Hyenas and lions are two of the most well-known predators in the African savanna that are famous for their unique nature.
Hyenas are known for their scavenging habits, but they are also skilled hunters who can take down prey much larger than themselves. On the other hand, lions are considered the king of all animals in wild Africa.
Since both of these creatures have similar diets, they often become rivals, which has been the subject of many documentaries and nature shows. So, you might have questions such as, “do hyenas eat lions?”
The answer is that they do eat lions, but only in rare cases. Furthermore, we’ve gathered eleven fascinating facts about hyenas that will help you to know more about their food habits.
1. Can a Hyena Kill a Lion?
Lions and hyenas have a long-standing rivalry, often in direct competition for food and territory. You must have seen movies such as ‘The Lion King’ which also depicted this rivalry on the big screen. But the relationship between these two animals is a bit different in real life.
Since lions are larger than hyenas, many people think that hyenas would never be able to take down lions. But the truth is that if the circumstances are right, hyenas are well capable of killing a lion. Since lions are bigger than hyenas, they hunt in packs to take down a fully-grown lion in an instant.
One thing you should know is that hyenas don’t usually kill lions on a regular day. If a group of hyenas senses that a lion might be weakened or ill, they may utilize the situation and attack the lion. However, hyenas only engage in fights with lions when they are faced with certain situations.
2. Do Hyenas Eat Lions?
As you know by now, hyenas can actually kill lions, but do they eat them? The answer is again yes, after killing a lion, hyenas will eat its corpse.
But they will only eat a lion when there is a severe shortage of natural food for the hyenas. In addition, hyenas are primarily scavengers, so it’s not uncommon to see them eating dead lions.
Sometimes in the jungle, there are certain times of the year when it becomes challenging to find natural food for hyenas. In those situations, they gather around and hunt larger and stronger animals such as lions or elephants to survive.
3. What Do Hyenas Eat?
It’s no surprise that lions and hyenas view each other as rivals, considering that they both have similar diets. You can often see them competing for the same prey, which can create tension between the two species.
Hyenas are known to be scavengers, which means they will eat the remains of animals that are already dead. Besides dead animals, they also hunt and eat zebras, antelope, wildebeest, snakes, and lizards.
So what hyenas eat often depends on what prey is available and easiest to catch in their surrounding environment. But you should know that each hyena is capable of devouring as much as six kilograms of meat in one day. While eating, they don’t just stick to the soft, fleshy parts of their prey, they even crush and digest bones without breaking a sweat.
4. Do Hyenas Eat Lion Cubs?
The answer is yes, even though it might sound harsh, but hyenas will eat lion cubs if they find the right chance. It’s because lion cubs are helpless and they entirely depend on their mother for the first year of their lives.
So if hyenas come across a group of vulnerable cubs, they may take advantage of the situation. It’s important to note that hyenas don’t typically prey on cubs as a source of food, but rather to eliminate potential competitors.
5. Do Lions Eat Hyenas?
Since hyenas are natural scavengers, they’ll literally eat anything they find which includes lions as well. When lions and hyenas face each other, they are known to kill hyenas, but they rarely eat them.
But unlike hyenas, lions are known to be rather selective in their food habits and they won’t just eat anything. Despite their fierce rivalry, lions don’t see hyena meat as a desirable food source and prefer to eat other prey. This is because hyena meat has a strong odor and is not as nutritious as other prey.
So while lions may see hyenas as a threat to their territory and young, they are not usually interested in eating them. If lions ever come across a group of hyenas, they would slaughter the entire clan rather than consume their remains.
6. Are Lions Scared of Hyenas?
The conflict between lions and hyenas is a common scenario in wild Africa as both animals fight for food and territory. Male lions are known to hunt and kill both striped and spotted hyenas, mainly to protect their own offspring.
Lions don’t fear hyenas at all because they possess the ability to wipe out entire clans of hyenas. They are physically stronger than hyenas, and they can easily take out hyenas if they feel threatened.
On the contrary, hyenas often get fearful of lions because they can’t beat a lion in a single face-off. It’s mostly because a single lion has the ability to wipe out an entire group of hyenas.
7. Do Hyenas Fear Female Lions?
lions are physically stronger than hyenas, and for this reason, hyenas often try to avoid direct confrontations with lions. Hyenas are more fearful of lionesses than lions as they don’t want to get on the queen’s bad side.
Female lions are naturally quite aggressive and fierce when it comes to defending their children. That’s why they are quick to enter a defensive mode and may even resort to killing in order to safeguard their family.
8. How Do Hyenas Kill their Prey?
When it comes to hunting, hyenas are known for their teamwork, allowing them to hunt large animals. So, if they plan to take down a feared predator like a lion, they’ll form a group at first and then go for it.
However, if their prey is smaller or not as strong and fast as a lion, they’ll go for it alone. This is because hyenas are adaptable predators that know how to take advantage of different situations to get the food they need.
But unlike other animals, hyenas don’t use claws to tear up their prey because they aren’t that sharp. Instead, hyenas use their strong jaws to bite into their prey and tear off pieces of flesh until the animal dies.
9. Are Hyenas Stronger than Lions?
Although hyenas have one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom, they are not as physically strong as lions. Lions are much larger and heavier than hyenas; you can’t expect a hyena to be stronger than a fully-grown lion. But one of the biggest strengths of hyenas is they hunt in packs, which makes them one of the deadliest animals.
Hyenas live in clans, and they work together to hunt and protect their territory from lions and other large animals. When they encounter a lion, they usually won’t engage in direct conflict unless they have a significant advantage in numbers.
10. Are Hyenas Good at Hunting?
Hyenas are well-known for their scavenging habits, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not good at hunting. In fact, hyenas are one of the most feared hunters in the African savanna because of their unique physical traits. For instance, their incredible sense of smell and exceptional eyesight make them successful predators in their own right.
hyenas can spot prey from more than a kilometer away which is pretty fascinating. In addition, They can even sense a mouse squeak from over 100 meters away and can smell the scent of blood from a long distance!
On top of it, hyenas are amazingly fast runners and they can keep running up to 40km/h without getting tired. This skill comes in handy when they are chasing down prey or trying to escape from predators.
11. How Many Hyenas Can Kill a Lion
Hyenas usually hunt in groups, known as clans, which can consist of up to 80 individuals. As they hunt in large numbers, hyenas can take down large prey, including buffaloes and elephants.
An adult lion weighs between 330 to 550 pounds, so hunting a lion is nearly impossible for a single hyena. So they rely on their teamwork skills because it’s no easy feat for hyenas to hunt them down solo.
Although the numbers might vary, it takes a coordinated effort from about twenty hyenas to bring down a single lion.
While hyenas do eat lions, it’s not a common phenomenon and typically happens only in specific situations. Hyenas are one of the most ferocious creatures and they’ll do anything to survive, even if it means killing the king of the jungle.
But both lions and hyenas are important predators in the African ecosystem, and their rivalry plays a significant role in keeping the balance.
As an animal lover since childhood, Paul has an excessive amount of kindness for animals and really feels about them. Feeding stray dogs and passing time with them is one of the things Paul loves to do in his free time.
Paul studied Veterinary Medicine at Murdoch University. He is a Speaker who talks about animal welfare at various events. You will find him sharing here his valuable knowledge as well as experience.
Currently, Paul is working on his first book to publish where you will see the reflection of his 10 years of experience with animals and pet psychology.