Wild Animals/crocodiles/hyenas


Hello, Jonathan!  Hope all is well.

I actively ask questions in the "Interspecies Conflict" section because I am interested, among other things, in the combat capabilties of various animals.  Being an avid animal lover, I hate to see animals being hurt in any way, but I am amazed at what they can accomplish in various situations.

In some replies to crocodile matchups with other animals, I have seen it mentioned that the other animal can "flip the crocodile over" and attack its underbelly.  This is akin to "a bear can knock out a bison with one blow of its paw" and "a lioness can break a zebra's neck with one paw swipe" but even worse. Sure, a bear might could achieve this feat in one out of a million tries, but most adult bison would simply chase the bear off. Perhaps these things are remotely possible, but it's just not what happens in typical circumstances.  A lioness usually has to work her butt off to successfully subdue a zebra.

In regards to the crocodile, I have never seen or read about anything credible that suggests any animal could or would attempt this.  Even in hypothetic senarios involving other animals, I don't see this as a plausible course of action.  I have seen crocdiles demonstrate the ability to flip on their backs and flip right back over(on land) with no problem(ever see one caught in a net to be relocated?).  It's as if some assume "if I can just flip this croc over on its back, this will be all over".  I find this to be ridiculous.  If a croc got flipped, it would simply flip back over.  I can't imagine anything strong enough to flip an armored reptile weighing several hundred kilos would have a need to do so.

I believe it stems from people believing animals will act a certain way in a situation based on what those as observers THINK they will do and not how they actually would react as animals with insticts.  Gorillas are large, powerful, capable animals that will fiercely defend their family from danger, but they do not box like Rocky Balboa and lift cars over their heads.

In regards to hyenas, I've read where it is believed that one can break a rhino's leg with one bite.  This is ludicrous.  Not only is the hyena gape-limited for this particular action, crushing a rhino bone at a carcass is not the same as biting through hide, muscle, tendons, and then bone.  A hyena's jaws are very strong, and it can certainly crush a rhino bone by itself, but not while it's attached to a living rhinoceros.

The above information is just to give you an idea of what my opinions are regarding these animals in these specific situations.  The only part of this I ask you to address is these 2 questions:

1.  Is it plausible to presume that an animal attacking a crocodile will actively attempt to flip it over?

2.  Is a hyena capable of biting the leg of a healthy rhinoceros and breaking its leg bone with one bite?

Thank you!  No rush on this, take as much time as you need.

Dear Brad

Thanks for your question and your concern. I'm OK at the moment and I hope you are well.

I wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

1. I couldn't find any proof of an animal flipping a crocodile over to reach the underside. Some animals feed on young crocodiles (http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/safari/crocs/expert/expert.html and http://www.proserpineecotours.com.au/crocs.htm) and flipping them over would be an effective feeding strategy. As you suggest, a large adult crocodile is a different issue entirely, due to its size and the sheer effort required to flip it over. http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/safari/crocs/expert/expert.html says that lions and leopards may prey on crocodiles out of water, but doesn't mention anything about flipping them over.

Jimmy Dunn (http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/crocodiles.htm) says that an adult hippopotamus can bite a crocodile in half. I read a similar account in a review of Bertnhard Grzimek's 'Among Animals in Africa', which states that a hippopotamus can bite the head off a crocodile. I have mentioned this several times when I have shown a stuffed crocodile to London Zoo visitors by showing them the two relatively weak armoured areas behind a crocodile's head.

2. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/content/animals/animals/mammals/hyena.htm says that hyenas hunt in packs to bring down large prey. the hyenas take down the prey by biting into it and dragging it to the ground. They hunt alone to bring down smaller prey. Spotted hyenas fed on black rhino calves (http://www.africa-wildlife-detective.com/black-rhino.html). As hyenas are unlikely to find an unguarded rhino calf, I suspect that they use the pack strategy. I also suspect that a pack of hyenas would not attack an adult rhino that was not sick or injured and http://www.ecotravel.co.za/Guides/Wildlife/Vertebrates/Mammals/Big_5/Rhino/Black says that the adult rhino is usually the victor in encounters with hyenas. Hyenas do not kill their prey directly, but chase their prey to exhaustion so it cannot defend itself. In the case of the young rhino, this would involve separating the calf from the herd or its mother. http://www.africa-wildlife-detective.com/hyena.html says that they may bite chunks out of the prey and target major blood vessels as they run, so the victim dies from shock and loss of blood as it is torn apart and pulled down. The prey is captured and eaten while still alive. It is quickly disemboweled, indicating that the leg bones are broken through after death. While the hyenas may bite at the legs and other extremities of the rhino calf, I couldn't find any indication that they bite through the legs while the calf is still alive.

I hope this helps

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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