Learn About Lions in the Wild

Frequently Asked Questions about Lions and their plight in the world.

Why do male lions kill cubs?

Why do male lions kill cubs?

 It was originally proposed that male lions kill cubs to bring the females back into estrus. This has been disproven, but the original thinking was that if a male lion coalition takes over a pride of females, they cannot sit around and wait until the cubs are grown and the females then become receptive again. Better to kill the cubs that are not theirs, and start a new generation that is theirs – as male coalitions have a limited time with the prides. Male lions do kill cubs when they take over a pride, but it is not as prevalent as some would have us think. Females already pregnant when the new males come in can easily “disguise” their cubs as belonging to the new males, and even females with newly born cubs can hide them, mate with the new males, and bring their cubs out later. Females are clever, and males subsequently end up with offspring not theirs.

Elle Fagan
10th August 2014 at 13:57

This FAQ has been THE issue for me with lions for years - Thank you for the fine explanation. Glad my cubs are grown up. I need to remarry, and....

Happy World Lion Day!

Tracy Jenkins
10th August 2019 at 16:32

I can't remember his name but several years ago, I do remember seeing a male lion knowingly 'adopt' the existing cubs in a pride he had just taken over. As far as I know, that was the only such case in lion society. Quite a shock to everybody concerned, apparently including the male in question :)

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