Who’s the true warlord? Lion versus hyena

Explore now...

Some consider the elephant the true king of the wild in Africa, but surely the lion is the true warlord?

Original source Latest Sightings (2017) by Tracy 

Few can argue against the lion’s roar being the voice of the wilderness! Have you ever soaked up the surrounding silence of sun-drenched African plains? But, in combination with this mighty roar? Then you will understand! Because it is resonating. Our “Warlord”! In fact, in East Africa it is said that the roar of the lion proclaims, “ Hi ni intshi, ya nani? Yangu! Yangu! Yangu! (Whose country is this? Mine! Mine! Mine!)

But, as outlined in this very clip, that doesn’t mean “our Warlord” doesn’t have its fair share of adversary! Take the hyena, and their dynamic social nature; it makes them a formidable enemy.

In this powerful clip, a disturbed and noisy commotion commands the dark!  As two of the wild’s toughest rivals come face to face. Manic staccato whoops emanate from hyenas as they try and ambush a pride of feasting lions!

  • The scene
  • About the true warlord
  • About the warlord’s fiercest rival 
  • The Kruger – a prototype for wildlife reserves
  • Discover a must do Kruger route

The Scene

Anton Schroeder, videographer of the clip says, “On this particular night, my family and I were casually following this pride in the Kruger National Park, when suddenly, they gave chase…”  Unfortunately, due to the speed of the chase and dark, Anton missed this particular sequence. But it was soon discovered that the lions had hunted an impala!

Anton explains, “Neighbouring these lions feasting was a den of spotted hyena. And, naturally they did what hyenas do best, they came to investigate!”  And as the clip exhibits, they not only came to investigate, but were brash enough to want to collect. 

What is interesting is the way the hyenas work as a team to skilfully take on a powerful pride of lions.  At one point, when the hyenas managed to separate the sub-adult lion from the group, Anton was convinced the lions would flee the scene… and says, “The hyenas appeared tactical by their behaviour.”

But the lions are not such an easy target, and held their ground. Barry Kerr, conservationist and predator behaviourist, says “Unfortunately for the hyenas they were unable to overpower the lions with numbers. Perhaps if there had been one or two lions less, they most likely would have been successful”.  Although Kerr is pretty sure that that was not the end of their fight!

 Generally speaking he says, “The hyenas most likely would have called in for more back-up and perhaps then driven the lions off, or at least landed a piece of the carcass.” 

However in this clip it returns to a feeding frenzy for our “Warlord”!

The true warlord

Lions have to kill to live! And it is either a life of feast or famine! They prefer large prey – zebra, various kinds of antelope, buffalo and warthog. They only hunt as often as every 3 – 4 days. And, therefore they also eat fish, guinea fowl, turtles etc. 

Most lions live in resident prides with no fixed numbers, but duly noted their size is significantly impacted by availability of prey species, range size and genetic integrity. Therefore a pride can range from anything as small as 5 lions to as large as 40 lions, should conditions strike ideal.

All members of the pride eat together, with much growling and snarling heard as each lion tries to get their share. 

Feeding lions will generally only allow competitors to approach within a certain distance – the boundary of its feeding territory. It is not uncommon that they will rush intruders breaking this barrier.

Socially adept cats, their structure is matriarchal with bosom bonds formed between females, however these relationships are not always fixed. But for certain each cub will begin to develop his/her own fitting role that is explicit to contributing to the success of their solitary existence or resident pride!

The Warlord’s biggest rival 

It’s true this biggest rival is famous for its weird howl which resembles an hysterical human laugh! 

On a social structure, their clusters constitute the biggest carnivore group in the world (Only outdone by the banded mongoose which have bigger clusters as an extreme). Therefore, these hyena clans associated with large numbers, certainly do have the confidence they need to challenge lions. And also, because, they are renowned to form hunting alliances.

However when they are heavily outnumbered by a pride, one will observe the hyena hanging back. And when they have superior numbers, often they will succeed in driving the lions away.

The skull of a spotted hyena is strong, and powerful muscles works it jaws. These powerful jaws are far stronger than that of the lion, and sharp teeth can crunch through even the largest bones.

Having carried a bad reputation as cowardly scavengers, they are in fact fierce predators, as well as eaters of carrion. Hyenas are bulky and not the stealthiest of those lurking the bush. They often chase prey away before they even begin their hunt, and that is why they turn to scavenging.

 Their social structure is similar to that of an elephants in that they have a matriarchal clan. Within the clan all female hyenas generally dominate and outrank that of male hyena and there is a clear hierarchy in each sex. Because females dominate food resources, they are mostly bigger than the male. 

The Kruger – a prototype for wildlife reserves

1898 was an auspicious day for conversation. It was on this day that President Paul Kruger signed a proclamation establishing a sanctuary for wildlife between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers. Sabie Game Reserve (the original name of the Kruger National Park), was the first large wildlife reserve in Africa. In a continent where man and animal had been fighting a war of extermination since prehistoric times. This was now man’s first offer of the hand of friendship!

The Kruger National Park will therefore always be regarded as the prototype of wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. Comparisons with other reserves are inevitable , and some will be acclaimed as bigger, better, wilder, and more varied in their animal populations. But the Kruger Park sets a formidable standard. Other national parks may indeed have assets that the Kruger lacks, but its scenery, flora and fauna, as well as its singularly romantic history, will always ensure it has a unique place among reserves! 

Principally, a country’s terrain is diverse, and the Kruger National Park in South Africa is no exception. Often compared to the size of a small country such as Wales, it prides approximately seven geological substructures from rolling hills and sandy earth, sickle bush and thorn trees to open escarpments, all making-up its natural balance.

For soul moving adventures check out Kruger Wilderness Trials 

Travel with confidence with our best travel resources:

Skakuza – Pretoriuskop

Skukuza Rest Camp, meaning ‘he who sweeps clean’. Skukuza was the name Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton, first warden of the Sabie Game Reserve was given by his African staff. 

This is the administrative headquarters and is by far the largest and busiest camp in the Kruger National Park. It is ideal for first time visitors due to the facilities and its surplus of accommodation. From fixed safari tents and guesthouses, to semi-luxury riverside bungalows, guest cottages, to family cottages, and a comfortable campsite.

If you are lucky you may see: leopard, wild dog, nyala and the purple crested lourie (easily rated as one of africa’s most beautiful birds)

  • Highlights:
  • Guided bush walks, game drives, bush breakfast and braais
  • Metsi Metsi Wilderness Trail, 
  • Wildlife films every day except Sundays. 
  • Lake Panic Bird Hide (located approximately 7km outside the camp)
  • Through prior arrangement with the camp, catered traditional dances can be arranged.

Head for the gates as they open, and take the H1-1 tarred road to Pretoriuskop. This road winds down through fairly dense vegetation, favoured by lions in the early morning. Also, be on the look-out for packs of wild dog. Take a detour on a short gravel road to Granokop, a granite extension. It offers an impressive 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

Try and make it to Transport Dam in time to catch animals gathering for their first drink of the day. Next up is Shitlave dam which also gives opportunities for some great game viewing. 

Pretoriuskop – Afsaal

Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, is one of the oldest rest camps in the Kruger National Park and oozes history. Not far from the camp is “Shabeni Hill” – developed from solidified molten rock to form remarkable granite outcrops. The camp itself offers a number of accommodation options, from small cottages and bungalows to well-maintained camp sites and luxurious guest houses.

If you are lucky you may see: leopard, wild dog, cheetah, or Sable Antelope.


  • Sable Trail Camp Walk 
  • Napi Wilderness Trail
  • Madlabantu 4×4 Adventure Trail

Try leave Pretoriuskop by 09h30 at the latest. Take the road H2-2 known as the Jock of the Bushveld Road. This scenic route parallels the route followed by the old transport riders to Delagoa Bay. The same road that Fitzpatrick and Jock shared many experiences on. 

Next, head for Afsaal picnic site for a pitstop, and to refuel on petrol and refreshments. 

Afsaal – Crocodile Bridge 

Get back on the H2-2, before turning right on to the S114, crossing the Mlambane River and turning left on to the S25. This will take you along undulated countryside dotted with occasional hills and fairly dense vegetation. Keep your eyes peeled as this road is fairly adequate with good game sightings. 

Head towards Hippo Pool, a bend in the Crocodile River. Here you can enjoy viewing hippo sunning on a sandbank, and perhaps elephant splashing about.  Here there are also fascinating San paintings which adorn the cliff overlooking the pool. 

Return to the S25 for your trip to Crocodile Bridge

Crocodile Bridge – Lower Sabie 

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp is compact, charming and rooted on the banks of the Crocodile River. There are a several accommodation options ranging from bungalows, and fixed safari tents, to the leading and lush camp site.

You may be lucky enough to see: leopard, wild dog, and cheetah.


  • A bush breakfast and braai, which includes a game-drive to the venue.
  • 4 night Lebombo Eco-Trail, “wilderness experience on wheels”!

From here head north on the H4-2 in the direction of Lower Sabie. Heads up that this area is popular for spotting buffalo and a wide range of different antelope species. 

Lower Sabie

Lower Sabie Rest Camp is graced with overlooking the banks of the year round meandering waters of the Sabie River. It attracts a vast and diverse range of wildlife and it’s not uncommon to view wildlife venturing towards the waters from the comfort of camp. And the background presents a perfect backdrop of the lofty Lebombo Mountains.

You may be lucky enough to see: leopard, hippopotamus, lion, goliath heron, and giant kingfisher.


  • Nthandanyati Bird Hide
  • Sunset Dam

Please note: No information is provided on where to spot rhinos. Please check with your camp. 

Tracy Burrows114 Posts

    Tracy Burrows is the founder of the Out There Global platform featuring both cost effective and luxury best cultural vacation ideas & experiences from around the world. From Jan 2014 – Dec 2016 she managed the LatestSightings.com blog (a United Nations World Summit Award Winner: Culture & Tourism 2016 & National Geographic partner). She was also consulting editor at MOZambique Magazine, and a contributing writer at Sawubona Magazine (South African Airways inflight magazine), and Africa Geographic. Prior to her career she obtained a tourism research, and marketing degree, and also graduated from a 2 year ‘Management in Development Program’ in San Diego California. She also acquired a qualification in journalism and media and since it’s been all about culture, adventure and multi media! Her nourishment comes from all those who have impacted her, including: family; friends; and strangers alike. Thank you for joining our journey, and we hope you enjoy finding an immersive experience and the culture & adventure in the destination! Aside from Out There Global Magazine, Tracy has also run a Public Relations, and SEO business since 2010 for small business.


    • Sue Reply

      May 1, 2023 at 10:31 am

      Why do you do this to us? You have us wanting to pack my bags every time I read something and now can’t decide which one first. A good read this

    • Thandi Reply

      May 2, 2023 at 6:40 am

      Your stories are so well researched and thought out and I just love coming here to be entertained

    • Ahmed Reply

      May 2, 2023 at 7:50 am

      This is awesome to see as I have only ever seen lone hyena and maybe a few times with babies

    Leave a Comment


    Welcome! Login in to your account

    Remember me Lost your password?

    Don't have account. Register

    Lost Password