Leopard vs Lion: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Largest Leopard - Leopard Header
© kyslynskahal/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: March 8, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Listen to Article

Leopards are powerful big cats and highly capable hunters. Yet, when people talk about the most dangerous animals in sub-Saharan Africa, leopards are rarely mentioned as the most threatening creatures in their range. Instead, we hear about the king of the jungle, the lion. Did we crown the wrong mammal? Let’s take a closer look at a fight between a leopard and vs lion, and we’ll show you which of these animals will win. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know which of these cats is deadliest and if we have a pretender on the throne!

Comparing a Leopard and a Lion

The key differences between leopards and lions are their bodies, size, and social conditioning.
LeopardLion
SizeWeight: 66 – 198 lbs
Length: 3.5 – 6.2 ft
Height: 2 – 2.3 ft
Weight: 264 – 550 lbs
Length: 4.7 – 8.2 ft
Height: 3 – 4 ft
Speed35-40mph35 mph
Senses– Amazing night vision
– A very sensitive sense of smell
– Sense of hearing is roughly five times more powerful than that of humans.
-Amazing sense of sight, especially night vision.
-Good sense of smell capable of smelling other lions’ markings.
-Great hearing to hear prey miles away.
Defenses– Speed to outrun many predators in its area
– Climbing abilities
– Stealthy nature when hiding in trees
– Stays with pride for safety in numbers
– Large size
– Can quickly run away from enemies
Offensive Capabilities– Powerful bite
– Long teeth
– Sharp claws that are retracted when not in use, allowing them to stay sharp
– Sharp claws can gash foes
– Paw strikes can deliver a powerful, staggering blow  
– Strong biting power can splinter bones and tear prey open.  
Predatory Behavior– Unique hunters that wait until they are close to their prey before pouncing rather than running them down.
– Mostly nocturnal but can be diurnal or crepuscular  
– Endurance predator or ambush predator
– Works as a group to take down prey  

What Are Key Differences Between a Leopard and a Lion?

Strongest cats - Leopard

The leopard is one of the strongest wild cats in climbing ability.

©Michael Wick/Shutterstock.com

The key differences between leopards and lions are their bodies, size, and social conditioning. Lions are very large quadrupedal felines that possess manes in most of their species and live in packs called prides. Leopards are smaller than lions, solitary in nature, and have spotted fur with no manes.  

These differences punctuate the overall dissimilarity between these feline species. We’ll use this information and other important factors to determine which of these animals is best geared to win a fight against the other.

What Are the Key Factors in a Fight Between a Leopard and a Lion?

Bearded Animals

Lions are larger than leopards and are better protected against attacks.

©iStock.com/Anca_Liliana

It’s not enough to look at the two animals, see which one has bigger teeth and declare a winner. We need to go deeper and look at physical attributes and how they are used in a battle. Since both of the combatants are large felines, we will look at how their size, speed, and combat skills change the dynamics of the fight. See what advantages lions and leopards have against one another.

Leopard vs Lion: Size

Lions are larger than leopards by every measure. Leopards only weigh 198 lbs, grow 6.2ft long, and stand 2.3ft tall. Lions can weigh as much as 550 lbs, grow 8ft long or more, and stand about 4ft tall! If we placed these two animals next to each other, the size disparity would be obvious.

The Lions have an advantage in size.

Leopard vs Lion: Speed and Movement

Leopards are faster than lions. Lions can reach speeds of 35 mph when they are closing in on their prey, but leopards can run at 40 mph when chasing down their next meal. An outmatched leopard might be able to flee if the fight looks to be turning in its favor.

The leopards have a speed advantage.

Leopard vs Lion: Senses

Both leopards and lions are predators that use their senses to find their prey. Leopards have great vision, a highly developed sense of smell, and hearing which is several times better than human hearing levels.

Lions also have a great level of sight, even at nighttime. Their sense of smell is very good too. However, their sense of hearing is incredible, allowing them to hear prey over a mile away.

Neither animal has much of an advantage over the other, so senses are tied.  

Leopard vs Lion: Physical Defenses

Lions use their large size, threat display, speed, and the safety of living in a pride to ward off any potential foes. Leopards use their ability to climb trees and hide along with their immense speed to stay safe from any enemies.

Although both animals have good defenses, the lion has the advantage.  

Leopard vs Lion: Combat Skills

Lions and leopards fight similarly, but we have to consider the differences. Leopards are smart and agile. They wait until they’re close to their prey before wasting the energy it takes to attack them. They’re ambush predators that prefer to bite the head or neck to kill their foes. They’ll also use their sharp claws to deal extra damage to prey while taking it to the ground.

Lions are all about brute force. They act as solo ambush predators or endurance predators in a pack. They use their powerful paw swipes and claws to gash enemies and then deliver the killing blow with a very powerful bite.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Leopard and a Lion?

lion walking toward camera

Only a few animals have the power to go toe-to-toe with a lion.

©iStock.com/Gunther Fraulob

A lion would win a fight against a leopard because it is stronger, has better defenses, and regularly deals with prey larger than the leopard. It knows how to handle a fight against dangerous foes.

Neither one of these creatures is going to sneak up on the other. So, let’s imagine that the fight takes place on even ground. The leopard is fast, so it’s possible that it would land the first blow. What does it intend to do? The leopard intends to go for a single bite at the neck that will help it kill the lion. However, that’s not going to work.

As we’ve mentioned, lions have manes, and they are a very important part of this equation. When a leopard attacks, it wants to go for the neck and end the fight with a single bite. That’s much harder to do with a large, protective mane getting in the way and preventing deep bites.

Instead, the leopard will rush into the jaws of defeat, literally. The lion would use all its weight to smash into and pin the leopard while mauling it. Both creatures will slash each other open with claws, but the lion will be the one to land the death blow.

Could Another Animal Take Down a Lion?

The leopard seemed like a good match for the lion in many ways – but the lion’s superior size and strength gave it too much of an advantage. What if we put a lion up against another animal with its own particular set of skills? How would the lion do against a big brute with long teeth and claws and massive strength to spare? How would a lion do in a battle against a bear?

Bears can weigh 900 pounds or more and stand 9 feet tall on their hind legs when they fight. That’s pretty intimidating! Lions are 8 feet long and weigh 550 pounds – much smaller than the average bear. Both animals can run up to 50 mph on land – but the lions have much more stamina and can run at that speed much longer.

Both animals rely on their bite force to kill their prey – and both are among the most powerful. Bears have a crushing bite force of 1,200PSI with 3-inch teeth. Lions have a weaker bite force at 650PSI, but their canine teeth are 4 inches long.

Lions use their powerful front legs to wrap around prey as their claws dig in to hold them in place as they inflict the killing bite to the neck. Bears just use their massive strength to beat prey with paw strikes while scratching and biting with those crushing jaws and teeth.

Who would win in a battle between a lion and a bear? The bear would simply overpower the lion with its superior size and strength. The only way a lion could win would be for it to execute a textbook ambush and immediately deal the perfect killing bite to the bear’s skull – shattering it.


Share this post on:
About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.