The largest eagle ever to exist is Haast’s eagle, a bird that took down prey that weighed up to 500 pounds! These flying nightmares had a grip strength so strong they could break their prey’s bones. Then they would dig in with their massive beaks to finish them off. Could they take down a predator of a similar size to their former prey, though? Today, we’re going to explore a battle between the largest eagle ever vs. lion.
We’ll demonstrate the differences between these animals and show which of them is most likely to win this fight!
Comparing a Largest Eagle Ever and a Lion
|Largest Eagle Ever||Lion|
|Size||Weight: from 20 to 26 pounds with a maximum of 36 pounds |
Height: about 3 feet tall
Wingspan: up to 9 feet across or a little more
|Weight: average between 260 and 500 pounds |
Length: anywhere from 4.7 to 8.2 feet
Height: around 3 feet to 3.9 feet tall Speed– Up to 50 mph during a dive based on another large eagle, the harpy eagle- May hit speeds of up to 40 or 50 mph during a pursuit
– More often runs at speeds between 30 and 35 mph
|Defenses||– Can fly away from harm allows the eagle to leave losing fights |
– Light body puts this bird in danger in a fight on the ground
– Large size could frighten other creatures
|– Their large bodies and raw power make lions hard to take down and kill |
– Lions’ necks are protected by manes
– Their threat display will scare off many smaller animals
– Lions have the speed to escape an adverse situation
– Usually has a pride of other lions to keep them safe
|Offensive Capabilities||– Estimated grip strength of 1,000 PSI |
– Could use sharp, 3-inch talons to dig into prey
– Large 5.1-inch bill and beak could tear into prey and damage organs
|– Their bite force reaches anywhere between 650 and 1,000 PSI |
– They have large canine teeth that measure between 2 and 4 inches long to puncture flesh and dig into vital areas
– Have claws that can reach 2 inches in length
– Can deliver a paw smack to prey that will disorient or seriously harm them
|Predatory Behavior||– Most likely an ambush predator |
– May have killed by crushing its prey’s skull or exsanguinating them with vicious talon and beak assaults
|– May act as cursorial or ambush predators depending on the situation |
– Typically bite the throat of their prey to finish it off
What are Two Key Differences Between the Largest Eagle Ever and a Lion?
The two major differences between the largest eagle ever and a lion can be found in their size and the obvious qualities of their morphology. The largest eagle ever was a bipedal bird, and it weighed up to 36 pounds, stood up to 3 feet tall, and had a wingspan of up to 9 feet across or slightly more. Lions are quadrupedal mammals that are short and long, measuring up to 8.2 feet long and standing a mere 3 to 3.9 feet tall at their maximum.
All in all, these differences are important to this battle. However, other information is also necessary to consider, and we’ll evaluate five valuable factors below.
What are the Key Factors in a Fight Between the Largest Eagle Ever and a Lion?
Several factors must be considered in a battle between any two animals. In this case, we have to focus on size, offensive abilities, and predatory behavior. The latter is very important because Haast’s eagle was used to fighting against a creature that probably only ate plants and attacked small animals. In this epic battle, though, it’s facing an apex predator!
Let’s consider five major factors in this fight, see which animal has the most advantages, and use that data to imagine a fight between the extinct bird and the deadly lion!
Largest Eagle Ever vs. Lion: Size
Lions have the size advantage against the largest eagle ever. The average lion can weigh up to 560 pounds, stands between 3 and 4 feet tall, and grows up to 8 feet long or slightly more. Meanwhile, the largest eagle weighed maybe 36 pounds at its maximum, stood 3 feet tall, and had a somewhat impressive wingspan of up to 9 feet.
Largest Eagle Ever vs. Lion: Speed
Lions are probably faster than the largest eagle ever. Lions can reach speeds of 40 to 50 mph when they’re closing in on their prey during a hunt. That burst of speed lets them grab and tackle their prey while issuing a deadly bite. For the most part, though, they usually run at speeds in the 30 mph range.
We don’t know how fast the largest eagle ever flew. However, the harpy eagle, a smaller bird but still one of the largest eagles around today, flies at speeds of about 50 mph during their dive attacks. If we assign that speed to the largest eagle ever, it’s still not enough to outpace a lion! On the ground, the bird may as well stand still compared to the lion’s speed.
The lions have the speed advantage in this fight.
Largest Eagle Ever vs. Lion: Defenses
Both the largest eagle ever and a lion could probably flee from this fight if they wanted. The lion has good running speed, and the largest eagle ever could simply take flight as long as it’s not hurt.
In terms of physical defenses, the lion has the advantage. Its large body can absorb blows, and it has a mane that protects its neck from punctures and bites. The largest eagle ever is still a bird at the end of the day. Its body is not made for an ongoing fight.
Largest Eagle Ever vs. Lion: Offensive Capabilities
The largest eagle ever was a very effective predator. The bird had a 5.1-inch bill and beak that could be used to tear into its prey, striking at vulnerable spots. Moreover, their feet were tipped with talons that could measure up to 3 inches long, and they could exert a grip strength that is estimated to be 1,000 PSI! That allowed them to crush their prey’s bones before tearing into them.
Lions are also impressive attacking specimens. They have large teeth, and their biggest canines can measure between 2 and 4 inches long. Their bite force is believed to be somewhere between 650 and 1,000 PSI, allowing them to easily crush the throats and necks of their prey. They also have claws that measure about 2 inches long, giving them a way to dig into and tear open their prey.
All in all, we’ll call the offensive capabilities of both animals even, at least independent of one another.
Largest Eagle Ever vs. Lion: Predatory Behavior
Both lions and the largest eagle ever engage in ambush predation. They attack from a hidden position and bring their prey down quickly. However, lions also use cursorial predation, especially when attacking in groups. They know how to sap their prey’s energy and their will to fight before moving in for the kill.
Lions have an advantage in this element because they are more versatile.
Who Would Win in a Fight Between the Largest Eagle Ever and a Lion?
A lion would win a fight against the largest eagle. Certainly, Haast’s eagle could take down the moa, a very large flightless bird. Attacking a creature that was not an apex predator is one matter, and attacking a lion is another. There is no doubt that the eagle would land the first strike when attacking from the air.
This advantageous attack could potentially harm the lion, tearing into the mammal’s eyes or back. Yet, we have to wonder whether the bird can exert enough force on the lion to kill it or make it flee entirely. We doubt it.
The lion would probably be able to roll and use its tremendous weight to persuade the bird to let go or get crushed under the lion’s weight. Even if the bird stayed on the lion’s back and hung on, the lion could eventually force it to let go with repeated rolls on the ground. Any of these can expose the eagle’s wings to the lion’s claws or mouth. The lion would eventually win, but it could be hurt.
If both animals start the fight on the ground, a sufficiently incentivized lion could charge, leap, and take down the large bird before it could muster a counterattack. This fight ends in the lion’s favor amidst a flurry of teeth and claws.
What Animal Can Take Down a Lion?
One animal which can take down a lion is the largest feline of all: Panther tigris altaica, more commonly known as the Siberian tiger.
Tipping the scales at 770 lbs, the predator known for its beautiful striped coat, is heavier than the largest lion which is capable of weighing 690 lbs at the most. There are also those 4-inch length claws, and 3-inch length fangs with which it will be able to deal heavy damage with each strike. Lions have shorter retractable claws of 1 inch, however their fangs are an inch longer than tigers’.
That said, tigers will still have the advantage of being able to deal more powerful blows. There is also the all-important issue of bite force, with the striped felines being capable of exerting 1,000 psi, as opposed to lions which are only capable of dealing 650 psi.
There is no doubt that lions’ manes can come in handy in mitigating some of the damage during combat. However, against a larger, more powerful foe, it will certainly be insufficient since the tiger will be able to slash it with its claws elsewhere. While there’s no doubt the lion would be able to inflict damage of its own, the tiger is highly likely to emerge the victor and possibly get to live, hunt, and fight another day.
The photo featured at the top of this post is ©
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- New Zealand Birds Online, Available here: https://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/haasts-eagle
- The Royal Society Publishing, Available here: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rspb.2021.1913
- ALERT, Available here: https://lionalert.org/predatory-behaviour/