We all know that lions belong to the carnivorous class of animals, meaning they primarily feed on meat as their staple food. However, one frequently asked question is, ‘do lions eat grass?’
This article will address the query by providing all the essential and exclusive information about the King of the Jungle’s diet.
Can Lions Eat Grass?
You may have seen videos or pictures from various media outlets (like National Geographic or from the internet) of lions eating grass and wondered whether they are authentic since, at school, we were taught that these beasts, highly respected and recognized for their lethal hunting skills, are carnivorous.
Therefore, it’s essential to note that, Yes! Lions occasionally eat grass.
However, this does not mean that they are omnivorous (animals that feed on meat and plants); since there are specific reasons why they occasionally consume the plant.
Why Do Lions Eat Grass?
By now, you are wondering why lions eat grass. As stated, certain reasons make these majestic creatures feed on the green vegetation, and they include:
A Source of Fiber and Folic Acid
The lion’s basic diet is flesh from their prey, which provides them with essential nutrients such as iron and protein (body-building components).
These nutrients have enabled them to attain significant strength, making them a symbol of power.
Unfortunately, meat lacks other essential nutrients present in plants, such as fibers and folic acids.
Let’s take a closer look at these nutrients and their importance to understand why lions need them.
This nutrient is only available in fruits, grains, and plants such as grasses. It mainly acts as a digestion catalyst since it cannot be synthesized/broken down into smaller digestible components.
Therefore, fiber is a vital nutrient that aids digestion and excretion of waste/feces in all animals (including lions and humans).
Since the King of the Jungle is not a fan of fruits and grains, its only option is to eat grass to acquire this vital nutrient.
Also referred to as Vitamin B9, the nutrient has multiple functions that include:
- DNA formation and regulation.
- To breakdown, synthesize and assimilate iron nutrients in the body
- Assists the iron components in regulating and maintaining a healthy oxygen distribution in the body by strengthening the red blood cells.
Although most of the meat consumed contains some folic acid (since their preys are herbivores, which means they obtain this nutrient directly when they feed on various vegetation), it’s still insufficient to meet the lion’s muscular body requirements.
How Often Do Lions Eat Grass?
Since the only way for them to obtain the nutrients mentioned above is by consuming grass, the frequency with which they eat grass depends on these two situations and needs.
When Experiencing Stomach Upset
This condition is one of the major factors that makes lions consume grass and influences the frequency with which it will do so.
Unfortunately, plenty of acids are present in meat consumed by the predators. They often cause stomach discomfort due to the irritations caused by the acids in the animal’s digestive system.
Apart from the acids, another cause of stomach upsets is when the lions take in fur, feathers, and other things which cannot be digested or broken down by the digestive system.
It may occur during grooming/socialization, where they may ingest some fur. It may also be during feeding, where they may consume some of their prey’s fur/feathers or bone particles.
Since grass contains high levels of fiber which aid in digestion, whenever a lion experiences stomach upsets, they tend to consume it to solve this issue.
When They Want to Vomit
Since we have already established that lions occasionally experience stomach discomfort, another way to solve this is by forcing themselves to vomit.
Whenever the beast realizes it has consumed meat that is not digestible, it consumes grass to enable it to vomit the harmful food.
Can Lions Survive on Grass Only?
Although they occasionally eat grass to meet their nutritional needs and solve stomach discomforts, it’s essential to remember that they are strictly carnivorous animals.
Their teeth structure is mainly designed to tear and chew meat since it only comprises canines and incisors teeth. They lack the molars teeth essential for grinding and chewing plants or vegetables like other omnivorous and herbivorous animals. Their digestive system does not also enable them to digest any plants.
Therefore, their staple diet is meat/flesh; hence, they cannot survive on grass only. There’s a popular proverb that says, ‘No matter how tough the jungle’s economy is, the lion will never eat grass to survive!’
Do Other Big Cats Eat Grass?
All members of the cat family (Felidae species), including all the big cats like tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and even the pet cats in our homes, occasionally eat grass for the same reasons as the lions.
Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that the entire cat family (regardless of their size) eats grass in minimal amounts and frequency to meet their bodies’ fiber and folic acid needs as well as rectify any stomach discomfort conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Lions Eat Fruits?
On VERY rare occasions, lions have been spotted eating fruits, but it is so rare that we cannot confirm that they consume them regularly compared to grass.
However, it’s essential to note that, Yes! There are documented/recorded occasions where lions have been spotted eating certain fruits as a substitute for grass.
Some zoo wardens have occasionally given lions bananas and oranges to help them solve digestive complications and cool their bodies but in rare instances.
Do Lions Eat Other Plants?
Besides consuming grass and certain fruits (rarely), lions don’t eat other plants!
By now, it’s evident that although lions eat grass, it’s only occasionally and for certain purposes. Generally, they are carnivorous, meaning their primary diet is meat; hence, they cannot survive without flesh.
Learn More About Lions
- Lion: Characteristics, Diet, Facts & More [Fact Sheet]
- Jaglion: The Rare and Mystical Hybrid of a Lion and a Jaguar
- Can Lions Climb Trees? Exploring Arboreal Behaviors of Lions
- Lion Standing on Hind Legs: Why, When and How It Happens
- Can Giraffes Fight and Kill Lions? (with Videos)
- Man vs. Lion: Can a Human Beat a Lion and How To Survive a Lion Attack?
- Porcupine vs. Lion: A Surprising Standoff?
- Can Lions Swim? Do They Like Water?
- Cheetah vs. Lion: Dynamics of Speed and Power in the African Savannah
- Will a Lion Eat Another Lion? Why and When Can It Happen?