Cheetahs versus hyenas is a common site on the African savanna. Unfortunately, it is nearly always the cheetah who loses in any conflict with hyenas. While there are four types of these canines, this article focuses on the most common and well-known variety, the spotted hyena. Five different subspecies of the big cats still exist today, but we’ll focus on African cheetahs as a whole, as well. All cheetah species not yet extinct find themselves on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
This video brings us into the tail end of a hunt by two male cheetahs who’ve worked together to take down a topi. Topi, a rare type of large antelope listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, frequently fall prey to predators like cheetahs. The two cheetahs, likely brothers, managed to hunt and kill the creature. As one settles in to eat, the other keeps watch.
Suddenly, two spotted hyenas burst onto the scene. One cheetah makes a run for it, while the other steps back and watches. The hyenas dive into opening up the carcass, stealing the hard-earned meal from the cheetahs! The hyenas even fight amongst themselves over the kill. The remaining cheetah tries to edge in for a bite and one of the hyenas drives him away. The cheetahs will go hungry this time.
Cheetah versus hyena conflicts happen all the time due to their competition over the same foods, territory, and other resources. Let’s learn more about how these two species compare!
Cheetahs Vs. Hyenas: Who Would Win a Fight?
While cheetahs are considered big cats, they nearly always choose flight over fight. That’s because they are not as strong as other predators living around them. Hyenas and lions, in particular, often pick on cheetahs. They steal their kills and even murder their young. As a result, cheetahs have evolved to fear these larger predators and get out of their way. Up to 70% of all cheetah cubs die by hyenas, lions, or leopards before they reach a year old. Generally, a cheetah versus hyena fight won’t be a fight at all. The cheetah knows the hyenas easily outmatch them, so they usually decide to save their energy for another hunt elsewhere. The larger, heavier leopard stands a much better chance in a conflict with these canines.
How Do Cheetahs and Hyenas Compare?
These two creatures obviously look completely different, but how do they compare? They both are apex predators, capable of hunting and killing large prey. They live in the same areas and compete directly for resources. Both tend to be very successful and their most major threat to survival is humans. Let’s discover key differences between these predators!
Lifestyle and Family
Typically, cheetahs are solitary creatures. An exception to this comes when males form small coalitions. Coalitions are often a group of 2–3 brothers, but can also be formed between unrelated males. Male lions establish coalitions, as well. Meanwhile, hyenas live in large groups (clans) with anywhere from six to over 100 members! Female cheetahs live alone, while hyena females run the clans. Cheetah cubs live with their mother for up to two years. Both males and females go off on their own (disperse) when they’re ready. In hyena clans, only the males disperse and females typically live with their birth family for their whole lives.
Weight and Power
Cheetahs weigh 75–120 pounds, while spotted hyenas weigh 89–140 pounds. The smallest of these hyenas already beats the smallest of cheetahs in mass alone. Not only that, but these heavy canines have one of the strongest bite forces of all animals at 1,100 pounds per square inch (psi). In comparison, the feline bites down at only about 475 psi. That’s less than half the force of the hyena. Hyenas crunch through bones with ease. The cheetahs bite just doesn’t compare.
Speed Vs. Endurance
Cheetahs are built for speed, but hyenas are built for endurance. Should it come to a race or a chase, the cat might beat the dog off the line, but it would tire quickly and require a rest. Cheetahs can only maintain their top speed of about 70 miles per hour (mph) for short bursts, while hyenas can keep running about 40 mph for nearly 3.5 miles! Cheetahs generally give up when their prey’s stamina outlasts theirs, but hyenas will continue a chase until their target is exhausted.
Watch Hyenas Steal a Huge Kill From Cheetahs Below!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © mit4711/iStock via Getty Images
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