Watch a Leopard Mess With the Wrong Porcupine!

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: October 20, 2023
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Traffic jams are caused by all sorts of things but a porcupine vs. leopard fight has got to be one of the most unusual, right? As the cars back up on this road on a quiet open plain, their occupants get to witness an epic struggle. Just ahead of the cars, we see a leopard trying his luck with a porcupine – and not getting very far.

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Porcupines are unique animals with a highly effective defense mechanism. They are found in Asia and Europe as well as in Central America, North America, and South America. They are usually very docile and don’t go looking for trouble but the porcupine in this film had to put up a fight to protect itself. That is not unusual. They are the third largest rodent on earth and can often be seen standing up to predators, including leopards. The unusual thing about this footage is that the two animals have a human audience!

Porcupine (Erethizon Dorsaum) - walking through dirt

Porcupines are docile creatures, but they adeptly defend themselves with their potentially lethal quills.

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At first, the leopard seems a little bewildered but then starts to bat at the porcupine with its large paws. The plucky rodent constantly turns its back to the big cat who gets a face full of very sharp spines. Porcupines do this because the front of their body has no spines and is, therefore, most vulnerable. These evasive tactics are highly effective.

So, can we predict who will win this encounter? Porcupine spines are highly effective at fending off big cats. In a straight fight, a big cat could beat a porcupine as it is faster and more powerful. But it has to find a way to get past those spines! There are only two ways to do this. The big cat can take the porcupine by surprise and flip it over onto its back exposing its unprotected belly. However, it’s too late for the leopard to do this because the porcupine in this film already knows that it is there! The other option is to sneakily get around the front of the prickly rodent whilst it is backing up using guile and agility. This leopard hasn’t figured that out yet and is instead being constantly faced with those huge spines.

We see a couple of the spines come off and stick into the leopard’s paws. This makes us as concerned for the poor leopard as for the porcupine! What is his fate?

Porcupine quills are made from keratin which is a tough substance and will pierce a leopard’s skin. Quills break off at the tip and remain in the flesh. This is very painful and can even become infected causing serious illness or death.

At the end of the day, for a predator like a leopard, a hunt is all about balancing risks and rewards. At the end of this footage, as the leopard licks his injured paw, he seems to have realized that tackling a porcupine is just not worth any further risk.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alta Oosthuizen/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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