Do Lions Eat Elephants? Can Lion Kill Elephants?

Africa is filled with some of the most majestic creatures on the planet. From the graceful goliath, we call the giraffe to the record-breaking cheetah, it’s no wonder we find ourselves consistently fascinated with learning more about these incredible animals.

One of the most beloved species on the savanna is the lion. A group of expert hunters and powerful enough to take down practically any prey they pursue, these predators strike both fear and awe into the hearts of most humans.

But does this same instinct of shock and apprehension apply to all the creatures in the lion’s domain?

With adversaries like the elephant, which stands approximately 10 feet tall and can weigh up to 14,000 lbs., it seems unlikely all animals would be terrified of the king of the jungle.

Yet, it seems even these mighty creatures have a reason to cower in fright at the sound of a lion’s roar.

Do lions eat elephants?

Yes. Lions actually eat elephants. But only under certain circumstances. Unattended elephant calves make the perfect targets for hungry lions. They’re slow, significantly smaller, and not as strong as adults. As a result, most elephant herds shield them in the presence of lions as soon as they recognize a threat.

It’s typical for the group to create a circular formation to protect the calf, placing the small elephant inside the circle.

It’s rare for a lion to eat an elephant, however. These predators only attack elephants in desperate times, such as when there is a drought a significant shortage of other food sources.

With their considerable size, elephants cause plenty of damage to lions. If the lion fails, and the elephant doesn’t kill them, the ordeal could still rob the lion of all energy to hunt anything else.

Can a lion kill an elephant?

A lion cannot kill an elephant on its own. In some cases, two male lions may work together to take down an elephant, but it is not all that common.

Most lions work in a group to take down their prey, with as many as 26 female lions recorded taking down an elephant at once.

This number is also not usual, and a team of around seven lionesses can generally complete the task on their own.

Though many of us imagine the females in a pride doing all the hunting, it’s actually common for the male lion to jump in on larger game, too.

Even with their gargantuan stature, the elephant finds itself adding the lion to number two on its list of very few predators. The number one predator elephants face is humans. 

Are lions afraid of elephants?

Surprisingly, lions are afraid of most large mammals, including hippos, elephants, and the highly dangerous cape buffalos. In fact, both hippos and elephants are so lethal, they account for more human deaths each year than lions, with cape buffaloes tying with lions on the number of fatalities.

Because elephants are difficult to take down, most lions avoid elephants whenever necessary.

A pride of lions only attacks younger elephants who have wandered away from their herd or whenever the pride experiences times of extreme food shortages.

Males sent outside of their pride tend to attack elephants more frequently, as well. This strategy is due to the lack of resources a pride provides.

The lone males are much more desperate and therefore might attack anything for a chance at survival.

What animals are predators of elephants?

There aren’t many animals that dare to brave the mighty elephant on their own, even less who pursue a full-grown adult.

However, many predators attempt to take down the calves and even adolescent elephants. The babies are still relatively huge prey for any animal to overtake.

Weighing in at 200 pounds and three feet tall when they are first born, baby elephants stand little chance against pack animals, even if they outweigh other mammals.

Besides lions, hyenas and wild dogs also prey on elephant calves.

However, their smaller statures are no match against adult elephants, no matter how many of them are in a pack.

Illegal poaching makes up the largest number of deaths attributed to elephants, of which even fully-grown bull elephants fall prey.

In India, where elephants are also prevalent, tigers are the primary predator, after humans.

Are lions the king of the jungle?

We all know the phrase. The saying that seemingly infuriates as much as it delights due to its ability to conjure images of such a majestic creature in the wrong setting.

Lions don’t actually live in jungles, a fact many animal lovers are quick to correct when hearing this phrase. Instead, these predators live in the grasslands and savannas of Africa, leaving the jungles to creatures like the Lowland Gorillas, bonobos, and some species of elephants.

| Additional reading: Do Lions Live In The Jungle?

Some etymologists believe the term “jungle” in the phrase “king of the jungle” is derived from a misinterpretation of the Sanskrit word jangala. Jangala refers to an “arid, sparsely grown” place.

A slight variation of the word in Hindi translates to “uncultivated terrain,” which more closely resembles our understanding of the overgrown vegetation in a jungle.

One explanation for the term refers to when the British settled in India. While there, they encountered Asian lions and considered them the “kings” of their noble terrain.

The misclassification of the habitat suggests a slight misinterpretation of the Sanskrit and Hindi terms. 

To learn more about these animals and their habitat, read “Do Lions Live in the Jungle.”

Final Thoughts

Whether kings of the jungle or not, there’s no doubt these animals are number one on the savanna.

Their majestic manes and overall regal appearance make them some of the most iconic animals known to humankind.

Not to mention, they act as one of the most singular symbols of royalty and power a person could imagine.

Strong enough to take down an elephant, and functioning with all the skill of a well-oiled machine, there’s one thing for certain. The lion is one of the most fearsome predators in Africa.

To learn more about lions and what they eat, try this article on whether or not they hunt cheetahs. Or you can learn about completely new animals in our articles about vertebrates and invertebrates.

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