Why Does a Lion Have Heavily Muscled Forelimbs and Shoulders?

Lions capture their smaller prey by swatting it down with their front paws. They capture larger prey by leaping onto the animal and wrestling it to the ground. Lion Alert explains that both methods require the presence of extremely powerful front limbs.

Lions are relatively slow animals that attempt to capture large, fast animals for food. They primarily hunt by trying to sneak up on the prey. Generally, the lion charges and attacks only if it can get close enough to a prey animal. If a lion doesn't immediately engage the prey on the first charge, the predator usually gives up and doesn't attempt to chase the fleeing victim.

Lions can neither run quickly nor run for very long, so they rely on their raw muscular power to capture their prey, springing powerfully forward off the hind limbs to engage the front limbs for the kill. They live in groups and may use cooperative hunting to increase their kill rate. Groups of lions have been observed chasing prey animals towards a hidden lion. However, observations of lions indicate about 50 percent of hunts only involve a single lion, and success rates of hunts involving multiple lions are not much higher than success rates of single-lion hunts.