Why do female lions hunt instead of male lions?

Why do female lions hunt instead of male lions?

The African Lion (Panthera leo) is a carnivorous – meat eating – mammal. It kills and eats ungulate mammals (animals with hooves), such as zebra, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, gazelle, and impala. 

Lions live in a pride, which is a group of family members consisting of 10-12 females and their male and female children, called cubs, with one to three dominant males. When male cubs grow up, they become solitary until they form their own pride.


African Lion – male (left) and female (right)

In a pride of lions, there are roles and responsibilities. The dominant male lion protects the pride. The female lion, called a lioness, provides for the pride. 

The female lion does about 90% of the hunting for food, while the male lion does about 10% and often helps the female lion ‘finish off’ the hunt by pulling the prey to the ground. 

The lioness is smaller than the male lion, but she is quicker – about 30% faster than a male lion when she is running. The male lion has a speed, over a short distance, of up to 55 kilometres per hour (34 miles per hour), whereas the lioness has a short-distance speed of up to 72 kilometres per hour (45 miles per hour). 

The lioness stalks her prey, hiding in long grass, and watching. The lioness can hide better than the male because she is slimmer, with no long mane of hair – therefore, she is well camouflaged in the grass. 

The lioness hunts with other lionesses, so in a group, they are cooperative, quick, smart, and agile. They stalk their prey, then pounce on it together to bring it down. Sometimes, a male lion will help the females to bring the prey down to the ground, due to his strength, weight, and sharp teeth. 

When a male lion goes hunting for food, he hunts alone. 

African Lion (female)
African Lion
African Lion (female)
African Lion (female)
African Lion (female)

Location of photographs: Kenya

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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