Hyenas are almost like the cleaning crew of the savanna, eating just about every carcass that comes their way. But that has us wondering, does this include predators? Will hyenas eat lions?

While hyenas won’t hunt lions, they will feed on the carcasses of dead lions if they come across them. They will also occasionally eat lion cubs if the opportunity arises.

The feeding habits of hyenas are very different from your average carnivore, which makes them fascinating creatures to learn about.

This article is going to introduce you to hyenas and their eating habits to figure out whether hyenas might actually feed on lions.

HabitatLive in almost any environment across Africa
Threat LevelVulnerable


Let’s Get to Know Hyenas

For a lot of us, our first introduction to hyenas was the animated side kicks of Scar from the Lion King, but there is more to hyenas than skulking in dark shadows cackling, though they do love a good laugh.

Hyenas, or Hyaenidae, are the most common large carnivore in Africa as a continent. They are predominantly nocturnal and will live and hunt in small packs.

Their coloring and markings vary from species to species, like the striped or spotted hyenas, but their build and strange hunchbacked nature are common features. Since they are very versatile animals, hyenas can live in just about any environment, from savannas to woodlands and even steep mountains.

One characteristic that we love about hyenas is how vocal they are. They are known to make a series of different sounds, including grunts, whoops, yelps, whines, and even laughter. If you are in a game farm and you listen carefully at night, you may even hear their spooky voices calling out to each other.

But what about their diets? Let’s look at that a little closer.

What Do Hyenas Eat?

Hyenas are carnivores, so their diet revolves mainly around meat. However, they aren’t fussy about what kind of meat. They will eat it dead or alive.

In pop culture, hyenas have gained the reputation of being scavengers that eat the leftovers from predators like lions and leopards. However, this is a misconception.

While striped hyenas are primarily scavengers, spotted hyenas will kill up to 95% of their food. Their prey includes various kinds of bucks, monkeys, warthogs, hippos, rodents, and even the young of larger predators.

While meat that is scavenged or caught is the main diet of the hyena, they have been known to supplement their diet with fruit, vegetable matter, and even animal droppings!

The hyena’s body is specifically designed to be able to process this diet. Their jaws, in relation to other animals their size, are powerful, which allows them to chew through bones with ease. The digestive system allows them to gain nutrients from skin and bones that other animals may be unable to process. The only things hyenas can’t digest are hair, horns, and hooves, which will be regurgitated later in the form of pellets.

Whatever they are eating, hyenas are naturally fast eaters, which is a survival strategy to protect themselves from predators or other scavengers. This is known as gorging. One study showed that two adult hyenas could eat one 50kg impala in under an hour and a half!

Hyenas are apex predators that make up a vital part of most African ecosystems because they act as a clear-up crew for the carcasses left behind by larger predators.

Do Hyenas Eat Lions?

Since hyenas are carnivores, they will feed on just about any kind of meat. This includes lions!

However, most of the time, this will involve hyenas feeding on lions that have died or been killed by another lion as they will not actively hunt lions.

This is known as opportunistic scavenging, as they will eat whatever they stumble upon.

There is one sad exception, though. If they get the opportunity, hyenas have been known to steal and eat vulnerable lion cubs.

Lions are actually one of the few predators that hyenas will not fight for their kill. They might take on smaller cats like cheetahs and leopards, but lions are far more significant a threat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other animals eat lions?

In their natural habitat, there are not many creatures that can take on a full-grown lion.

While some smaller predators may prey on lion cubs, it is rare to find an animal actively hunting a lion. However, if they are at the edge of a watering hole, a lion is no match for a crocodile, which will hunt lions if they get the chance.

Do lions eat hyenas?

While hyenas may eat a dead lion if they stumble across it, it is not the same for lions.

Lions prefer eating herbivores that provide a more nutritious meal than the hyenas do. The hyenas diet of carrion and any other part of the animal they can get hold of makes them unpalatable and hard for lions to digest.

However, if they threaten a kill, lions may kill hyenas and abandon their carcasses.


As bizarre as it may be, as we have learned, hyenas will sometimes eat lions.

This is part of the scavenging habits of hyenas, where they will literally consume any form of meat that they encounter, whether that is a carnivore’s carcass or not. However, hyenas will not actively hunt lions.

We really love hyenas, so don’t hold this strange fact against them! All they are doing is cleaning up and making sure that nothing goes to waste.

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