Are Lions afraid of Hyenas? Here are the Facts!

  • By: Alex
  • Date: July 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Lions have been observed to retreat when confronted with a predator that hunts in groups. Hyenas are known to hunt in large packs providing them an advantage over the solitary lion.

Lions have been observed to retreat when confronted with a predator that hunts in groups. Hyenas are known to hunt in large packs providing them an advantage over the solitary lion.

A group of hyenas can kill even healthy adult lions, so it isn’t surprising that lions would be afraid of hyenas.

However, even though most reports indicate that lions are afraid of hyenas, lions also kill hyenas. 

Some reports suggest that female lions are more likely than males to attack and kill hyenas, although they prefer not to fight.


Why are lions scared of hyenas?

Why are lions scared of hyenas?

They have a very acute sense of smell and can pick up the scent of lions at very long distances. They are considered to leave an unpleasant odor on the victims, which is offensive to lions which will avoid anything with this odor even if it’s long dead.

Lions may also be afraid of them because they can form coalitions of up to 50 individuals. These coalitions are comprised of two family groups and will work together to take down large prey.

Males sometimes enter temporary alliances to take over droves, but females do not cooperate in this manner.

Lions live on average for about 10 years in the wild, while hyenas can live up to 25 years. Therefore, the coalitions of hyenas can consist of many generations of the same family, which would give them an advantage over a pride that is just one age old.

Hyaenas are not scavengers. They are very efficient predators and have even been known to take down animals as large as giraffes. While lions will settle for smaller prey, they prefer to attack zebrasbuffalo, and wildebeests.

Lions have been known to be trampled by a herd running away from a hyena. The noise of the stampede is thought to scare off the predators as well.

A pack of hyenas can be chased away quickly by the lionesses in pride. The more giant cats have no problem running off groups of 6 or 7 animals even when feeding on something significant.


Why are hyenas only scared of male lions?

Why are hyenas only scared of male lions?

Hyenas are scavengers, and they’re used to stealing the kills from lionesses. But when a male lion trespasses into their territory, hyenas will actually flee rather than risk going head-to-head with him over a meal.

How is a 180-pound cat twice as intimidating as a 500-horsepower car?

Simple: size and numbers.

Lions have a strict social hierarchy, with the most dominant males being granted mating rights to all females in the pack.

The female lions, smaller than males by a hundred pounds, are generally unaware that they’re being starved out of their own territory but still do what they’re told. The males, who are bigger and stronger, don’t let them forget about it.

Male lions have been known to run off encroaching male lions from another group when they get too close, fighting to the death if necessary over territory or a mate.

But there’s no need to fight hyenas for either of those things. They are easier to scare off, and they’ll leave the lionesses alone.

When a pride of lions goes up against a hyena pack, the outcome isn’t going to be pretty for either side, even if the lions are responsible for bringing down prey more often. If one hyena gets past them, they’re going to be more than happy to eat both the food and the lions too.

Hyenas are opportunistic scavengers that will steal a kill from a pride of lions more often than not.

But when a single lion is wandering through their territory, it’s a different story entirely. You don’t have to be an expert or even particularly observant to notice the relations between lions and hyenas are strained at best.

The one thing that will immediately give away a solitary lion is, of course, his mane.

It’s not exactly the most inconspicuous feature in nature, so it doesn’t take too long for the hyenas to notice him. It’s also one of the last things you can expect a lion to part with willingly, seeing as the mane acts as an effective deterrent against other predators who are looking for an easy meal.

If nothing else, it gives you time to run away before being attacked, but when your only real option is to fight, well, the mane gives hyenas more than enough of an advantage. In more ways than one, that is.

It doesn’t help that a solitary lion is usually the smallest and weakest group, making them even more appealing targets for predation.

The fact that female lions will actively search out any male lions too young or too small to compete with their own mates goes a long way toward explaining why so many of them have scars from fighting off hyenas.

Hyenas can also form an effective coalition against solitary male lions, favoring whichever party is more significant. When it doesn’t, however, the smaller hyena is more than capable of holding its own, even if it can’t compete with a mature male on his own.


It’s not just about numbers, either.

Male Lion

The only real advantage hyenas have in numbers and, seeing as how this is a fight against lions, that advantage won’t last for very long.

Still, their ability to take down and eat far larger prey than themselves speaks volumes about just how tough these guys really are. They’re not the kind of predators you want to mess with when you’re on your own, even if they can’t compete with a large group of lions either.

That being said, the only time you will actually see this kind of fight is when hyenas have no other options and are looking for an easy meal. In all honesty, though, I think most animals will do everything in their power to avoid getting into a conflict with the pride of hungry male lions if they can.

In case you were wondering, this is what a solo lion looks like. And no, he doesn’t have to worry about being eaten by hyenas.

Just so we’re clear here, lions are not the only predators capable of killing hyenas. It’s just that they usually prefer to do it as part of a group, not when they’re on their own.

If the latter is somehow still hard to picture in your head, all you have to do is imagine how things would play out if hyenas were the ones with the manes instead of lions. Once you manage that, everything else should fall into place pretty quickly.


Can a lion beat a hyena?

It’s possible, but not very likely. The lion is much bigger and stronger than the hyena; however, the hyena has evolved over time to be more effective against lions. They can often win fights against lions. When they do attack lions, they usually choose them when they are young or weak.

Are hyenas dangerous to lions?

Hyenas are not a danger to adult lions, but they kill many cubs. The only thing that can save them is their mother fighting off the hyena if she is around when it attacks.

Hyenas are very effective scavengers. They often track lion kills until all of the meat has been consumed or driven away by the lions. At night, hyenas will actually approach sleeping lions to feed on leftover food.

They will follow a pride of lions throughout the day and feed off whatever the lions have killed but aren’t eating at the time. They are also known to wait outside caves where lion cubs are kept while their mothers are away hunting and snatch them from the cave while the mother is out.

One must never forget that hyenas are extremely strong for their size, very intelligent, and they do not back down quickly, even to much larger predators. They often operate in groups of up to 3 or 4 hyenas at a time.