A few months ago, I stumbled upon news that a lioness at a German zoo ate her cubs. Then I thought I saw similar news before about lions eating their babies.
I’m sure this is the very same reason you are here 😉 In this article, I will explain why are Lions known to Eat their young cubs and How often this actually is.
Do Lions Eat their Young?
Yes Lions can eat their Young Cubs. When a lioness gives birth, she must begin to nurse her infants. Infants must be well-fed and healthy. If one or more infants are unhealthy, the lioness will kill and eat them because they are a waste of resources to her.
There are a lot of theories suggesting it’s normal behavior between lions. There are also many reasons why lions would eat their young. I found some of them quite interesting.
Why Do Lions Eat Their Young Cubs?
Number one reason why lioness would kill their cubs is because they are unhealthy or deformed. If a cub behaves differently than normal cubs, it is not recognised by a mother as an infant and she’ll kill him. A mother will sometimes intentionally abandon her cub if it is the only one. In that way, a lioness can start reproducing again and raise more cubs. She will also abandon a cub if it’s sick, deformed, or weak.
Lions live in small groups, and they work together to take over a pride from an existing group. If new males take over the pride, they don’t have time to wait until infants grow.
A Lioness gives birth every two years, and when cubs turn two they leave their pride. When cubs leave their pride, their mother becomes receptive again, and can carry more babies.
Males have roughly a two-year period in which they can have offsprings. They want to keep their genes going, not other lions’. They’ll kill all the cubs they are not related to in pride they took over, and in some cases they’ll eat them.
Males can’t afford to lose two years waiting cubs to grow. If they wait there’s a chance they may never have offsprings.
Another reason is when a lioness won’t mate if she is still nursing. That’s why lions kill her cubs so they can start mating. Lioness will also try hard to save her cubs from getting killed by these lions. It isn’t good for her reproductive success. If she remains in pride and mates with a new male, she’ll very likely show low fertility.
Some lions target nine months or younger cubs. They feel threatened by male cubs, because when they grow up they can take over the pride from these older lions. When an older lion kills male offspring he feels safe. This is less common, but it still happens.
A more common scenario is when new lions take over the pride, they will try to kill male cubs. If male cubs succeed to escape, and avoid getting killed, they will roam the land with their brother, cousins, friends.
They’ll eventually get into another’s pride territory and soon be killed by lions from that pride. Most male lions die during this time. If they however survive this period, they will try to take over another pride.
Lioness will try to protect young cubs, but in most cases, she’ll save older cubs because they will leave soon. Females are very clever. If a female is pregnant when new lions take over, she can make it look like she is carrying a new lion’s offspring.
Even if a female already has infants, she can hide them, mate with a new lion, and then show her infants like they are new. In that way, this new lion can end up with cubs not his.
Are Lions Protective Of Their Cubs?
Lions have rules, just like us. This one rule doesn’t allow male cubs older than three years to stay in the same pride. Females are allowed to stay their whole life. Males do not look after their cubs like females do. Males don’t feed them and don’t raise them.
If there’s a shortage of food, they will first feed themselves, not cubs and females.
But, when danger comes…
Lions will protect their cubs and their females. That danger is usually when other lions are trying to attack.
Do Male Lions Love Their Cubs?
Lions are cats, and cats are loners. Especially males. If you have a male cat, you can see he is always alone. Unless it is mating season. Male cats don’t have an interest in their offspring. They’ll even fight them.
Same thing with lions. Lions will only protect them when danger comes, but will also steal from them. That is not the case with all lions. Some males are that attached, they can be seen with their female and their cubs always and everywhere.
Do Lions Eat Other Lions?
Lions are carnivores. That means they only eat raw meat. They fight each other a lot, and their fights are brutal. And yes, sometimes they eat each other, but it’s not that often.
They fight for many reasons. One wants to take over the pride, the other is jealous and wants to fight. Males will wound each other badly, in some cases, the winner can let the loser escape or he can finish him there.
Most of the time lions do not eat each other. There are cases when a lion kills his cubs and eats them. And there are cases where a lion just kills his cubs and leaves them, not eating them.
How Do Lions Raise Their Young
Males are generally not interested in raising their cubs, however Lionesses (females) will raise their cubs from birth until they are about 3 years old. When cubs are born, lioness has to keep them away from her pride, and every other animal.
She shows them to her pride when they are about eight weeks old.
Because most females give birth at the same time, almost all cubs are the same age.
It means females will nurse her cubs and cubs from other females. Females will learn them hunting from an early age. Cubs might be as young as three months of age. Lioness has to protect her young with her life.
Most cubs die before turning one year, reasons are starvation and constant attacks from other prides. When these attacks come, many lionesses are working together to protect their kids. Oftentimes they succeed. Females take care of their cubs until they turn two years old, then the female goes through another heat cycle and carries more cubs.
Who is most likely to kill and eat their cubs? Males or Females? All animals are unpredictable. They are not like humans. Even humans are unpredictable, but not as much as carnivorous animals like lions. Both males and females might kill their cubs in some circumstances. Guided by statistics, males are most likely to kill and eat their cubs.
Females will do it too, but for a “good” cause. By good I mean, the baby is sick, or can’t grow properly, so it is wasting resources of other healthy cubs.
Is it true that females do most of the hunting? Some say it’s true, while others say it isn’t exactly. Both males and females are very good hunters. From the newest research, males are defending a territory, and females do the hunting.
Regardless of that, males are still eating first, then what remains females and cubs can have.
Are all lions in a pride related? Females remain in the pride from birth do death. They are really likely related to each other. Cubs from all females are born at the same time, and because females are related, it means all cubs are related.
Typical pride has 2-3 males and 5-10 females. These males are expelled from their old pride where they grew up. It means they are too related. It is very likely that all lions in a pride are related, except from male fathers and female mothers. They are always from different mothers.