Tigers Vs. Lions: How These Cats Differ In Hunting Styles

By Susanna Redmer on February 27 2020 in Environment

Lion and cub feeding on buffalo meat. Image credit: Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia.org
Lion and cub feeding on buffalo meat. Image credit: Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia.org
  • Tigers are solitary creatures. They hunt typically hunt alone and not in a group.
  • Lions group hunt. They hunt together and share the kill.
  • Both lions and tigers prefer to hunt in the evening or darkness, so they can sneak up on their prey.

Lions and tigers are two of the most ferocious and aggressive predators on earth. They both have sharp teeth, pointed claws, keen eyesight, and a need to kill to survive. Each of these predators stalk their prey. Both lions and tigers wait for the chance to lunge and stick their teeth into their preys’ necks to bring them to the ground. After their prey falls, both animals gorge on their fresh kills. Even though lions and tigers share some characteristics, their hunting styles are different.

Hunting Style Of Lions

A pride of lions hunting a wild buffalo. Image credit: Oliver.dodd/Wikimedia.org 

Lions inhabit areas that do not have much cover for them to hide in, like a very dry deciduous scrub forest. Lions typically hunt under the cover of darkness. However, they may watch their prey for hours in the daylight, waiting for the chance to strike. When lions hunt during the day or the moon is bright, they often give themselves away and lose their opportunity for a big meal. Lions that live in areas with thicker vegetation and more areas of cover may hunt during the day. Day hunting is usually done when large groups of animals, like zebras or gazelles, are drinking near water. It’s one of the best opportunities for lions to feed in the day.

Lions use their strength, size, and group corporation to go after large animals such as: wildebeests, giraffes, and zebras. Lions often hunt in cooperative hunting groups. A few lions, usually females, will circle slowly around a group of prey they’ve been hunting. Other lions wait for the prey to start moving so they can ambush them. The lionesses attack from the sides or rear. The females will bring parts of the kill for the rest of the pride to feed. Group hunting allows lions to attack prey that may be larger or faster than an individual lion. Although lions can reach top speeds of 30 m.p.h., they can only sustain it for up to 100 yds.

Another advantage of group hunting is that many lions can feed at one time. This avoids the problem that tigers and leopards have-how and where to store their food. Lions live in vast open areas that have little hiding space for a prized possession, like fresh kills. A pride gorge themselves for a few hours, eating up to 75 lbs. at one time.

Corporative hunting diminishes the inefficiencies of the individual. There have been instances when lions have used their sense of hearing and smell to find prey, but typically lions do not have razor sharp senses. They rely on their eyesight to hunt. When many eyes are on the same target, it has a very little chance of getting away.

While lions rely on each other to hunt, a tiger uses its individual skill to hunt and survive. Tigers are solitary animals. From a young age, each tiger must manage how to hunt on its own. Tigers must learn how to use their strength, intelligence, and agility to make a kill.

Hunting Style Of Tigers

A tiger attacking a Sambar deer in Ranthambore. Image credit: Harsh.kabra.98/Wikimedia.org

Tigers usually hunt during evening or darkness. They use the lack of light to conceal themselves from their prey. Tigers have excellent vision, even better than humans. Seeing their prey in dark conditions is not a problem for them. When it is time for them to hunt, tigers camouflage themselves by hiding behind long grasses, bushes, or trees as they stalk their prey. They usually hide in the side or back of their prey. Tigers silently creep forward on their prey, until they are about 20 or 30 feet away. Then, they lunge at their victim. Tigers have even been known to jump up to 30 feet to pounce on their prey.

Once on top of their prey, they use their front legs to bring their unfortunate victim down. If the prey is smaller, a tiger will snap the prey’s neck. They use their strong jaws to bite down on larger prey’s neck. Tigers use these tactics to ensure that the kill is quick, and the prey will not get away. Tigers have many other physical characteristics that aid in their hunting ability. A tiger runs around 35 m.p.h. It can reach speeds of up to 50 m.p.h., but they can’t continue this speed for very long. A tigers’ claws are another weapon it uses to kill. Each tiger paw has 4 claws up to 4 inches long, and a declaw. Tigers use their declaws for climbing and holding onto their prey while it’s struggling to stay alive.

A tiger munching on meat. Image credit: Tambako the jaguar/Flickr.com

Tigers have forward-facing eyes, which gives them binocular eyesight. This type eyesight allows tigers to see objects three-dimensionally as well as access the depth and distance of an object. Tigers’ ears can pick up soft sounds that prey might make.

Tigers will eat up to 40 pounds of the kill in one sitting. Then, they will do something completely different than what lions do after prey is killed, they will hide their leftovers. A tiger drags its kill to a secluded spot where it can enjoy its feast. A tiger will hide its leftovers for a few days to return to. Tigers average one kill every eight or nine days.

Even though a tiger is usually a solitary animal, groups of tigers have been known to cooperatively hunt together. Tigers do in areas where there is less vegetation and larger animals that require more tigers to this bring them down. The tiger that makes the kill eats first in cooperative tiger group hunting.

Difference In Hunting Styles

Both the lion and tiger are big cats that need to hunt to survive. They both use their strong and athletic bodies to overpower their prey. Both use the pointed claws and sharp fangs to slash into their kill’s body. However, they use different methods to find their prey. Lions cooperatively group hunt, while tigers typically individually hunt for prey. Lions eat most of the animal right after they make a kill. A tiger drags its kill to a hiding place to eat alone and save the leftovers. The lion and tiger share some characteristics, but their hunting styles are very different.

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