Lions and hyenas are natural predators, and they have roughly the same range throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Both mammals are ferocious carnivores and live in packs. Since these animals do share some similarities with each other, it’s important to ask: Who would win the lion vs. hyena battle? While we can look at observed cases of predation between the two for a simpler answer, we can also take a scientific approach to answering this question.
By comparing the two animals on several data points, we can determine which creature is most likely to survive a confrontation!
Comparing Lions and Hyenas
|size||Weight: 264 lbs – 550 lbs|
Length: 4.7ft – 8.2ft
Height: 3 feet to 4 feet at the withers
Length: 3ft – 5ft
Height: 2 feet to 3 feet at the withers
|speed and movement type||-35 mph (50mph off for very short bursts)|
– Dash towards enemies with a galloping gait
– Use gallop to sprint
|Bite Force and Teeth||– 650-1000 PSI bite force|
-30 teeth, including up to four
– 4 inch canines
|1100 PSI Bite Force|
– 32-34 teeth
– Tapered teeth for fractures
|the senses||– Amazing déjà vu, especially night vision.|
– Good sense of smell to be able to smell the markings of other lions
– Good hearing allows them to hear prey from miles away.
|– A strong sense of smell is used for hunting and identifying others|
– Hearing powerful enough to hear prey from miles away
– Excellent night vision
|defense||– Take pride in digital security|
– large size
– Can run away from enemies quickly
– digital security
|offensive ability||– Sharp claws can tear enemies apart|
– Claw strikes deliver powerful and surprising blows
– A powerful bite can tear bones and tear open prey.
|– Amazingly strong bite force|
– Overwhelm enemies with speed
|predatory behavior||– Mainly stalking and jumping on opponents|
– Can act as a stamina predator
– Use groups to take down prey
|– Herbivorous predators that chase enemies in packs, similar to wolves|
– Will eat carrion and steal other people’s prey.
Key factors in lion and hyena fights
The battle between lions and hyenas will start and end in less than a minute. Several factors play a role in determining the winner of such contests. We’ve come up with seven stats that have the most impact on combat, including each animal’s body and hunting method.
Examining each data point will reveal key advantages that lions and hyenas possess, ultimately helping us determine which creature is most likely to win the battle.
Physical Characteristics of Lions and Hyenas
When we’re trying to figure out which mammal will win the fight, the anatomy of hyenas and lions matters. We propose five important physical dimensions to resolve, each of which plays an important role in the hypothetical combat. See what advantages these animals have when fighting.
Lions and Hyenas: Size
A hyena is roughly the size of a very large domestic dog. They weigh up to 190 pounds, stand 3 feet at the shoulder and 5 feet long. That’s pretty big for a pack of predators, but tiny compared to an adult lion. Lions can weigh over 500 pounds, stand up to 4 feet tall, and reach over 8 feet in length. The largest wild lion ever recorded weighed 690 pounds, while captive lions weighed more than 800 pounds. While prehistoric hyenas weighed over 300 pounds, today they are much smaller than lions.
The Lions easily gain the size advantage.
The Lion and the Hyena: Speed and Movement
Being able to attack, retreat, and efficiently reach maximum speed is important in combat. Hyenas are agile, capable of traveling at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and galloping at a gallop. Lions run in a similar way, but they can reach top speeds of 50 mph for very short periods of time.
Lions have advantages in speed and athleticism.
Lions and Hyenas: Bite Force and Teeth
Lions are powerful creatures, but they don’t have the strongest bite. They bite with 650PSI of pressure (other estimates say 1000PSI), and they have 4 inch canines that allow for a deep bite on animals. Hyenas have one of the strongest bite forces in the animal kingdom at over 1100 PSI. Their teeth are long and conical, perfect for breaking bones.
Hyenas have primitive bite strength, but lions have very large teeth, so this area is a tie.
Lions vs Hyenas: Senses
Lions are born to hunt other creatures, so their senses are well adapted for this purpose. They have amazing night vision, a keen sense of smell, and can hear prey thousands of miles away.
Hyenas are very similar in that they have excellent eyesight and hearing and are able to sense prey from a distance. However, they have a better sense of smell than lions.
Hyenas have a sensory advantage.
Lions and Hyenas: Physical Defense
Animals’ physical defenses will keep them alive longer in battle. Lions are large, muscular creatures with great fighting stamina. They also tend to live in groups that are nearly impossible to defeat. Lions also have their speed to keep them safe.
Hyenas also live in packs, outnumbering even lions. They are large for a land predator, but they are no larger than other animals that roam the savannah. Their speed and agility are also formidable means of defense.
Still, the Lions have the better defense overall.
Fighting skills of lions and hyenas
It is good to have a tall and strong body, but only animals that know how to fight can benefit. Look at the aggressiveness and predator instincts of lions and hyenas.
Lions vs Hyenas: Offensive Abilities
As a solo fighter, the lion has many offensive weapons. Their claws are long and sharp enough to tear apart smaller and weaker animals. They also possess huge teeth for a powerful bite and the ability to open their mouths wide enough to wrap around the vital areas of the head and neck of most prey.
Hyenas primarily use their bite to deal damage, but they also make good use of their speed to attack.
All in all, though, the Lions have a better arsenal that they can use to greater effect.
Lions and Hyenas: Predation
Both hyenas and lions are carnivores. Lions are ambush predators in some cases and stamina predators in others. Sometimes they team up with members of their pack, while other times they hunt alone. They are very adaptable creatures.
Primarily pack animals, hyenas hunt in a similar way to wolves, using their speed and stamina to attack enemies from multiple directions.
Lions are more capable predators, so their predation behavior is recognized.
What are the main differences between lions and hyenas?
Lions are bigger, faster and stronger than hyenas. The bite strength and sensory abilities of hyenas are equal to or slightly better than those of lions. Both creatures are predators and can hunt in packs, but lions can also hunt alone. Hyenas are often stolen by lions, who use their size and pride to scare others away.
Lions are cats, while hyenas and cats last shared a common ancestor 30 million years ago. These are some of the more notable differences between hyenas and lions.
Who would win in a fight between a lion and a hyena?
Lions win lions vs hyenas. Lions have the edge in the most important categories, including size, speed and strength. At best, lone hyenas and lions meet in open combat, or at worst, lions ambush hyenas.
The fight will last less than a minute. The two creatures would touch each other and become a rolling mass of fur and muscle. The huge legs of the lion will overwhelm the hyena, while the lion fights for position to deliver a fatal blow.
Eventually, the lion will bite the hyena in its vitals, killing it. This is how fighting is done in real life. A hyena’s bite is stronger, but not strong enough to bite the throat or head of a large lion. Killing a lion will outlast bigger, stronger animals, and that just isn’t going to happen.
Can a hyena win a fight with a lion? Yes, but usually that’s when a large pack of hyenas manages to isolate a usually wounded or elderly lion. Hyenas, for example, sometimes attack isolated, disadvantaged male lions.
But, when it came time to go one-on-one, the lions won and the hyenas were the meal. In the wild, a lion used its strength and ability to terrify another animal, fighting off multiple hyenas at once!
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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