Traditionally, the lion has been crowned the King of the Jungle. However, what would a king be without his queen, or queens, in this case? Female lions (lionesses) are the carers of cubs and primary hunters. They are magnificent, tawny-colored big cats that hunt together to provide for the lion pride.
Although lions love lazing around, they are well-known for being powerful, strong, and courageous animals. From patrolling and protecting to providing food, both male and female lions play an important role in the pride.
Wondering why the female lions hunt instead of males? This guide provides information on the queen of the pride and focuses on characteristics, responsibilities, and hunting techniques.
If this interests you, why not consider planning a Tanzania safari – home to the largest lion population.
Lion and Lioness
Lions are the most social big cats in the world. They are habitually found together in families, namely a pride. The pride consists of a few male lions, several lionesses, and their cubs. The physical characteristics of males and females differ, which in turn influences their roles and responsibilities in the pride.
Lion vs Lioness – Physical Characteristics
Lions are muscular big cats with compact bodies. A lioness is physically smaller than a male lion. Females weigh between 270 to 400 pounds with lengths ranging between 4.6 and 5.7 feet. Whereas males weigh anything from 330 to 570 pounds with a length ranging between 5.6 and 8.3 feet.
Aside from size and weight, another noticeably distinct feature is the male lion’s majestic mane. A lion’s mane provides protection and a more intimidating appearance to discourage threats. The absence of a mane makes females well-suited for hunting as it allows for effective camouflage.
Is a Lioness Faster Than a Lion?
When it comes to speed, this big cat is one of the fastest land animals in the world. Female lions are around 30% faster than males with speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour.
Their slender body shape and structure allow for increased flexibility and speed, making them better hunters than males.
Why do Female Lions Hunt Instead Of Males?
Similar to most social mammals, both male and female lions have assigned roles within the pride. The male’s main role is to protect the pride and its territory. Whereas the females’ main role is to hunt for their families and raise the cubs.
Lion and Lioness – Relationship, Roles & Responsibilities
A lion-lioness relationship is distinctly affectionate. You’ll find that they lick one another and rub heads as a greeting.
Within the pride, lionesses tend to give birth around the same time, and consequently, several litters are raised together. Hence, lionesses’ caring characteristics are displayed as they take care of the cubs including those that are not their own.
The males do not directly take part in the parenting, however, they provide the cubs with protection. Male lions are physically stronger than females. They use this strength to protect their families by patrolling the territory and fighting off threats.
Do Male Lions Hunt?
Male lions’ hunting is not something you’ll see frequently. It only occurs when it is an absolute necessity. The lionesses are the primary providers. They hunt and kill prey with their well-suited physical characteristics to feed their families.
Males are omitted from hunting responsibilities as they reserve their strength for protection and leave the duty to the better-suited female hunter lions.
For more information on the lioness and lion, check out our guide on their roles and differences in the pride.
How do Lionesses Hunt?
Although lions can survive without food for around 14 days and water for 4 days, they generally require daily feedings. This means there are frequent occurrences of lionesses hunting. Their primary prey includes wildebeest, giraffes, zebras, and buffalo.
Lion & lioness feeding: the average adult lioness requires 11 pounds of meat. Whereas males require 16 pounds or more each day.
Lioness vs lion pecking order: following a successful hunt, the meal is shared amongst the pride. However, there is a pecking order when male lions are in attendance. Males feed first, followed by the cubs, and lastly, the lionesses are left to tussle over the remains.
Typically, the lionesses of the pride are still hungry and head out to hunt again. They hunt together using teamwork to take down their prey. There are two common methods used in the lioness hunt.
Lioness Hunting Techniques
The primary lioness hunting technique is stalking. This involves remaining hidden for as long as possible and stalking the prey. They creep on their bellies, concealing themselves between the grass. Their appearance makes it easier to remain hidden in the grass for a longer period compared to male lions.
Eventually, the prey becomes aware of the approaching predators and it becomes a matter of chasing the game. The lionesses use their immense speed and powerful 1.5-inch claws to tackle, paralyze, and kill their prey.
The second hunting technique is a bit more straightforward and involves some equal teamwork. The males join the lionesses in strategically cornering their prey. There is no stalking or hiding involved, just pure strength and bravery as the lion fights to take down the animal.
Generally, lions are considered to be nocturnal animals who hunt mostly at night. Lions and lioness hunters have exceptional night vision. Their sensitivity to light is approximately six times more than humans. This provides them with an additional edge when hunting at night.
Last Words On The Hunting Lioness
If you’re still wondering why don’t male lions hunt? Simply put, because the females do it better.
Both lions and lionesses play an important role in their pride. However, when it comes to hunting, lioness characteristics are more advantageous than male lions.
With their well camouflaged, flexible bodies and supreme speed, the lioness hunt is a spectacular sighting.
To see this in action, why not consider an all-inclusive African safari vacation?