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Interspecies Conflict/A Leopard Can't Change Its Spots


Hi BK, its great to be talking to you again and how have you been? I've been doing great but I've been pretty busy over at Spencer's (That's where I work.) So getting on to my questions for the night, and here they are.

1. If a Sable Antelope did battle with the following animals who would emerge the victor?

Sable Antelope vs Lion

Sable Antelope vs Bengal Tiger

Sable Antelope vs Gorilla

Sable Antelope vs Leopard

Sable Antelope vs Nile Crocodile

Sable Antelope vs Jaguar

2. Lets say a Lion was scaled up to the same size as a Kodiak bear and it battled these following animals who would prevail?

Lion vs Cape Buffalo

Lion vs American Bison

Lion vs Gaur

Lion vs Black Rhino

Lion vs Hippo

Lion vs Giraffe

3. If Gorillas were moved to North America what predators would they have to fear?

4. What's the largest animal a Cougar could bring down?

Thank You

Hello Trish.  Things aren't too bad here; relaxing weekend so far.

Sable Antelope vs Lion: The sable antelope can weigh slightly more than the lion and measure almost 20% taller at the shoulder.  Here are some descriptions of the sable antelope according to "National Audubon Society Field Guide To African Wildlife" by Peter C. Alden, Richard D. Estes, Duane Schlitter, & Bunny McBride: "...heavyset...sturdy limbs and thick neck...long, scimitar-shaped horns...wt 450-580lb (204-263kg)."  Other sources I have give a range for the sable antelope's weight between 507lb and 660lb.  Here are some more descriptions of the sable antelope according to "The Encyclopedia Of Animals" by David Alderton: "...these large antelopes can be dangerous when cornered, although they can run away quickly-at speeds of 57kph (35mph)-if chased by a predator...horns can reach 165cm (66") in mature males...when challenged, a sable antelope can prove to be quite fierce and determined, often standing its ground rather than running away...if threatened by a predator such as a leopard, however, a sable antelope will aim to cripple its opponent".  Lions have been seriously injured by these antelopes, so the lion will need to be careful engaging one face-to-face.  Lions often deal with Cape buffalo (a larger and more formidable opponent than a sable antelope), and use their speed, agility, athleticism, and weaponry (jaws and claws) to great effect when engaged in combat.  Lionesses do most of the hunting, but a male lion will sometimes help out when a large prey item is targeted.  A sable antelope is one of the more dangerous and capable of the antelopes for its size, but it's not going to be favored against a top-notch predator like a lion if the weights are close.  Lion wins.   

Sable Antelope vs Bengal Tiger: A large Bengal tiger will weigh close to the weight of a sable antelope and will measure about 75% the herbivore's height at the shoulder.  The Bengal tiger is probably the best solo hunter among all land predators based on its ability to overpower large opponents on its own.  Even gaur and water buffalo have been taken by this striped cat, and each of these herbivores weight several times more than the sable antelope.  As with the lion, the sable antelope won't be able to consistently defend itself against a tiger in its weight range.  The tiger's physical attributes and abilities are similar to the lion's, so the result will be the same here as in the previous matchup.  Bengal tiger wins.

Sable Antelope vs Gorilla: The sable antelope will weigh at least 10-25% more than the gorilla.  Gorillas are very robust primates with long, powerful arms (with grabbing hands) and strong bites (with sharp canines) that can cause injury to an adversary.  However, gorillas are usually peaceful, and confrontations are usually limited to others of their own kind (and typically consist of displays of intimidation that rarely become violent battles).  A gorilla can potentially be an effective combatant against another type of animal with the right set of actions, but it's just not practiced at doing so.  A gorilla doesn't have the agility and quickness of a predatory cat, and it doesn't have the proper weaponry (gripping claws/slicing teeth/killing know-how) to effectively subdue a large herbivore at all.  The gorilla simply isn't equipped to succeed in this battle, and the ape won't have the experience or the instincts for it.  The sable antelope will use its sharp horns to repel the gorilla the majority of the time.  Sable antelope wins.

Sable Antelope vs Leopard: The sable antelope will weigh around 3 times as much as a large leopard.  The leopard is equipped with the typical big-cat attributes and abilities (speed, agility, athleticism, weaponry, killing know-how, etc.), and has experience killing various types of antelopes (wildebeest, topi, impala, etc.).  It is a very powerful cat with a robust head, neck, and shoulder area.  A leopard is certainly capable of killing herbivores that are triple its weight face-to-face (see leopard vs wildebeest from "Roar! Tyrannosaurus Rex Has Come Back From Extinction. Tough Life For All Of Nature." from 5/24/15), but I rate the sable antelope slightly higher than the wildebeest based on its combative and aggressive nature.  If a large male leopard is persistent in his attack (which won't be a natural behavior for a leopard against a dangerous opponent), it will have a decent chance to prevail (but will likely get injured in the effort).  A leopard will be favored face-to-face against a sable antelope close to 3 times its own weight, but not against a huge 660lb one (if that weight is actually attainable).  In a realistic scenario, the leopard will be driven away because it won't risk getting injured (an injury might prevent it from hunting effectively).  Close to 50/50 overall; depends on the weights and depends on how you look at it.

Sable Antelope vs Nile Crocodile: A Nile crocodile can weigh from 3 to 3 1/2 times as heavy as a sable antelope.  The Nile crocodile is a very powerful predator with armored hide and jaws that can close and hold with a tremendous amount of force.  It can seize large herbivores at the water's edge and pull them in to drown.  The sable antelope will have much better speed and mobility on land, but will not have a very effective way to injure the armored crocodile without getting too close to the reptile's fearsome jaws.  A Nile crocodile doesn't have the greatest mobility or stamina on land, but this reptile can make quick movements in short bursts (including side-to-side movements with its head).  A crocodile's bite and subsequent movements could easily break the bones of a sable antelope even without the aid of water.  Even on land the crocodile will be favored, and this encounter would be a mismatch in the water.  Nile crocodile wins.

Sable Antelope vs Jaguar: A sable antelope can weigh close to twice as much as a jaguar.  A jaguar is generally considered to be the strongest cat pound-for-pound, and it has the strongest bite for its size among cats as well.  These attributes, along with its quickness, agility, sharp claws, and killing experience make this animal among the most formidable combatants in the world.  The jaguar typically kills its prey by biting through the skull or spine of its intended quarry (as opposed to a throat or snout bite like many other big cats), and this gives it a more diversified means of dispatching prey.  The jaguar isn't as experienced at taking on antelopes as the leopard or the puma, but it is a much larger predator than those other 2 cats.  A sable antelope can certainly drive a jaguar away with a staunch defense, but a jaguar determined to make a kill will have a decent chance to succeed.  The antelope will have a difficult time once the jaguar clings to it.  Edge to jaguar.

Lion (Kodiak bear-size) vs Cape Buffalo: These animals will weigh about the same and measure about the same height at the shoulder.  This lion will be larger than any big cat that has ever existed (including the Smilodon populator, the Ngandong tiger, and the American lion).  As long as it retains most of its speed and agility at its new size, this lion will be a force to be reckoned with.  Cape buffaloes have thick, curved horns that point down and then up, and the base forms a shield of bone (called a boss) to help shield the skull from injury.  Cape buffaloes are ill-tempered by nature (and can't be domesticated), as they have to deal with attacking lions, hyenas, and African wild dogs.  They have been known to kill lions in confrontations, and it usually takes multiple lions to bring one down.  Against a lion as heavy as it is, however, the Cape buffalo will be in serious trouble.  Lions have killed Cape buffalo much heavier than themselves face-to-face, and this Kodiak bear-sized lion will be able to latch onto this bovid and drag it to the ground.  Lion wins.

Lion (Kodiak bear-size) vs American Bison: The American bison will weigh about 50% more than the lion and measure about 15% taller at the shoulder.  The American bison is the largest land animal in the Americas, and a full-grown one can be a very formidable adversary.  The bison has short horns that protrude from the sides of its head and curve upward.  Its shoulder area is very pronounced, and it typically battles other bulls by ramming with its heavy head.  A bison will hook with its horns as well, and can kick with great effect to defend itself from predators (like bears and wolves).  Bison don't have experience dealing with big cats (cougars are the largest type of cat a bison might encounter, and it only weighs 1/10 of what a bison weighs), and it will have trouble with a huge lion accustomed to dealing with large bovids.  The bison will have a chance to drive the lion away, but the more likely scenario will be a successful kill by the cat.  This will be similar to a regular-sized African lion taking on a muskox, and the lion will have the edge there.  Edge to lion.

Lion (Kodiak bear-size) vs Gaur: The gaur will weigh between 50% and twice as much as the lion and measure about 25% taller at the shoulder.  A gaur is the world's largest wild bovid, and it is armed with thick curved horns and sharp hooves.  It has a powerful, muscular body.  The gaur is sometimes predated upon by the Bengal tiger, but a large bull can be an very dangerous undertaking for the striped hunter.  If this huge lion can defeat a 2,200lb bison, it can likely defeat a 2,200 gaur.  However, a gaur weighing 1.5 tons (which is rare, but does occur) will be a tough matchup for the lion.  I usually favor big cats over bovids even if the bovid is double the cat's weight, and the same will apply here.  The gaur won't be able to land a crippling blow with its horns before the lion clings to it, and at that point the gaur will have trouble mounting any further offense.  Close battle, but slight edge to lion.

Lion (Kodiak bear-size) vs Black Rhino: The black rhinoceros will weigh twice as much as the lion and measure slightly taller at the shoulder.  The black rhinoceros is a very strong animal with a tank-like build and very tough skin.  The longer of its 2 nose horns can be a devastating weapon (one of the very best weapons among land animals), and its ability to charge or thrust with great force makes it a formidable opponent.  The black rhinoceros is considered to be the most aggressive of all the rhinos.  This super-sized lion will have trouble defeating an animal like this one that is capable of repelling a pride of lions.  It won't easily be able to penetrate the rhino's hide with biting and clawing, and it won't be strong enough to hold the herbivore in one position long enough to effectively advance its attack.  The rhino's thick neck area will make a killing throat-bite problematic even if the lion can attain that particular position.  Even though I favor most big cats against bovids twice their weight, a rhino is simply on a higher level than any bovid.  The lion will have a decent advantage in speed and agility, but those attributes won't be as advantageous in a close-quarters battle as the rhino's brute strength and deadly horn.  Black rhino wins.

Lion (Kodiak bear-size) vs Hippo: A typical full-grown bull hippopotamus can weigh up to 4 times as much as the lion, but the lion will measure slightly taller (about 10%) at the shoulder.  Hippopotamuses have large jaws with imposing canines (and forward-pointing incisors), and these sharp-edged teeth can cause serious wounds to any opponent.  Their skin is very thick (6" in some areas) as well.  Hippos can be very aggressive and territorial in or near water, but aren't as comfortable when completely on land.  In a past answer ("Human Abilities" from 7/4/15) I addressed a matchup between a hippo and a Ngandong tiger (weight estimated to be between 350-450kg).  I stated that if the 450kg version of the tiger was used, it would have the edge on land and that the hippo would have the edge in the water.  The lion used here is 50% heavier than the Ngandong tiger, and this will be like a regular-sized male African lion (550lb) taking on a 2,200lb hippo.  The Kodiak bear-sized lion will have a good chance to prevail on land, and will actually have a decent chance at the water's edge.  The lion will need to avoid the jaws of the hippo and cling to it with its claws (where it can began an attack with its jaws).  If the lion can jump onto the hippo and secure a position there, it will be able to further its assault without fear from an effective counter-attack.  The hippo will win in any water deep enough to slow the lion down, but as long as the cat has close to full mobility, it will have the edge.  Slight edge to lion.    

Lion (Kodiak bear-size) vs Giraffe: A large bull giraffe will weigh over 2 to 2 1/2 times as much as the lion and will measure over 3 times as tall as the lion's shoulder height.  Giraffes are the tallest land animals, sometimes reaching over 18ft in height.  They are peaceful animals, but they are capable of defending themselves against predators (like lions and hyenas) with very strong kicks.  Even groups of lions have failed to bring down one of these giants on a hunt, and many lions have been injured by the giraffe as it defended itself.  A lion would have a tough battle on its hands against a bovid weighing 2 to 2 1/2 times its own weight, but a giraffe isn't quite as capable of defending itself as an equal sized bovid would be.  Giraffes are much larger than most bovids, but a bovid the size of a giraffe (like a gaur) would be a tougher opponent for a predator.  A kick from the giraffe can certainly injure this huge lion, but the lion's agility and leaping ability will give it a good chance to attain a good "killing bite" position on the giraffe.  This will be like a regular-sized African lion (550lb) taking on a giraffe less than 13ft tall (an encounter where the lion will probably have better-than average success).  Very close fight, but the lion has the edge.  Edge to lion.

Q: If gorillas were moved to North America what predators would they have to fear?
A: It would depend on what habitat the gorillas were placed in, but there would be a few potential predators in various locations.  Gray wolves would be a threat due to their numbers and cooperative behavior when hunting.  The cougar would be able to be as much of a threat as the African leopard can be, as both cats are similar in size and hunting prowess.  Large brown bears, like the grizzly, would be a serious danger to any gorilla in close proximity.  The black bear might not be as much of a threat as the brown bear, but due to the black bear's ability to skillfully climb trees, there would not be an easy escape for the apes if one of these ursids decided to attack (they might success in chasing it off, however).  Young gorillas might be vulnerable to coyotes and bobcats, but these smaller predators wouldn't normally approach a gorilla troop.  The another possible threat to an adult gorilla would be the American alligator if the troop established their home near a waterway that contained this reptile.  The collection of invasive constrictors (the Burmese python, for example) in the Florida Everglades could also be a peril to members of a gorilla troop if the apes decided to reside in that area.  There aren't many predators that would be able to successfully take on an alert gorilla troop defended by a large silverback and possibly other males, but a large brown bear is one possible exception.  The jaguar is present in the southernmost areas of North America, and this cat would be able to hunt the gorilla routinely if the habitats of these animals intersected.  Other predators of North America (polar bears, wolverines) that might be a threat live in areas too cold to realistically accommodate gorillas.  There are some predators in Africa (lions, hyenas, etc.) that could easily threaten a gorilla troop, but the habitat of the apes don't intersect the habitats of many of them, and this makes any potential encounters an extremely unlikely event.  The success of a gorilla troop in North America is dependent on where the apes decide to set up camp.     

Q: What's the largest animal a cougar could bring down?
A: As with other big cats, the chances of making a kill are increased if ambush is used.  A cougar can potentially ambush and overpower an elk weighing over half-a-ton, but would have a poor chance of conquering one this size face-to-face (the average weight of prey taken by North American cougars is less than 100lb).  An elk is probably the largest animal a cougar can bring down in its natural habitat (subadult moose can be taken).  A cougar is capable of subduing animals around 5 times its own weight with a well-executed ambush, and tackling animals 3 times its own size face-to-face is possible as well.  Most predators target the young, weak, or ill as opposed to attempting a kill on a healthy adult, so success with a larger animal isn't always probable.  Any adult animal larger than an elk is generally safe.  

Cool title!  Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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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