No, they’re not.

Case closed.

I should really leave it there, but there’s a lot more to it of course.

One of the best lines I’ve read in a nature book came from Creatures of Habit, by Peter Apps and Richard du Toit – at least I think it did – and it simply stated that:

Animals never do nothing.

This doesn’t sound particularly profound, yet it sums up nature pretty well. Our idea of doing nothing involves lying on a couch, inactive, being lazy basically, but laziness is a privilege reserved almost exclusively for humans. A lazy animal wouldn’t make an effort when it should, but ultimately this would be detrimental to its well-being, and that’s counter-intuitive in terms of the genetic drive to reproduce (the chances of which are effectively cancelled if you don’t survive).
I mention laziness as a purely human trait since we are generally not at the mercy of our environment; we have changed our environment to suit us, and the advancement of human civilisation has got our species to the point where we can lie around all day doing nothing, and then go to the supermarket and buy food. Obviously we need a bit of money to do that, so some work at some point would have been necessary, but there isn’t a lot of consequence in terms of low productivity levels when it comes to survival. At least not in the short term.

Lions, however, can’t rely on their local grocer or anything of the sort. Granted they may steal a kill from time to time, but this also comes with its inherent risks.

The Mhangneni pride and a Majingilane, at 11am on hot morning, not being lazy. Photograph by Grant Rodewijk

Lions have to eat or they will die. Yes the same can be said for us as animals, but the actual obtaining of food doesn’t require much effort on our part, in particular we don’t have to time our efforts to ensure the maximum reward possible (unless attending a sale or trying to avoid the queues). The same can’t be said for the big felines however, and herein lies the rub.

Nature is about energy conservation. Risk vs. reward. Output vs. input. Wild animals in nature need some benefit in order to be motivated to perform an activity, even if that benefit may not be immediately obvious to our human eyes. Lions lying sleeping in the shade on a hot day are not being lazy. That is a human trait. They are conserving energy during the least energetically efficient time of the day. The chances of them successfully hunting when it is hot and when it is light enough for most prey species to see them coming are significantly lower than during the cool of the evenings, when the darkness is advantageous to their superior eyesight and they won’t lose as much energy while their bodies attempt to regulate their temperatures.

If the energy costs involved in an activity aren’t outweighed by its potential benefits, they simply won’t do it.

These lions (Sparta Pride) were fast asleep late on a hot October morning when this emaciated buffalo cow hove into view. Recognising an opportunity in which the benefits of the effort were likely to validate the energy expenditure, they sprung into action. Watch the full video of the hunt below.

Lions therefore aren’t being lazy when they’re lying around. Their apparent laziness is simply them opting to wait for the opportune time to get active.

The whole males-are-lazier-than-females debate is fallacy as well, but we’ll go into that next week.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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9 Comments

on Are Lions Lazy?

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Marinda Drake

Whenever we see lions doing what they do best, that is lying around we think of it as a boring sighting. Never realized they conserve energy. Interesting blog.

Darlene Knott

Terrific video! And, yes, James, you are so right. Animals cannot afford the luxury of being lazy! The male vs. female question for next time may be another story! 😂

Joanne Wadsworth

Life is so hard in the bush. Every habit has a underlying reason or purpose to support the continuation of that life. So good to remind others that appearances of laziness are just that….appearances, not fact. Good post, James!

James Tyrrell

Thanks Joanne!

Deana Amendolia

Hi James, I was excited to see Sparta Pride mentioned. Will there be any updates on them in a future post? We’ve missed seeing them around. I’m looking forward to the next blog in this series.

James Tyrrell

Hi Deana,
Sadly, I doubt it. The Sparta pride are down to 2 members, as per the last update I got. The y have essentially been ousted from Londolozi by the Ntsevu pride, and now spend their time around Kirkman’s Kamp, often going into Kruger. If we do have future sightings of them, they will be intermittent at best…

Callum Evans

Makes sense that laziness is a purely human trait. Since my experience with a pride of lions in a camp at Mabuasehube, I can safely say that lions are 100% not lazy!!

Denise Vouri

Great post James! Actually I’ve never thought of lions as lazy, but rather chilling after a hunt, or preparing for their next kill. So much energy is expended trying to stay alive that their brief rests are well deserved. In one Reserve we witnessed the aftermath of a Zebra kill, with two males sleeping with the remains, on guard naturally to keep the mauraders away. They were tucked away in thick brush. Lion watching is always fascinating as even in resting mode, they still entertain. Thank you for the video!!

Liam Donnelly

Still can’t believe I was actually there for that kill, I’m even on the video haha! Looking forward to being back in 6 months.

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