Interspecies Conflict/question


Hello BK,

That there are many conflicts take place between Hyenas and lions is clear.
But is this a rare occurrence? Hyenas have rarely seen so aggressively.


best Regards

Hello Henk.

Q: That there are many conflicts take place between hyenas and lions is clear.
But is this a rare occurrence?  Hyenas have rarely seen so aggressively.

A: The range of the spotted hyena is more widespread than that of the African lion, but the lion's range is almost completely within the range of the spotted hyena.  Basically this means that anywhere African lions exist, spotted hyenas are close by (with very few exceptions).  Spotted hyenas are the most numerous of Africa's large predators, and occasionally have a numbers advantage when encountering lions.  The fact that these rivals are within close proximity of one another and compete for the same food sources commonly leads to friction between the 2 species.  At times they can coexist, and other times they engage in battle.  Approximately 60-95% of a spotted hyena's food intake is prey it has killed itself (some sources pinpoint this at 90%), but this animal is also a very efficient scavenger, and groups of them will commonly take over the kills of other African predators (including African wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards, and even lions).  Vultures circling overhead (among other things including sounds) can alert a hyena clan to the location of a carcass, and the first hyena on the scene can alert any other hyenas within a 5-kilo radius with its vocalizations.  The presence of a male lion at the scene of a carcass will usually keep all but the largest hyena clans away, but a lioness is no pushover.  A lion pride usually averages 4-6 adults (more than double this amount including cubs), but hyenas clans can approach numbers over 40 on occasion (even though a large clan will usually "split up" to cover a larger area leaving several subgroups typically ranging from 3 to 12).  A 3-1 ratio advantage will usually be enough for a hyena clan to displace a group of lionesses, but at least 5 hyenas are needed to deter a male (and this varies depending on circumstances).  A female spotted hyena, which weighs between 10-14% more than the male, can exceed 70kg in weight (some sources state a maximum over 80kg; averages approximately 60kg; varies from region to region).  Male lions average about 181kg in weight (but can approach 250kg), and lionesses average about 127kg (but can approach 181kg).  General conflict between lions and spotted hyenas can be common, but each animal knows the level of danger the other one poses, and will avoid getting into a bad situation (like the one depicted in the video) on most occasions.  In the same way a hyena relies on "safety in numbers" when lions are concerned, a solitary lioness knows to avoid straying too far from the pride when hyenas are close by.  Even though these animals seem to harbor a genuine hatred for one another, they are driven by instinct, and species preservation is just about the strongest instinct of all (right after self-preservation).  Any reasonable chance to "eliminate the competition" will be taken because it helps to ensure more food (and chances to acquire food) will be available, as well as getting rid of any potential down-the-road threats.  That's why lions and spotted hyenas will readily kill each other's young.  Almost half of all spotted hyena cubs die before reaching the age of 1 year, and the most common culprit is the lion (a typical hyena den site is guarded at all times by 1 or 2 adults) .  Approximately 50-70% of lion cubs die before year 1, and the spotted hyena is sometimes the reason for this.  It's all about survival & safety (short-term and long-term).

So, to directly answer your question, general conflict is rather common (and often quite aggressive) between lions & spotted hyenas, but it isn't very common for a lioness to put herself in a position to be vulnerable against a clan of hyenas (although it does occur on occasion).

Best regards.

Interspecies Conflict

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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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