(Investigator 174, 2017 May)


The Bible's claims about lions, which I discussed in Investigator #87, are still true.

That the hunting behaviour of lions is "learned" rather than always innate and automatic is still correct. That lions kill large prey by "strangling" — discovered by science around 1970 but suggested in the Bible over 25 centuries earlier — is also still correct. Wildlife documentaries by David Attenborough have shown lions (and other cats) strangling (or throttling) prey by enclosing the jaws over the throat.

Two further biblical claims investigated in #87 now have supporting evidence unavailable to me at the time:


George Schaller (1972) found that lionesses in Africa do 90% of the hunting and male lions 10%. The Bible, however, mentions male lions as doing the hunting: "The lion tore enough for his whelps." (Nahum 2:12)

In my article "Lions and the Bible" (#87, November 2002) I suggested that Nahum either refers to the 10% of hunting effort or that lions in Palestine/Israel exhibited "more varied behaviour" than the African lions which Schaller studied.

Lions in Palestine became extinct around 1400 CE, therefore cannot be studied. But that lion hunting behaviour is variable has been confirmed for African lions.

Marshall (2013) reports that in the Serengeti (where most of the previous research was done) lionesses hunt in packs on the open plains without much help from males who nevertheless often eat first when lionesses make a kill.

Kruger National Park in South Africa has more dense vegetation and fewer open plains than the Serengeti. Here the females still do most of the hunting on the plains or grasslands but males hunt where vegetation is dense and use ambush strategy.


In describing a future world of peace Isaiah says: "…the lion shall eat straw like the ox." (Isaiah 65:25; 11:7)

According to Unger's Bible Dictionary "Ox" refers to a "castrated male of Bos Taurus family valued in the O. T. period as a patient heavy draft animal."

The various Hebrew words for ox, bullocks and bulls include "Shohr", "Bahkahr", "Pahr" and "Tohr" — but these need not distract us further.

Straw (Hebrew "Tehven") refers to the stalks of wheat and barley after the grain has been threshed out.

The Bible mentions straw and fodder as being given to camels (Genesis 24:32), donkeys (Judges 19:19) and horses (I Kings 4:28).

In Investigator #87 I assumed that "straw" in "the lion shall eat straw like the ox" includes a variety of vegetation since straw is neither the only nor main part of the diet of the ox which also eats grass (Job 40:15; Daniel 4:25; Numbers 22:4), fodder (Job 6:5) and corn (Deuteronomy 25:4).

Part of the lion's diet is grass. Norman Carr (1965) writes:

I am sure it is also the desire to make up a dietary deficiency which sometimes makes lions eat quantities of fresh grass. I have noticed that the habit is more prevalent in mine when they are hungry or out of condition. This habit is also quite common with wild lions… (p. 108)

My conclusion in #87 therefore was:

For lions to subsist entirely on vegetation would require different digestive apparatus. This might one day become feasible by genetic engineering. However, it's probable that Isaiah merely mentioned the less common part of the lion’s diet — the "straw" or grass — because of its association with tameness and peace. In other words Isaiah's prophecy would be fulfilled if future lions were tame, ate animal meat supplied by humans, and supplemented their diet with straw/grass/vegetation.

Recently I asked a farmer who confirmed that fresh straw is part of the roughage component of the diet of cattle, horses and sheep, but older straw less so. If eaten to excess bowel obstruction can result.


The previous (#87) conclusion can now be expanded because some cats even in today's world can dispense with meat entirely and subsist on vegetables, fruit, vegetation, cooked grains, milk and raw eggs.

James Peden, for example, has authored the book Vegetarian Dogs and Cats (1995).

The  Koinonia House website says:

A cat in Tasburgh, England ... refuses to eat meat. Since his owner Becky Page rescued the starved kitten from an alley two years ago, she has only been able to get him to eat fruits and vegetables... He won't touch canned cat food.

The most famous example is "Little Tyke" (1946-1955) a tame lioness raised on Hidden Valley Ranch near Seattle in Washington State by Georges and Margaret Westbeau.

The lioness befriended farm animals such as hens and sheep without eating them. It refused to eat meat and anything containing blood but thrived on cooked grains, milk and raw eggs besides chewing on grass on the Westbeaus' ranch. Little Tyke got sick during the filming of a Hollywood documentary and died from pneumonia.


Young Earth Creationists use the Little Tyke story to support their belief that about 6000 years ago there was no death and all animals had eternal life and ate vegetation. They quote Genesis 1:30 "And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth  ... I have given every green plant for food."

However, Genesis 1:30 has alternative interpretations:

1 "Every green plant" refers to plants as the basis of the food chain and does not imply that carnivores ate only grass;

2 The word "earth" does not mean planet Earth but refers to land, in particular the land described in Chapter 2, the Garden of Eden. In other words meat-eating animals were excluded from Eden which was limited to plant-eating animals.

My reason for discussing Little Tyke is to show that Isaiah's prophecy can potentially be literally fulfilled.


Carr, N. 1965 Return to the Wild, Fontana

Marshall, M. The lion does not sleep tonight. He's hunting, New Scientist, 30 March, 2013, p. 13

Peden, J.A. 1988/1995 Vegetarian Dogs and Cats, Harbingers of a New Age

Schaller, G. B. 1972 The Serengeti Lion, University of Chicago Press

Westbeau, G.H. 1986 Little Tyke: The True Story of a Gentle Vegetarian Lioness, Quest Books

Wigram, G.V. Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, Samuel Bagster & Sons, pp 266; 1042; 1248; 1336; 1342