Do Lions Eat Their Prey Alive? How Do Lions Eat Their Prey?

Strength is in the lion’s nature, and that’s what they are recognized for. They are natural predators and love to hunt food in the wild; we all know that. But how exactly does a lion hunt its prey and eat it? Let us find out.

Do Lions Eat Their Prey Alive?

Generally, lions do not prefer to eat their prey alive. They kill their prey before they devour them slowly. But in case if they feel that the prey is a threat, they would slowly eat the prey alive without having to kill it, like an elephant.

Lions are obligate carnivore animals, so they have to hunt their prey to survive. This is the reason they are considered natural hunters. They eat a lot of food to maintain their strength and energy.

A male lion eats an average of 15 lbs (7 kg) per day, and a lioness can consume 10 lbs (4.5 kg) per day. Lions may not have the speed of cheetahs and other animals, but they have the extraordinary power of all in the canine family. They are clever and dominant animals that live in groups. These factors make them the king of the jungle.

As lions live in groups (pride), they gather around the target, and some grab and hold the prey while others start the killing. But when the prey is bigger than them and somewhat firm, they would eat the prey alive and kill it by eating them.

As lions hunt and eat every animal in the wild, even some a lot bigger than them, it can happen sometimes.

Do Predators Eat Their Prey Alive?

Most of the predators do not eat their prey alive as it can be dangerous and difficult at the same time. If the prey is alive, it can struggle with all its might and fight or injure the predator, and because of this, animals do not prefer to eat living prey.

They do not want any hassle, especially when they are hungry and in need of food. So, they always try to cut the complications.

Let’s say that the prey has horns, then it can injure the predator or even kill it with its sudden and unexpected attack. But the smaller prey, like wild dogs and hyenas, eat their prey alive thinking that eating the prey will eventually lead to its death.

The smaller predators have tiny teeth and smaller prey comparatively. Thus, they are not as strong as bigger animals and use this technique to hold their prey.

bunch of lions hunting, pride of lions eating
Photo by Eelco Bohtlingk on Unsplash

Interesting Fact: Hyenas have an extraordinary amount of bite force, a lot more than the lion.

Also Read: Do Lions Eat Rabbits? Do Mountain Lions Eat Rabbits?

Some of these smaller predators are very clever in their attacks, and they don’t waste their futile attempts to kill their prey. Instead, what they do is they would just eat their prey to death.

This may not be their preference or how they want to eat their prey, but this is the only way they can procure some food by hunting this method.

Why Do Lions Prefer To Eat Dead Prey?

Not just lions, but almost all predators want to keep their prey dead before they start eating them. The main reason is that if the prey is alive, it can fight back by scratching, biting, or clawing.

So when the prey is dead, the lion can devour it slowly without any risk, and it can even take the prey to a different place where it’s safe and secure.

Sometimes, you may see lions biting the rear quarters and legs, but they are not eating there; they are just trying to bring their prey down to the ground.

How Long Does It Take For A Lion To Kill Its Prey?

Lions can absolutely take care of themselves, but still, the answer to this is it depends on the prey. There are many things to consider here, for instance, the size of the prey. If the prey is comparatively smaller, then a lion can kill it pretty quickly.

Lions just observe the prey from a place where it cannot be seen, and ambush attack it suddenly, then will pounce on it, claw it, and bite it on the delicate spots like the neck and kill the prey.

On the other hand, if the prey is bigger, then the killing time would take longer than usual. As larger animals have thicker coats on their skin, it takes some time for the lion to attack it fatally. The strength of the prey is also to be considered.

Some animals can be tiny but lethal and very strong. As a result, the killing time will be adjusted longer depending upon the fightback of the other animal.

do lions eat bones, lion eating a deer
Photo by Frans van Heerden by Pexels

For larger prey, the lion would take five to sixty minutes to choke and kill it step by step, but for a male lion, it will take around two minutes to kill the prey; such is its strength. When the prey is small and feeble, the killing time will be only a matter of seconds.

Also Read: Can A Lion Kill A Panda? Lion Vs Panda

How Do Lions Kill Their Prey?

Since lions are slower than most of their prey, they rely heavily on the element of surprise when hunting them. They would crouch very low to the ground, and then very slowly, they creep to the position of their targeted prey.

Before charging, lions would try to reach within 30 meters of their victim by moving slowly. When they feel that they can jump at any time, they will pounce on their prey.

The victim is pushed off balance and dragged down during a successful chase, then killed with a chomp to the back of the neck or throat with their mighty power.

Lions usually hunt in packs, and every lion plays a different role, one of which is the executioner (the killer), who, as quickly as possible, applies a throat stifle/nibble or a chomp over the nostrils and mouth, which rapidly stops blood to the cerebrum, and also gags of air to the lungs.

In this process, the prey is generally killed by the principal lion, or the lone lion, with the throat nibble.

What Animals Will Eat Their Prey Alive?

When the predators are devouring their victim, the prey, more often than not, won’t be alive. Many predators do not like eating their prey alive, particularly when the prey is large, as they can get injured, shatter their bones, or even be killed if the prey fights back. Only a few, like hyenas and wild dogs, would eat their prey when it is still alive.

Just because hyenas eat their victims (prey) alive doesn’t mean they’re evil; they have their justifications for doing so. They devour their prey alive because they need to eat it before competitors, like lions who are stronger than them, come along and try to steal the prey.

lion vs hyena
Photo by JC Knipe from Pexels

Sometimes, it happens in the opposite way. Hyenas frequently share the same territory and prey as lions and will attempt to hurry a lioness’ off a kill or a solitary lion off the kill. So, in situations like these, lions attempt to eat the prey before the hyenas find out about it and show up in sufficient numbers to take the prey from them.

African wild dogs would chase in a large organized pack, focusing on easier and more vulnerable targets like pregnant deer, etc., as they are less prepared to flee with the hefty pregnancy. When they get caught, these dogs tear them open and detach the unborn deer, then eat the parcel.


Lions won’t eat their prey alive unless it’s a very large animal like an elephant. When attacking elephants, lions try to isolate one from the herd, probably the weakest or a younger one. Then, the task is to get it grounded, and they do it by forcing the elephant to carry them.

Lions know that they cannot kill an elephant by biting on its throat as the area is too big, so they try to bite on the trunk and reduce their breathing. But it takes time to suffocate an elephant just by clamping on its trunk as it can still breathe somewhat through its mouth.

So all the lions of that pride would attack it collectively, rip it open, and start eating while the elephant struggles with reduced breathing. Sometimes, they do the same for taking down a giraffe, too, particularly when it’s a large one. When one lion bites the giraffe’s neck, the others would start eating it by ripping it open.

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