How Many People Did the Tsavo Lions Kill


The infamous Tsavo lions were a pair of male lions responsible for the death of dozens of railway workers in Kenya. The railway workers, mostly of Indian descent, were building the Kenya Uganda railway in the late 1800s. 

The terrifying incidents occured when the railway workers were building a bridge over the Tsavo river in the coastal region of Kenya in 1898. 

Were the tsavo lions male or female?

The tsavo lions were a pair of male lions responsible for the death of dozens of people in 1898. The confusion as to whether they were male or female is because they did not have long manes like their counterparts in the Masai mara or the serengeti. 

Tsavo lions todate have very thin manes or none at all. This is mainly because the tsavo is much drier than the mara or the serengeti and the lions adapted to that environment. 

How big were the tsavo lions


The tsavo man eating lions were about 2.95 metres long, according to John Patterson’s book, The Man-eaters of Tsavo. This was in line with the size of other lions in Tsavo at the time. According to John, it took 8 men to carry the carcass of the lions back to the campsite once they were killed. 

Why were the lions of tsavo maneless

The lions of Tsavo were maneless because they had adapted to the dry climate in Tsavo. Today, it is very common to see maneless male lions. The confusion is because most people have come to associate male lions with the mane hence when people see a maneless lion, they automatically assume that it’s a female. 

Why did tsavo lions eat humans

There are several theories as to why the tsavo lions were eating humans. We will look at each theory in detail below;

  1. According to his 2004 Book, The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa’s Notorious Man-Eaters, Bruce Patterson states that there was a plague in 1898 which affected livestock in Tsavo. As a result, the lions had no source of food forcing them to turn to humans. 
  2. Another theory suggests that the lion’s had dental problems, particularly decaying canines, which forced them to target humans as we are slower and defenceless compared to other prey. 
  3. Another theory suggests that the lions developed an appetite for human flesh from the dead bodies found in the forest. In the past, caravans of traders would pass through the tsavo carrying slaves to the port. If any of the slaves died en route, their bodies were dumped in the forest and the lions would scavenge the dead bodies leading to an appetite for human flesh. 

Who killed the tsavo lions and when were they killed?

The first of the two tsavo lions were killed by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson on December 9th 1898. The second man eating lion was killed 20 days later. During the hunt, Lt. Col. John had unsuccessfully tried to ambush the lions. He claims in his book that the second lion died while gnawing on a tree still trying to reach him. 

How many people did the tsavo lions kill?

The tsavo lions killed 135 people according to Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. This happened over a period of 9 months or so. During this time, there were months where the lions ceased the attacks but word reached the workers of similar attacks in nearby settlements. Todate, the actual number of fatalities is unknown with some researchers suggesting that the number could be much higher because there could have been many unreported deaths. 

Where are the lions of tsavo today

The man eating lions of tsavo are displayed at the field museum in Chicago. Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson had initially turned the skins of the two lions into rugs for his house. He kept them as trophies for 25 years. In 1925, he sold the lions skins to the field museum for $5,000. 

When did tsavo lions first appear at field museum

The tsavo lions first appeared at the field museum in Chicago in 1925. The skins from John were dilapidated but the museum was able to turn them into amazing exhibits. The lions are on display at the museum today

Are there lions in Tsavo today?

Yes, there are many prides of Lions in both tsavo east and tsavo west. The tsavo lions are slightly different from their counterparts in the savannah grasslands in that they have thinner manes. 

Additionally, their prides are smaller than the prides in the serengeti. Oftentimes, a pride will consist of 1 male and about 10 females whereas in the serengeti the prides can contain upto 20 females and 2-3 males. 

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