottom of this page shows, lions can be very ambitious in their choice of prey.
What Do African Lions Normally Eat?
As generalist carnivores, lions are willing to eat a wide range of prey – probably more than 40 species. They eat seasonally and will basically eat whatever is available at the time in that particular location. Having said that, many prides focus on two or three prey species that are found in larger numbers in their habitat.
For most lions, the main part of their diet is made up of large ungulates (animals with hooves). The larger the animal, the more food there is to go around which is important because the kill will be shared by other members of the pride. Lions are willing to take down ungulates of twice their own weight. Therefore, African buffalo, blue wildebeest, zebra, and Thompson’s gazelle are popular targets. Juvenile elephants and, as we see here, juvenile hippos are also considered prey. Adult elephants and hippos are very rarely hunted by lions.
Between larger kills, lions supplement their diet with smaller animals. This could be porcupines, rodents, birds, fish, reptiles, or even insects.
Is This Normal Behavior For A Lion?
Lions are stalk and ambush predators so this behavior is typical. A male lion is large enough to take on a small hippo. Once the target is within striking distance, the lion lunges. You can see the typical attack behavior in this clip. Lions attack the rump or shoulders of prey by grabbing with their claws. The big cat holds on whilst biting the prey and trying to get it onto the ground. This happens quite quickly for the hippo in this clip.
The lion then bites the throat, holding on for up to 10 minutes if necessary, to crush the trachea and cause suffocation. It’s not an easy watch but it shows the skills of the lion to perfection!
Take A Look At The Footage Below!
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