Watch the World’s Toughest Buffalo Battle 15 Lions and 3 Hippos… And Win!

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Written by Sharon Parry

Updated: November 10, 2023

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Lion Buffalo Attack
© Jez Bennett/Shutterstock.com

Key Points:

  • Lions are highly social animals that live in matriarchal groups made up of females that are usually related along with one or two males. This group is called a pride.
  • Buffalo are typical prey of lions – as are other ungulates.
  • The buffalo in the video wisely runs into the water – knowing that lions don’t like to swim – but is joined by three hippos and is forced to fight them off before his escape is complete.

This poor cape buffalo is having an exceptionally bad day. It faces one problem after another on the plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Africa. Keep scrolling to watch the full video of this beleaguered bovine eventually triumphing over its numerous attackers!

Do Lions Typically Hunt as a Pride?

pride of lions

Lions hunting as a pride have more success with large prey

©iStock.com/Tommy_McNeeley

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Yes, it is normal for a pride of lions to hunt as a group. Lions are highly social animals and live in matriarchal groups made up of females that are usually related. They are carnivores and hunt a wide variety of prey but their success rates with larger prey in particular, are greater when they hunt as a group. They go for medium to large ungulates, so buffalo are a typical target.

Usually, the hunt starts with a stalking stage but we have joined the action too late for that. This buffalo already knows that the lions are there and the time for stealth is over!

What we are witnessing here is the ‘attack sequence’. The lions have launched an attack because they have reached the striking range of the prey. Some lions run ahead to try to cut off the escape route. Whilst a chase is perfectly acceptable for the lions, there is a limit to how far they will pursue the prey. So, they can reach 37 mph in short bursts but cannot keep it up.

It is important for them to keep away from the buffalo’s sharp horns so they keep having to back off. As long as the bovine can remain upright, it stands a chance of escape. Fleeing to the stream was a wise move as lions are willing to swim but are not always that keen on doing so.

Are Hippos Always Aggressive?

Hippo bloat

Hippos are the deadliest animals in Africa and kill at least 500 people a year.

©Paul Maritz / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Unbeknownst to the buffalo, this stream is the territory of another animal – the hippopotamus. Hippos can be highly territorial, especially in areas of water. In fact, they are the deadliest animals in Africa, killing at least 500 people a year.

They are not at all pleased about the presence of the buffalo and make that obvious. Hippos use their sheer size and weight together with their sharp teeth to see off intruders. Nevertheless, the buffalo is also big and has sharp horns so these guys are quite evenly matched.

Finally, the lions get distracted by a nearby zebra and the buffalo can make its escape!

How Large Are Hippos?

A hippo submerged in water, with only its eyes and nostrils visible

Hippos rank as one of the largest mammals next to

elephants

!

©iStock.com/Sergei Uriadnikov

The hippo ranks among the Earth’s largest mammals. Typically, males weigh between 3,500 and 9,920 pounds, while females weigh around 3,000 pounds. Their average length falls between 10.8 and 16.5 feet, with a shoulder height of up to 5.2 feet.

Because males continually grow throughout their lives, they tend to dominate the records for the largest hippos.

The largest hippo ever documented was held in captivity at a zoo in Germany. This colossal 16-foot giant weighed an astonishing 9,900 pounds. That is almost the same weight as an armored car!

Is This Normal Behavior?

African Water Buffalo kick up dust in the early morning sunshine.

Buffalos are great swimmers and will sometimes tread water to escape predators.

©iStock.com/andyschar

The scenario that played out in the video is an interesting one. As the buffalo plunges into the watering hole, the lion pride hangs back and waits for it to exit. While lions are able to swim, their swimming skills are not as good as some other large cats like jaguars or tigers. They can cross a river or lake if they have to, but prefer dry land. So these lions huddling in wait is not surprising.

How about the hippos? Hippos can be very territorial in water if they feel threatened. While they do seem to try and intimidate the buffalo a couple of times, he stands his ground, using his horns as a defense. The hippos probably sense that the buffalo is not in the water to cause them harm–only to escape the lion pride. The hippos allow the buffalo to stay until he chooses a safe exit time.


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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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