Few predator-predator relationships are more engaging than the conflict between spotted hyenas and African wild dogs.
Merrell Foote (56), a corporate communications and public relations professional living in Saudi Arabia, captured this unique footage during her Kirkmans Kamp game drive in Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
She explained: “We could hear eerie cries of hyenas before we came upon this peculiar encounter between a pack of about 12 wild dogs and six hyenas. The dogs were playfully scampering with each other across an open field while the hyenas skulked around them. The dogs seemed pleased to tease the hyenas whilst also holding their ground. We weren’t sure why the territorial battle was taking place but neither side would back down and leave. We watched this funny boxing match for about 30 minutes, with the hyenas clearly outnumbered and outmaneuvered. It was still going on when we finally left.”
Hyenas and wild dogs are both mammals in the order Carnivora. Yet, the similarities end there. Despite hyenas’ appearance, they are actually more closely related to cats than they are to dogs and are classified under the suborder Feliformia. Meanwhile, wild dogs are naturally classified under the suborder Caniformia.
Spotted hyenas are generally bigger and more powerful than African wild dogs, so even when they’re alone, they can hold their own against a pack of the smaller wild dogs. Because of this, spotted hyenas frequently follow packs of wild dogs and steal their kills.
If the hyena is stealthy, they can take the wild dogs’ food unnoticed, but if the wild dogs discover the hyena, the situation can get ugly. The cooperative pack mentality of the wild dogs can overwhelm a hungry hyena, and the brutal force of a hungry hyena can overwhelm a pack of wild dogs.
Generally, even when a solo spotted hyena is up against a pack of wild dogs, the hyena has the upper hand.
But in this case, the wild dogs’ mirthfulness seems to force the hyenas into a sulking, nervous state, eventually driving them away with tails between their legs.