Do Lions Eat Their Prey Alive? (Explained)

Lions are natural predators. They love to hunt for food, but how exactly does a lion hunt and eat its prey?  Let us find out.

So do lions eat their prey alive? This is a case-to-case basis because typically, lions would prefer to kill their prey first before devouring. However, if the prey is a threat, they can slowly eat the prey alive without having to kill it like an elephant.

Lions can eat a lot. A male lion can eat an average of seven kilograms of food every day, and a female lion can also consume food with an average of four point five kilograms. That is a lot of food. 

That is why lions are natural hunters. It is because they need food. Lions are known to hunt animals as much as they can. 

They love gathering food and killing their prey. Lions are not very fast. They do not have a very fast speed like the Cheetah and other fast animals have. 

But lions are strong and dominant. Lions are also very clever. They are perfect for hunting. They come in groups, and they stalk their prey. 

They must be very close to their prey to be at an advantage if the chase will begin. In appearance, these lions would crouch very low to the ground, and then very slowly, they creep to the position of their targeted prey. When a lion feels that they can jump in anytime, they will pounce on their prey. 

So today, we will talk about how lions hunt and eat their prey. If you are as curious as some people, this article is definitely for you.

Do Lions Eat Live Prey?

Typically, predators do not like to eat their prey while their prey is alive. If an animal eats a living prey, it can be dangerous and difficult. If the prey is alive, the prey can still struggle with all its might. 

The prey can still move their legs. They can also scratch, and they can still even bite you. Predators do not want this type of hassle, especially if they are already hungry and need the food. If alive, the prey can still even break the bones of the predators, or in this case, the lion. 

If the prey has horns, they can also use those horns in fighting back. So a lion will only eat their prey alive if they are having trouble killing the prey. If the attempts of the lion or group of lions in killing their prey are not successful, they will eat their prey without finishing the killing. 

There are small predators like dogs and other small animals that will have a hard time killing their prey for more clarity. In the end, they just eat their prey, hoping the eating will kill them soon. These small predators have tiny teeth and they have small jaws. 

They are not even too strong. So when these small predators hunt, they must be clever. So when these small predators hunt, they will not waste their futile attempts in killing their prey. 

Instead, they would just eat their prey to death. This is not the preference, though, of smaller predators. However, it is the only thing they can do to keep and eat their prey. 

So what will happen is they will all gather around; they would grab and hold the prey while the others would start the killing. So if the predator or the lion thinks that the prey can be killed, they will do that because they prefer to kill their prey. But if the prey is somewhat firm, they would eat the prey and kill it by eating them.

 Lions will often have to eat their prey alive. As you can see, lions are born predators, and they are natural predators. However, it is not impossible to happen because lions will have prey that is stronger than them and can do them damage.

eating lion

Do Lions Kill Their Prey Quickly?

This depends on their prey. Lions can take care of themselves. And lions are strong and dominant. 

The killing of the lion for their prey depends on the prey. The first thing to consider is the size of the prey. Of course, if the prey is relatively tiny, the lions can kill the prey pretty quickly. 

They can just stalk the prey, pounce on it, and claw them, and then bite them. However, on the other hand, the prey is large, so the killing time might take longer than usual. They would have an enormous body mass to kill so that the killing will take time. 

The strength of the prey must also be considered. Other animals are tiny but can be lethal and can be very strong. With this type of animal as prey, the lion might have a hard time killing the prey. 

As a result, the killing time will then be adjusted longer. If the prey is quite big, it will take the lioness five to sixty minutes to choke the prey and kill it. The male lion will take less than two minutes to kill the prey. 

So the killing time will vary with the size and the strength of the prey. If the prey is feeble and small, the killing time can only be seconds.

Why Do Lions Prefer To Eat Dead Prey?

Almost all predators prefer to keep their prey dead before eating. The first reason is the risk of getting hurt. If a predator would eat the prey alive, the prey can still be able to fight back. 

The prey can still claw, scratch, and bite. There can be risks like that for the lion. So the lions and other predators prefer to kill their prey and make sure it is dead before eating the prey. 

If the prey is still alive, the predator (lion) can still be attacked and injured. So the lions and other predators prefer to kill their prey first before actually devouring it. This will save them from the risks of getting attacked by a living prey. 

So this is why lions prefer to eat their prey dead. But this is not only limited to lions. 

Almost all predators prefer to kill their prey first before actually devouring it. It is safer and easier to eat.

What Animals Eat Their Prey Alive?

There are a lot of animals that would want to eat their prey alive. Hyenas are one example. Hyenas eat their prey alive. No one knows the reason why but they just do.


In summary, lions are good hunters for their food. Lions eat a lot. That is why they need to be clever in hunting their food. 

Lions prefer to eat their prey alive. However, in some cases when the prey is strong, they will eat the prey to death. If it is not necessary, they will not do it, though.


Image credits – Canva

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I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more