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Interspecies Conflict/Female big cats vs...



I was looking up on big cat size and noticed how huge the difference is between male and female big cats (particularly in lions and tigers). As such I was wondering what the evolutionary reasons for this might be, given both males and females often hunt the same prey animals and encounter the same threats.

Also I was wondering whether female big cats would be as good at fighting other animals as the males are so I've come up with some match-ups (I didn't include jaguaress as I think they tend to be less noticeably smaller).

Bengal Tigress vs: Syrian brown bear, green anaconda, mugger crocodile, Postosuchus, Gasosaurus, Herrerasaurus.

Lioness vs: Dire wolf, Rauisuchus, Asiatic black bear, Austroraptor.

Leopardess vs: Grey wolf, Kileskus, freshwater crocodile, spotted hyena.

Hello Jack.

Q: I was looking up on big cat size and noticed how huge the difference is between male and female big cats (particularly in lions and tigers). As such I was wondering what the evolutionary reasons for this might be, given both males and females often hunt the same prey animals and encounter the same threats.
A: With many animals, because the male is considered to be the leader & protector, the male will be a larger, stronger animal.  Even though they (males & females) share many common actions, there is enough difference in their roles to necessitate having different characteristics.  There are some exceptions to males being the more powerful gender (spotted hyenas, birds of prey, etc.), but with big cats that is not the case.  I suppose it has a lot to do with the males needing the size to battle other males for territory & mating purposes.

Q: Also I was wondering whether female big cats would be as good at fighting other animals as the males are so I've come up with some match-ups (I didn't include jaguaress as I think they tend to be less noticeably smaller).
A: The female big cats aren't quite as powerful (pound-for-pound) as their male counterparts, but they aren't far off.  They still have similar skills & weaponry.  Male lions are better than lionesses at fighting other lions, but the lionesses probably are better at fighting with zebra, warthogs, wildebeests, etc. (because they deal with them more).  A male big cat will likely be a better overall fighter than an equal-sized female big cat, but the female won't need much of a weight advantage to even things out.

Bengal tigress vs Syrian brown bear: The Syrian brown bear will be over 1/3rd heavier than the tigress.  Bears are strong, durable mammals with great endurance & weaponry (big bites/big claws).  Tigresses have the typical big cat attributes (speed, agility, killing know-how, sharp teeth & claws), and are powerful, skillful hunters.  Any big cat will have trouble with a brown bear that outweighs it, and in this scenario, the bear is too big.  Syrian brown bear wins.

Bengal tigress vs Green Anaconda: These animals will weigh about the same.  A green anaconda is a great ambush hunter, but is a poor fighter on land when faced with a large, mobile adversary due to limited mobility & stamina.  The tigress will use her quickness to avoid the coils of the anaconda while attacking it with her jaws & claws.  A shallow water venue will improve the anaconda's chances (greater mobility & stamina), and it will have a better chance of getting into a good coiling position.  Tigers are at home in the water more than most big cats, and the tigress will still have a decent opportunity to end the fight there with a head/spine bite.  Tigress wins on land; very close fight in shallow water.

Bengal tigress vs Mugger crocodile: A mugger crocodile can weigh twice as much as a tigress.  Tigers (and tigresses) are used to dealing with muggers, and will sometimes battle them in the water.  Crocodiles have poor mobility & stamina on land, but are capable of quick movements in short bursts.  Tigers know to avoid the jaws & circle around the crocodile in an attempt to leap upon it (and bite into its neck).  The tigress will need to wear the crocodile down before attempting a kill to lessen the danger, but should have the advantage on land.  In shallow water the mugger will have greater ease of movement & better endurance, and will be a serious threat to any big cat half its weight.  Tigress wins on land on most occasions; mugger wins in water on most occasions.

Bengal tigress vs Postosuchus: Postosuchus weighed over 3 1/2 times as much as a tigress (using upper-weight estimates).  This prehistoric creature had a crocodile-like body (with longer legs & a more robust build) and a head resembling a Tyrannosaurus rex's.  The jaws of Postosuchus were large & powerful, and its serrated teeth were designed to tear through flesh.  Its back was covered in bony plates (osteoderms) and it was capable of rising up on 2 legs.  The tigress would have found it difficult to mount an effective offense while avoiding the Postosuchus' huge bite, and would not have prevailed on most occasions.  Postosuchus wins.

Bengal tigress vs Gasosaurus: The Gasosaurus weighed a little more than the tigress.  Gasosaurus was believed to have the typical body of a theropod with large jaws.  The tigress would have had a quickness & mobility advantage, and would have used this to leap at the dinosaur when the right opportunity arose.  The tigress would have treated Gasosaurus like any big cat treats a large prey item (attempt to bring it to the ground & finish it with a neck bite), but would have needed to be wary of the big bite of her adversary.  Interesting fight, but the tigress has more going for it here, and should win more times than not.  Edge to tigress.

Bengal tigress vs Herrerasaurus: Herrerasaurus was an early theropod that likely weighed considerably less than a tigress (about 40% of her weight).  This dinosaur was a relatively fast runner, and had sharp claws on its limbs to add to it weaponry.  The tigress would have attacked it much like she would have attacked Gasosaurus (avoid the jaws/attempt to pull it down), and would have succeeded most of the time.  Tigress wins.

Lioness vs Dire wolf: A lioness is over twice as heavy as a dire wolf.  Dire wolves were larger, stockier versions of grey wolves, and had strong bites.  The agility, sharp claws, & paw usage would be big advantages for the lioness in this bout, and the cat would control the dire wolf's body with her paws & secure a killing bite with little trouble.  This would be similar to a lioness taking on a spotted hyena.  She's simply too big & well-armed to lose to a dire wolf.  Lioness wins.

Lioness vs Rauisuchus: Rauisuchus weighed approximately 25% more than a lioness.  Rauisuchus resembled Postosuchus, but was smaller.  The lioness would treat this creature like a crocodile (avoid the jaws, latch on behind the neck) and attempt to finish with a bite to the throat or spine.  The armor-like hide along the back of Rauisuchus may have been problematic, but not impossible to breach.  Not an easy fight for the lioness (and a dangerous one), but she should prevail most of the time using her quickness & agility.  Edge to lioness.

Lioness vs Asiatic black bear: The Asiatic black bear weighs about 10% more than a lioness.   Asiatic black bears eat fruit, nuts, leaves, insects, etc., and are not as robustly built as brown bears.  The Asiatic black bear will typically fight by standing on its hind legs and swiping with its paws.  Lionesses are quicker & more agile, and are more practiced combatants.  The bear will have an advantage in strength & endurance, but the lioness should have enough finishing know-how to succeed before she fatigues.  This will be a close fight, and the bear may drive the lioness away in a realistic encounter, but a down & dirty scrap will slightly favor the felid.  Edge to lioness.  

Lioness vs Austroraptor: The lioness weighs about 80% of Austroraptor's weight.  Austroraptor had a diversified arsenal (decent bite, sharp grabbing claws, sickle-shaped kicking claws), but the lioness likely has a quickness/agility advantage and the ability to leap upon the theropod & bring it to the ground.  It would be difficult for the lioness to close the distance, control the movement of Austroraptor, and secure a finishing bite while simultaneously avoiding the slashing claws of the larger animal.  A determined lioness should be able to succeed some of the time, but will likely get seriously injured in the process.  Close to 50/50; slight edge to the lioness.

Leopardess vs Grey wolf: A female leopard weighs about 2/3rd the weight of a male leopard, and will weigh about the same as a grey wolf.  Grey wolves have big bites, good lateral mobility, & great endurance.  However, the agility, weaponry (jaws & claws), & finishing ability (with a neck/throat bite) of the leopardess will be huge assets in this fight.  Grey wolves usually battle as a team, and a solo one isn't as practiced a fighter as a leopard (which is a solitary animal).  A grey wolf will need a decent size advantage to compete successfully with any big cat.  Leopardess wins.

Leopardess vs Lileskus: Lileskus was a theropod that weighed about 3 times as much as a leopardess.  The leopardess would need to use her quickness & agility to avoid the large jaws of Kileskus, and try to get into a position (while clinging to the dinosaur) to finish with a neck bite.  However, with Kileskus being somewhat larger, this would be a difficult achievement.  A bite from Kileskus could seriously injure a leopardess, and the chances of landing this bite while the smaller cat attacked would be decent.  Edge to Kileskus.

Leopardess vs Freshwater crocodile: The freshwater crocodile will have a slight weight advantage over the leopardess.  Freshwater crocodiles don't have the same huge bites (in proportion to their bodies) as the larger species of crocodiles.  The leopardess will have a good chance on land, because she can tire the crocodile while waiting for the right opportunity to pounce on its back and sink her teeth in.  The mobility of the crocodile will be limited on land (even though these reptiles can move quickly in short bursts), but in shallow water the reptile will make a better showing.  Leopardess wins on land; edge to leopardess in shallow water (but could go either way), freshwater crocodile wins in deeper water.

Leopardess vs Spotted hyena: The leopardess weighs about 85% of the spotted hyena's weight.  Spotted hyenas have bone-crushing bites, great durability, and great endurance.  They are somewhat clumsy in their movements, but they are accustomed to dealing with lions & leopards.  The leopardess will have an advantage in quickness, agility, & weaponry (jaws & claws), and will have the capability to finish with a throat bite.  However, the leopardess will need to be determined to have a good chance in this battle.  Leopards are solitary hunters, and cannot afford to get injured & risk starvation.  Because of this, they will back away from a tough fight even if they can win to ensure they will be able to continue hunting.  Hyenas are strong & tough to overpower, and a leopard (or leopardess) won't typically put in the work needed to accomplish a kill when retreat becomes a more prudent option.  A spotted hyena will have the advantage in a realistic encounter, but in a fight to the death (which won't be a realistic occurrence) the leopardess will have enough offensive assets to have the slightest of edges.

Best regards.

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Questions regarding animal conflicts within realistic or unrealistic settings are welcome; my strength lies in medium-to-large species. Small animals (including birds of prey), prehistoric animals, sea creatures, and domestic dog breeds are usually within my scope, but to a lesser degree. I can't confidently answer hypothetical questions about human vs animal, arachnids, insects, or amphibians, but I am willing to field them nonetheless.


From a young age, I have been interested in animals. Starting with the original Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and World Book Encyclopedias, I have seen many animal shows and documentaries and have read multiple books on the subject. I have a solid understanding of the physiology of many animals and interspecies conflict in general.

Associate degree in unrelated field; biology classes in college.

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