Do lions eat elephants?

Yes, lions eat the occasional young elephant if the opportunity arises. There is no shortage of images of lions attacking young and even adult elephants on the internet. There are also photographs of adult elephants stomping on lions and killing them in defence. Lions are very adaptable in the size of their prey. They feed on any land mammal and sometimes fish and other aquatic animals. Hoofed animals are their principle prey.

Lion eyes up young elephant
Lion eyes up young elephant. Photo unattributed.
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Where large grazing animals are available they’ll take them such as giraffes weighting 760 kilograms, hippos and buffalo weighing 500 kilograms.

However, lions also eat small prey animals such as birds, hares, ostrich eggs, porcupines, bat-eared foxes etc.. Lions are like the other big cats in their selection of prey. It is not a matter of choice but adapting to feed on what is available. Is it fair to say that the old adage, ‘beggars are not choosers’ is applicable? Well lions are far from being beggars but they are not picky in what they feed on.

Lions also scavenge. For example along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast lions scavenge on cormorant and seal carcasses. They also hunt for seals.


About elephants: R.G. Ruggiero in Prey selection of the lion in the Manovo-Gouda-St.Floris National Park, Central African Republic.

General reference: Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist – please leave a comment if you’d like full references.


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