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Lion Predators: What Hunts Lions? (5 Lion Enemies)

Lions are apex predators and don’t have any natural predators. They may still be killed and eaten by other animals. Animals that kill lions include crocodiles, hyenas, wild dogs, humans, and other lions. 

Few animals that share the lion’s habitat pose a real threat to them. The lion is one of the largest and strongest hunters in its habitat, sitting at the top of the food chain.

The only other predator that rivals the lion in efficiency and killing power in its range is the crocodile. Crocodiles and lions are both considered apex predators but their hunting behavior is extremely different.

Here’s a list of the lion’s five greatest enemies:

  1. Hyenas
  2. African Wild Dogs
  3. Crocodiles
  4. Other Lions
  5. Humans

In this article, we’ll take a look at the lions’ enemies. We’ll discuss how each of them is a threat, how they compete with lions, and how they affect the overall behavior of lions.

1. Hyenas

Spotted Hyenas

Hyenas are powerful carnivores that resemble canines like dogs and wolfs in behavior but are related to felines. They are part of the Feliformia suborder along with delines, viverrids, and mongooses. Lions and hyenas are instinctually aggressive toward each other.

Hyenas are carnivores. They are distantly related to lions, being part of the Feliformia suborder. While they are related to felines they also have many traits similar to canids.

There are four living species of hyena and all of them cohabit with lions in some parts of their range.

NameStriped hyenaSpotted hyenaBrown hyenaAardwolf
Scientific nameHyaena hyaenaCrocuta CrocutaParahyaena brunneaProteles cristata
DistributionNorth Africa, northwest and east Africa, The Middle East, the southern Caucasus, and India.Sub-Saharan Africa excepting southern South Africa and parts of Central Africa.Southern Africa.East and northeastern Africa, and southern Africa.
Weight49-121 lbs89-198 lbs83-96 lbs15-33 lbs
Main WeaponBite – 800 psiBite – 1100 psiBite – 1000 psiTongue – Strong tongue for catching termites.

Excepting the insectivorous aardwolf, the other three hyena species compete with lions and can pose a threat to them.

Hyenas have notoriously powerful bites, for their small size. Their jaws are built for crushing bones to get to the valuable marrow inside. They use their bone-crushing bite to scavenge kills from other predators and eat what they couldn’t.[1]

Brown and striped hyenas are mainly scavengers but they have the ability to hunt. Spotted hyenas are larger and more powerful, they prefer to hunt. 

Hyenas hunt much like canids by chasing their prey and slowly wearing it down with regular attacks. Spotted hyenas scavenge much less than most people think, hunting around 95% of their food.[2]

Hyenas and lions eat many of the same animals. They are directly competing for food and this is why conflicts between the two happen regularly.

Although they are frequently portrayed as cowardly animals, hyenas are bold pack hunters. They regularly steal kills from other predators, and they can threaten groups of lions.[3]

Depending on the region and the number of lions and spotted hyenas, either one may steal the other’s kills. 

Hyenas do sometimes wait for the lions to finish eating before eating the scraps and bones themselves.[4]

Lions and spotted hyenas are aggressive towards each other, even when they aren’t directly competing for food. Many hyenas die as a result of lion predation and hyenas also regularly mobb solitary lions or small groups.[5]

Lion cubs and juveniles are also targeted by hyenas.

2. African Wild Dogs

African Wild Dogs

African wild dogs (or painted dogs) are one of the lesser known African carnivores. They are social animals, with a complex pack social life and structure. They don’t pose a physical threat to lions (except for cubs) but they compete for prey. Lions are aggressive toward them and kill them when possible.

African wild dogs are the largest wild canines in Africa. Like wolves, the pack is at the center of their lives. They are exceedingly social animals.

NameAfrican wild / painted / hunting dog 
Scientific nameLycaon pictus
DistributionScattered throughout East Africa and southern Africa. Small populations in Central and West Africa.
Weight40 – 79 lbs
Bite Force320 psi

Despite their small size African wild dogs are vicious predators that can kill antelopes and even fight spotted hyenas. They use their pack hunting tactics to their advantage.

The main driving factor behind lion and wild dog conflicts is competition for prey. The larger and stronger lions can easily kill wild dogs and frequently do so. 

Lions generally don’t eat the dogs but kill them to minimize competition. Wild dog populations are negatively affected by the presence of lions.[6][7]

African wild dogs can kill juvenile and old or injured lions. They were recorded killing old lions and they have defended pack members from lion attacks.[8][9]

3. Crocodiles

Saltwater Crocodile

Crocodiles are apex predators, much like lions. They compete for prey, both of them consuming large mammals. Lions and Nile crocodiles can regularly come into conflict with each other around the lakes, rivers, and wetlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

Crocodiles rival lions in killing power and efficiency. Although their hunting and killing tactics are fairly different both of them can kill large prey.

NameNile crocodile
Scientific nameCrocodylus niloticus
DistributionMost of sub-Saharan Africa excepting parts of southwestern Africa.
Weight400 – 1000 lbs
Bite Force3000 – 5000 psi

Nile crocodiles are massive and more than able to kill large animals. Depending on which is larger, both lions and crocs can win fights. Lions don’t stand much of a chance in the water though.

It’s not a usual occurrence and most conflicts revolve around claiming a carcass from the other, which usually results in a sort of tug-of-war.[10][11]

4. Other Lions

Lion Fighting Ability

Lions commonly die or suffer injuries after conflicts with other lions as they fight over territory. Young males also try to overthrow the dominant males of a pride. If they succeed, their predecessor’s offspring are killed.

Lions regularly start conflicts with other lions. They are social and territorial animals so fights between members of different groups regularly occur.

Debilitating injuries that may result in death can also be caused by conflicts within the pride. Lions injured each other when fighting at kills.

When competing for a spot in the pride males fight viciously, frequently to the death. The victor makes sure to kill the offspring of the loser. Females may attempt to defend the lion cubs but unless several of them cooperate they are rarely successful.[12]

5. Humans


Humans are by far the greatest threat to lions. We are the reason why lions are in the uncertain spot they are today. Habitat loss, prey depletion, and other conflicts with humans made lion populations plummet, especially in the last century.

Human activity is the reason for the decline of lion populations and their extirpation from much of their historical range. 

As far back as the 300s BCE, lions started disappearing from southeastern Europe.

Today lions occupy a fraction of their historic range, with scattered populations across sub-Saharan Africa and one small population in Gujarat, India.

Human expansion causes habitat loss and prey depletion which kill lions and diminishes their population day by day. 

Since the beginning of the 20th-century lion populations dropped from an estimated 400,000 to about 20,000-30,000 individuals.

Lions also enter into direct conflicts with humans. they are targeted by farmers for killing their livestock. Man-eating lions may also appear as a result of prey depletion and the availability of humans.


Lions are the apex predators in their environments, and they don’t really have to worry about being hunted by other animals. However, they compete with other species, notably hyenas, African wild dogs, and Nile crocodiles. Other lions are also responsible for many deaths as a result of territorial conflicts and infanticide. Humans are the greatest threat to lion populations. Our activity has greatly diminished their populations and range, and it continues to do so.


Do Hyenas Eat Lions?

Yes, hyenas eat lions. They don’t usually hunt adult lions but they target young and infirm ones. They will also scavenge lion carcasses.

Do Vultures Eat Lions?

Yes, vultures eat lions. They are scavengers and they will eat lion carcasses that they find.

Do Lions Eat Lions?

Not generally, although there are exceptions. When a male usurps another’s spot they kill their cubs and sometimes even eat them. Rarely lions may eat other deceased lions.[13]

Do Crocodiles Eat Lions?

Yes, crocodiles eat lions. This strong reptile ambushes the felines at the water’s edge. Once a croc grabs them it’s almost impossible to escape without losing at least a limb.

About Codrin Frunzete

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