When you live in the wild, you must learn to sleep with one eye open. At the very least, you need a partner to stand watch. In this case, two sleeping hyenas in Kruger National Park did not protect themselves very well as they rested.

The video starts with the cameraperson focusing on a male lion that is making its way toward a large rock. Suddenly, the large male pounces, and the two sleeping hyenas wake from their sleep and start running for their lives. One gets away, but the hyena closest to the male lion is not that lucky. The lion pursues it off-screen.

When the camera re-focuses, another male has joined the original, and they’re savaging the smaller creature. The hyena isn’t dead quite yet, but it’s not able to fight back against the brute force of two adult lions.

hyenas sleeping
The lion saw two sleeping hyenas and figured it could eliminate them without much danger to itself.  

Judith Andrews/Shutterstock.com

The Once-Sleeping Hyena Isn’t Finished

The video cuts again, and a lone male stands above the hyena. According to the video, the lion moves in for a fatal blow, biting the formerly sleeping hyena’s back and breaking its spine. The smaller creature can’t fight back now.  

Its prey all but finished, the male lion leaves. Two lionesses come upon the hyena, pawing at the injured animal. It growls and snaps at one, showing that it’s not ready to give up just yet. The females decide to eliminate the threat forever with one biting its neck while the other goes to work on its lower body.

They finish the grisly task. It’s unclear whether the two lions end up eating the sleeping hyena or if they simply left it dead. Based on the final shots of the video, they were certainly biting the creature.

The question that many people had in the comments was why the lion even bothered to risk a fight. It was temporarily outnumbered at the start. Well, it may have been a pre-emptive strike. The lion saw two sleeping hyenas and figured it could eliminate them without much danger to itself.  

Usually, hyenas avoid lions unless they have a numbers advantage to drive them off, especially if a meal is on the line. Meanwhile, lions kill hyenas to cut down on food competition. Both species of animals are carnivores, and prey is limited. Every time a lion can kill a hyena, it saves a future meal for itself.

Also, groups of hyenas will gladly attack lone lions and cubs to reduce competition. While revenge may not be a likely motive for lions killing hyenas, it could help lions ensure their population flourishes in a certain range.  

Many videos of lions besting hyenas exist, and some of the fights are mismatched. That doesn’t mean lions are invincible to these attacks, though. A group of hyenas can certainly injure and kill a fully grown lion in the right situation.

Up Next: More Lion Attacks

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