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Why do Lions Only Drive Hyena Away Instead Hunt and Eat Their Meat When Being harassed by Them?

Spotted hyena are notorious for their “anal digging” hunting methods and their appetite for carrion. Almost all the story related to Spotted hyena is not good.

But in nature, these are the survival strategies of Spotted hyena, especially the hunting method of “digging out of anus”, which makes the Spotted hyena group become a powerful predator on the african grassland, second only to the lions, and at the top of the food chain.

hyena against lion
hyena against lion

The Spotted hyena’s diet is quite broad, and any animal that has the opportunity to be hunted by them will be in their stomach, from a small mouse, to a big giraffe, of course, they usually dare not easily provoke giraffes.

That is to say, on the African grassland, Spotted hyena like the prey that other predators like, and they like to rob the prey from other animals mouth, which makes Spotted hyena one of the species with the most conflicts with other carnivores.

The Spotted hyena, by virtue of its group advantage, tends to dominate in the process of competing for prey. The Spotted hyena can drive away leopards, cheetahs and African wild dog. Sometimes they even dare to provoke the lion, constantly launching attacks from behind, biting the lion’s tail, and even attempting to “dig out their anus”.

hyena provoke lion
hyena provoke lion

Under the harassment of the Spotted hyena, the lion was so annoyed that he had to give up the remaining food. If he was a female lion, she had to leave even before he was full, because once she is bitten by the Spotted hyena, he might be seriously injured.

Individually, Spotted hyena are no match for lions in any case. In the case of group fight, lions will also dominate. So why don’t lions bite the annoying Spotted hyena to death? Even if the Spotted hyena is killed, why does the lion not eat their meat? Let’s talk about this topic now.

hyena in field
hyena in field

What is Spotted hyena?

Spotted hyena looks very similar to a dog at first glance, the Spotted hyena is not a canine family, but a separate Hyena family, which is closer to civet.

civet in dark
civet in dark

There are four kinds of animals in the Hyena, namely Chimera hyena, hyena, Brown hyena and Spotted hyena, of which Chimera hyena is the largest and most ferocious. Spotted hyena is medium in size, about 1.6 meters long, and weighs 40~86 kilograms. Adult female is much larger than the male, so the leader of the Spotted hyena group is female.

Unlike most other predators, Spotted hyena have long forelegs and short hind legs, which makes them unable to jump like cats, and their running posture looks very awkward. Spotted hyena was once considered as hermaphrodite, because female Spotted hyena not only has the same appearance as the male, but also has almost the same genitals.

female hyena
female hyena

Scientists believe that female Spotted hyena have evolved Sexual characteristics similar to those of males, which may be to avoid attack in their infancy, because male and female cubs will become competitors of the leader in the future, and they will face more attacks in their infancy. If they look like male cubs, it will be difficult to distinguish them.

The voice of Spotted hyena makes people feel creepy. When they are excited, they will make people laugh, and when they are in estrus, they will make sounds similar to ferocious laughter, which can spread far. If there are several Spotted hyena hanging around your house at night, it’s hard not to have nightmares.

With the size and body structure, Spotted hyena is difficult to stand alone in the African prairie, but Spotted hyena usually go out in group, ranging from three to five to dozens. The number of members of the largest Spotted hyena group can even reach 90. Such a large group makes them Apex predator on the African grasslands. Even the lion group dare not easily provoke the larger Spotted hyena group.

hyena attack lion
hyena attack lion

Spotted hyena give people the impression that they like to eat carrion, but in fact, more than 70% of their food comes from fresh prey captured, but they mainly hunt at night. When people see Spotted hyena eating around the captured carcass in the morning, they will mistakenly think that they are eating the collected corpse.

In addition to relying on the group advantage, Spotted hyena also have a good hunting strategy. They will not “ambush” like lions, but rely on endurance to chase prey, surround exhausted prey in the middle, and then take turns to harass prey. If you find a Spotted hyena confronting its prey head-on, don’t be confused by its behavior, because it is just to distract the prey’s attention, and the members attack from the rear of the prey.

hyena
hyena

The Bite force quotient of Spotted hyena is amazing, and they can bite bones. They attack the rear of their prey with their powerful bite, such as buttocks, tail, and even anus of their prey, which is also the “dig the anus” tactic. For most mammals, the anus is one of the most vulnerable parts of their bodies, and is also in a blind spot. The Spotted hyena “digging out the anus” is really a smart means of prey.

In short, Spotted hyena are small in size but powerful in fighting. Most of the predators on the African grassland dare not easily provoke Spotted hyena, and even the lions have to hide from the larger Spotted hyena group.

hyena harass lions
hyena harass lions

Why do Spotted hyena harass lions?

If you like watching animal TV, I believe you are no stranger to the struggle between Spotted hyena and lions. In most cases, lions will drive Spotted hyena away, but sometimes lonely lions are difficult to compete with Spotted hyena.

Then why does Spotted hyena harass the lion and take the lion as enemy? This needs to be explained from two aspects:

1. Spotted hyena have a need to harass lions

As we mentioned earlier, Spotted hyena have a broad diet. They are opportunists and won’t refuse any meat, even the bodies of the same kind.

Therefore, on the African grassland, with many predators, Spotted hyena often prey on other predators, including lions. When a group of Spotted hyena found that the lion is eating, Spotted hyena take risks to besiege the lion in order to snatch the lion’s booty.

hyena fight male lion
hyena fight male lion

2. the Spotted hyena has the ability to harass lions

It’s not enough just to want grab prey. Spotted hyena must have the corresponding ability to harass lions, or it will be fatal if it is bitten by a lion. The Spotted hyena has just such ability.

Spotted hyena will not compete directly with the lion, and they are no match of lion, but Spotted hyena constantly attacks from behind the lion, bites the lion’s tail, and tries to “dig out the anus” of the lion.

When the lion turns to attack the Spotted hyena, the Spotted hyena that bites the lion’s tail will immediately loose its mouth and escape, while other Spotted hyena members will seize the opportunity to seize prey. The lion had to turn around again to attack another Spotted hyena in order to defend its victory.

hyena rob food
hyena rob food

The Spotted hyena constantly harass the lion in this way, making it unable to eat at ease. The lion was forced to eat a few mouthfuls at random, and gave up the rest of the prey meat when it was almost full, while the Spotted hyena ate the rest.

If the lonely female lion is besieged by the Spotted hyena, she even has no chance to eat, she gives up her prey and runs away. Because the Spotted hyena group dares to attack the smaller solitary female lion, the female lion may be eaten if she doesn’t run.

Therefore, the purpose of Spotted hyena harassing the lion is to rob the prey, and they also have such ability, so the battle between Spotted hyena and lion is inevitable.

hyena attack lion
hyena attack lion

Why do lions only drive away annoying Spotted hyena, but seldom kill Spotted hyena and eat their meat?

In fact, a male lion can easily kill Spotted hyena. It can find its leader from the Spotted hyena group in tens of seconds, and directly rush into the group to kill her. Even a female lion has the upper hand over a single Spotted hyena. The Spotted hyena is no match for the lion.

Strangely, when confronted with the harassment of Spotted hyena, lions usually only drive them away and seldom bite them to death and eat their meat. There are actually three reasons why lions do this:

1. Hunt Spotted hyena is risky

If it is a single Spotted hyena, the lion will teach him to be a “dog” every minute. Single Spotted hyena alone will not dare to confront the lion in any way. But if it is a group of Spotted hyena, the situation is quite different.

Spotted hyena will harass lions who are eating in turn, especially when a female lion is surrounded by Spotted hyena, she usually chooses to retreat, because there is a risk of injury if she confronts with Spotted hyena.

Although the lion can kill one or two Spotted hyena, it will also give other Spotted hyena an opportunity to take advantage of it. Once bitten by Spotted hyena on key parts, they are likely to be seriously injured. Therefore, the best way for lions is to stand with Spotted hyena instead of fighting them.

hyena looking
hyena looking

2. Spotted hyena is not on the lion’s diet

The prey of lions is mostly larger herbivores, which is related to the “input-output ratio”. On the African savannah, small animals are more flexible, and hunt a small animal requires about the same amount of energy as chasing a large prey.

In addition, lions often hunt collectively, and they tend to surround large prey in order to obtain enough meat for the entire group. Therefore, bison is a frequent guest on lion recipes.

Although the Spotted hyena is medium in size, it is absolutely enough for one or two lions to kill one, but it is much easier to kill one herbivore than to kill a Spotted hyena.

In addition, Spotted hyena are carnivores. They eat everything, including carrion, so the meat of Spotted hyena will not taste very good, and they also contain more harmful substances, far less delicious than the meat of wild cattle eating grass.

hyena eating
hyena eating

3. The relationship between lions and Spotted hyena is competitive

If two species are in a similar Ecological niche and their prey is highly overlapping, they will form a life and death competition relationship.

Just like lions and Spotted hyena, they are both Apex predator on the African grasslands. Their prey types overlap. They are eternal competitors and a pair of old enemies on the grasslands.

The two species in a competitive relationship usually focus on competing for territory and reducing the number of each other, rather than fighting fiercely to eat each other’s meat. When a lion encounters a Spotted hyena, it will expel it, and when a Spotted hyena encounters a lion cub, it will not give up hunting opportunities.

Unless very hungry, lions generally do not eat Spotted hyena, but Spotted hyena will not refuse lion meat if they can fight lions.

In a word, lions do not kill and eat Spotted hyena, on the one hand, because Spotted hyena have excellent combat effectiveness, and there is a risk of confrontation with Spotted hyena; On the other hand, because the Spotted hyena is not the prey of the lion, the lion does not need to spend energy entangled with it.

male lion face hyena
male lion face hyena

In fact, sometimes, the male lion will launch a revenge action because the female lion is constantly harassed by the Spotted hyena. It will rush into a group of more than a dozen Spotted hyena, point its spearhead directly at the queen of the Spotted hyena, bite the throat of the queen of the Spotted hyena with lightning speed, and maintain it for a period of time.

This behavior of the male lion is to frighten the group of Spotted hyena. Since then, the group of Spotted hyena dare not harass the lion again in the next two or three months, so we have to say that the male lion’s approach is wise.

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