While the relationship between lions and hyenas was portrayed in Disney’s Lion King as enemies, often competing for resources in the same habitats, this rivalry is not just limited to stories.
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In reality, these two apex predators battle each other frequently in a variety of ways. Lions will kill hyenas whenever they can, usually targeting cubs or weak individuals. In turn, hyenas prey on lion cubs, or scavenge carcasses of lions that have died due to other external factors.
Although cannibalism isn’t out of the question for either species when times are tough and food sources are sparse, it is generally not common practice. The complex balance between them may change from year to year, but overall the dynamic between predators and their prey is an important part of nature’s ecosystem.
Do Lions Kill And Eat Hyenas?
While lions and hyenas may share a habitat, the two often compete for resources, making them mortal enemies. However, rather than facing off with one another directly, they engage in infanticide – killing each other’s young as a means to control population numbers.
Though lions are significantly larger than hyenas and can weigh up to 500 pounds compared to their 190-pound adversaries, even experts are surprised at the irony that these smaller predators have the upper hand – or should we say paw.
This is evidenced in the impressive bite force quotient of each animal: Hyenas have a BFQ of 113, while lions merely come in second with 112.
With jaw strength of just 650 PSI, the bite force of lions is not as immense as that of their rivals – the hyenas – at 1,100 PSI. This is up there with the likes of tigers and jaguars.
Lions, however, have other advantages which allow them to triumph in a clash between species – they are physically stronger due to their larger size and build, they deliver a more powerful strike, and they also outrun their opponents. That’s why direct encounters between adult lions and hyenas are rarely seen.
Even though these ferocious predators have established an uneasy peace for themselves now, you can still witness occasional skirmishes over prey or territory. Additionally, healthy individuals from both sides will take advantage of smaller prey or a compromised opponent from the opposite side.
Although it may seem counterintuitive not to make use of every resource, evidence suggests that with some exceptions the lions will move on after a kill. Starved lions, for example, may consume any available prey during periods of scarce food availability. Similarly, a weakened lion might opt to eat a killed hyena to preserve its energy.
Why Don’t Lions Eat Hyenas?
Despite its rarity, there have been reported instances where lions kill and eat hyenas. Still, this hardly ever occurs and scientists believe the most plausible explanation for this phenomenon is that lions cannot stand the taste of their prey.
Thus, it appears that when lions kill a hyena, it is far more likely to be out of territorial aggression or to gain access to resources; rather than enjoying a meal. This further evidences the notion that predators consume their prey due to necessity, not necessarily pleasure.
Moreover, as hyenas often target lone lionesses preying on smaller animals in this shared habitat – killing them may therefore be an act of protecting pride members from harm.
When it comes to hunting, hyenas can certainly hold their own against a lone lioness. As they hunt in clans, the sheer numbers alone are enough to pose a formidable threat. While a male lion can easily fight off a clan of hyenas, food preferences could explain why lions don’t often resort to eating them.
Unlike most felines, hyenas are not picky eaters; they feast on whatever is available, from carcasses and carrion of other carnivores as well as animals of another species. On the other hand, lions tend to refrain from consuming any carnivore meat and mostly fill their bellies with herbivorous prey or ungulates when food is scarce.
What Animals Do Lions Eat?
While lions may favour the taste of the king of beasts, buffalos, research has shown that their seasonal diets extend beyond those large game.
In the early dry season, kudus and giraffes become a more prominent dietary presence while late dry season migrations bring with them zebras and suids such as warthogs.
Incredibly, female lions may change their diet even more significantly than males – favouring buffalos by 33% during summer months and reducing to about 10% by winter.
Lions have an opportunistic hunting behaviour, meaning they will pursue whatever prey is available to them. As a consequence of this, their diet consists mainly of herbivores such as elephants and small mammals like mice.
Despite the potential for lions to hunt carnivores, researchers have found that no traces of another carnivore’s meat appears in their diet. This indicates that lions consciously avoid consuming other predators and prefer instead to focus on the animals that make up the majority of their diet: herbivores.
Do Lions Eat Any Carnivores?
Although lions typically rely on herbivores for sustenance, special circumstances such as famine can cause them to feed on carnivores like hyenas. Additionally, a weakened or elderly lion that successfully kills a hyena may choose to consume it to save energy. Since a lion’s ability to protect itself and its mates depends heavily on its strength, choosing to consume its prey could be the difference between life and death for them.
Do Hyenas Eat Lions?
Unlike most carnivores, hyenas are not picky eaters. Their varied diet consists of much more than just hunting down the lion and having it for lunch. What’s even better is that the hyena does not necessarily have to kill whatever its prey may be, or even hunt it at all.
They typically scavenge carcasses from other predators, or steal kills from unsuspecting animals, indicating that a hunter’s instinct is also present within them as well. The hyena may also feed off of carrion, so killing the prey is not necessary when they can gain sustenance elsewhere.
While hyenas might not target lions for dinner, they will not pass up an opportunity to feast on the carcasses of their feline counterparts. With a hearty appetite for organic meats and carrion, these carnivores are strong enough to consume virtually everything, from bones and fur to putrefying remains.
Since other apex predators tend to be pickier when it comes to what they eat, the boldness of these hyenas makes them unique among their peers. Moreover, some particularly daring members of the species may even take a chance at the lion cubs that wander too close – underscoring their reputation as a powerful presence in any ecosystem.
Do lions eat hyenas after they kill them?
Which animal eats hyenas?
lions, leopards, and crocodiles.
Will lions kill hyenas?
Lions are the most common cause of hyena death in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Would a hyena eat a lion?
Lions and hyenas often find themselves in direct competition, but when it comes to food the two rarely mix. Instead of consuming hyenas, lions stick mostly to their preferred menu of ungulates and other herbivores because, despite being apex predators, they are a bit picky about taste.
The problem for hyenas is that lions will kill them—especially cubs and weaker adults—just like any other predator. But unlike lions who largely eat just for sustenance, these cunning carnivores have been known to target lions too in search of a meal.
So while lions may not be ingesting the hyena from time to time, there can be no doubt that both animals are well aware of their place in the grand order of things in the wild.
Rahul M Suresh
Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.