Inter-species Conflict

Interspecies Conflict - Page 1&2: How Likely Are Lion/Tiger Encounters? | 3: Fight Rituals |
4,5&6: Historic Fights
| 7: Modern Lions & Tigers | 8: Size Comparisons9&10: Bears | 11: Snakes & Crocs
12: A Game -- The Crocodile Challenge | 13: The Ultimate Carnivore | 14: Feedback


This page contains feedback regarding the issue of inter-species conflict as addressed in this article. E-mails may be sent to Only selected opinions are published. You can increase you chances of being chosen for this page by expressing yourself concisely, clearly, and politely. You do not have to agree with other people and may disagree with their opinions, however you do have to respect their right to their own ideas. E-mails may be edited and where this is done it will be noted. Tiger Territory does not usually post responses to the e-mails on this page. This is because most of the issues raised are already well covered within the main article and time does not allow their repeating here. The opinions expressed on this page may not reflect those of the Web site owner, or of researchers who contributed to the "Conflict" article.


Interspecific competition and inter-species conflict is an interesting exploration of the adaptations and behavioral attributes of various wildlife species. I'm a wildlife ecology student, and such interactions have always fascinated me. I think I can offer a few thoughts on this matter.

For now, I'll just look at bear/big cat confrontations. Tigers prey on bears -- there's no doubt about that. But WHAT bears they prey on needs to be considered. Sloth and sun bears both are occasionally killed by tigers, but there are records of the ursids more than capably defending themselves. Asiatic black bears have been seen driving tigers from kills, as well as occasionally be included in the latter's diet. Brown bears are a whole different matter. It's undoubtedly true that some bears are preyed upon by large tigers, but the majority of those killed are probably cubs, two-to three-year olds recently separated from their mothers, or old and weakened individuals. Even adult bears taken by surprise could certainly fall victim to a tiger, for the big cat can most effectively utilize its power and hunting ability when it has the advantage of surprise.

There was some mention that brown bears did not invade the majority of the African continent because of inability to compete with the arsenal of large carnivores already present, but I don't think this is true. Brown bears evolved and continually adapted in areas hosting other big predators such as wolves, tigers, lions, and saber-toothed cats. The intense aggression and irritability of grizzly bears and other local populations is thought to be a result of this intense competitive environment -- black bears responded to threats by becoming partly-arboreal, while brown bears became large, tenacious, and powerful to defend themselves by brute strength and demeanor.

A large brown bear, like a male lion, is an amazing battler. Fights between bears are rarely injurious but certainly intense. Occasionally males (boars) will kill sows and cubs, and there are records of boars lifting 270-pound sows straight off the ground in their jaws. I think one of the mistakes that can be made in such discussions is becoming too entranced with the (legitimate) killing prowess of the big cats. Bears, aside from polar bears, are poor hunters. But grizzly bears can become practiced predators, and occasionally take adult elk, moose, caribou, and musk-ox. Their strength and innate aggressiveness makes a direct encounter with even the largest of tigers an unsure thing, and I doubt any cat would "win" in a fight with a big brown bear boar. Tigers have difficulty handling gaur and even occasionally large domestic water buffalo, especially if their attacks aren't aided by surprise. Adult male brown bears may weigh as much as an average gaur and have aggression and some remnants of predatory power to their advantage as well.

Tigers are solitary hunters whose predatory efficiency would be compromised by injury. Therefore they are unsure and apprehensive in the presence of one another, or of any other large carnivore. There is no question that a tiger is a capable killer -- perhaps the most capable on earth -- but this does not mean they are unbeatable fighters. I would suggest that by nature alone they would generally come out second-best in confrontations with lions or brown bears.

A great discussion!--John


This is not a "feedback" on any particular encounter between the animals under discussion as much as a recommendation that there be a video series on such conflicts that have been filmed. I think this would make one of the most entertaining videos or series of videos available on wild life; many from old film footages taken from Frank Buck 'Bring'em Back Alive' movies that I have taped to Martin and Osa Johnson's first African wildlife films to Clyde Beatty's movies and so on. Frank Buck, for example, in one film treats us to various Indo-Malay tiger encounters with other critters in what is now Malaysia: black leopard, crocadile, reticulated python, water buffalo and a black leopard's fatal encounter with python (which also crushes a croc). I am mystified as to why none of these various encounters have been put together into one package. This would certainly enrich discussion on the inter-species conflict topic.

I am intrigued by the notion that there is a film of a puma chasing off a Grizzly bear. One program that used to air in Detroit ('Realm of the Wild'), showed a fight between a puma and black bear defending her cubs with the bear having the edge. I also remember coming across reference to a 400lb tiger succumbing in battle with a Polar bear which presumably was much bigger but came out severely mauled. My sense from what I have read is that pound-for-pound, the big cats have a definite edge over bears though what we're dealing with is a 'win some, lose some' situation. Virtually all other carnivores be they dogs, bears, weasals, civets, whatever, fall prey to cats as do non-carnivorous animals. The one family that gives stiff competition are the weasals, especially the Wolverine. However, apparently there is as much if not more myth about this animal's prowess as fact. Finally, as more information comes in, it would be interesting to see if there are any updates or revisions to your "ultimate carnivore" projections.--Francis Kornegay   


 I have always been fascinated by interspecies conflicts, I guess its the boy in me. One of the most interesting photo sequences I ever saw was a contest between a python and a croc. This is going back some thirty odd years to an animal book I have not seen since. The croc was an adult and was biting on the python, which probably was a medium size snake. I always wondered what would occur if a large python/ anaconda met an equally large croc or caiman. Usually the photos you see currently have a large snake attacking a sub adult or  a smaller species of croc. I would be interested in the results of say a 12-14 foot croc and an 18 foot snake.--Dan


Ever since I was a young boy the topic of a confrontation between these two formidable cats has deeply intrigued me. My personal biases have gone back and forth through the years as to who would be the victor in such a confrontation. However after reading this article, I have been somewhat enlightened, although I have heard some of the stories mentioned before. For example My father has already seen the film of the pit fight (that was organised for the Prince) while he was on vacation in the orient. This was where the Lion and tiger were placed in the pit, and the lion ended up killing the tiger. I have also heard similar stories from a Korean friend of mine, who has seen quite a bit of Korean pit fights on tape that were organized illegally between tigers and lions. When I asked him the outcome he replied that both the lion & the tiger had their fair share of wins but the lion was usually more consistent. May I add that he didn't like admitting this fact because he had a bias towards tigers...

In my personal opinion it is very difficult to determine the average result of such a confrontation. You would have to take into account factors from both animals such as age, weight, aggressiveness, subspecies type and so on. But I do think that the lion would be the usual victor, due to his combative nature. Male lions spend their lives fighting against other lions to protect the pride, it's what they live for. Tigers on the other hand spend their lives avoiding serious confrontations because they are solitary animals which need to hunt for themselves and an injury could mean death. Another obvious advantage for the lion would be his thick mane which serves both to protect and to intimidate. I will also quote a line from this article that says it all for me, this observation was made by a famous big cat tamer Clyde Beatty which had first hand experience with both cats; "Seated next to the tiger the lion is composed. The tiger does not seem to have the Lion's capacity for calm analysis & appraisal." and in another instance he says; "the lion seems to have no fear of the tiger." This tells me that the Lion is more confident. In my opinion the outcome of a  confrontation between a lion and a tiger can be compared to a real life human fight between an experienced, confident, technical fighter who knows which way he's going to take the fight (the lion) and a larger more muscular but very nervous and apprehensive fighter (the tiger), which is relying on his survival instinct to win. Having said that, it is also possible that the fight could go the other way, but more often than not the more confident fighter will win.

I conclude by saying both Lions and tigers are such awesome animals, and each  reigns supreme in their own domain, but at the end of the day in a fight situation there can only be one king of  beasts.--Abdulla


I think that tigers have the advantage in power and speed but it doesn't make them a favorite to beat a lion.  Both of them, as with other cats and predatory dogs, go for the throat to kill prey. For the tiger to see a lion with a heavily protected throat (thanks to the thick mane), immediately, it would see that it couldn't use it's killer throat bite.  It may be that a tiger would most likely have the opportunity to subdue a lion first being stronger and faster, but the thick mane could give lion a chance to escape the throat bite. Next time around, lion could get an opportunity but the tiger doesn't have protection.  Tiger versus Lion fights can also be viewed as a middleweight versus lightweight fight where the lightweight gets to wear protective head gear.  It may be that a lion without a mane would more often times lose to a tiger but, face it, the mane is part of the game.--Eric


Whenever I sit down to watch "Wild Discovery" or "Wild America" I hope they'll show a fight between two formidable predators. Unfortunately such footage is only shown once in a blue moon. However from what I've observed about predators, I'll summarise my views.

In a hundred fights between an African lion and a Bengal tiger, the lion will win about thirty, and the tiger will win the rest. No one can say for sure that the tiger can beat the lion in a given fight. But the tiger has a more powerful build than the lion, and if it has the chance to put its power to good use, the tiger will win without a doubt. A male lion, especially if it has a well developed dark mane will manage to intimidate a tiger. If the initial intimidation gets the better of the tiger, it'll lose its confidence and start being reluctant. Then the lion will have the advantage. Any roars of the lion will be ignored by the tiger because they don't react to roars of a different species which I clearly noticed at the local zoo.

The animals each cat can subdue are not much of an indication about the outcome of the fight. It's the mood of the cats  at that moment that affects the outcome more, even if it was a Siberian tiger. However there are exceptions, like if a 450-pound lion fights a 650-pound tiger, the tiger will certainly win no matter what the mood. On the whole, the tiger being usually heavier, more agile, more precautious and more powerful, will probably win a given fight against a lion.

Regarding Bengal and Siberian tigers, I think the Bengal is more fierce because the Indian jungles are more dangerous than Siberian forests. The growing up Bengal has to constantly watch out for leopards, dholes, striped hyenas, crocodiles, pythons and bears. Even prey animals are more dangerous like water buffalo, rhino, wild boar and young elephants.

However, in my opinion, the ultimate carnivore is the jaguar. Though jaguar sizes vary considerably depending on  the area, a big 300-pound jaguar is definitely capable of killing a 300-pound Sumatran tiger or a sub 400-pound lion. The jaguar has the most powerful jaws of any cat. Learning to depend heavily on armoured, aquatic reptiles for food, it has developed crushing jaws with stout canines, as well as immense physical strength. The jaguar is also more ferocious in its attacks on other animals than other big cats. Instead of using a throat-grip, they bite through the skull of their prey.

The jaguar, being the top predator of the Americas, fears no other animal. This positive attitude would also help it in a fight against a lion or a tiger. It doesn't know defeat. Also, its shorter shoulder height can be an advantage for low attacks. The jaguar did survive alongside giant short-faced bears, sabre-tooth cats, the American lion and sabre-tooth marsupials during the ice age, which is a clear indication of its survival ability. (Though the puma did too.)

I saw on "hunters" on Discovery Channel, a puma coming across a grizzly eating a deer carcass in winter. The puma started feeding at a far end and the grizzly attacked it immediately. The puma rolled on the ground to show that it accepts the grizzly's dominance and fended the grizzly off with its paws. When the grizzly came on strong, the puma sprang up and dashed away. Then he returned again and before long both were feeding on the same carcass. The jaguar, being more powerful than the puma, could've given a much better account with the grizzly.--Madhura


I love wild animals since I was a little boy,especially cats; they have always captured my imagination. Through the years I have collected books and pictures,videos too. I always wondered about animal conflicts: lion-tiger, bear-tiger, lion-bear, lion-tiger-wolf, lion-hyena, jaguar-puma, leopard seal-shark, orca-shark, shark-crocodile, etc.

Before I had access to internet, I had investigated a lot, and it was difficult, because here, people like me are extremely rare (I´m from a small Mexican town), there are 2 "zoos" near, but they are depressing. I found some things:

1.-I have a lot of lion and tiger pics,and comparing it one can see that the forelegs of the tiger are more muscular than of the lion,the canines and claws are larger,and the paws too. But to get a precise comparison you should have 2 average wild sized male animals, each of the bigger respective subspecies, I mean, a Siberian tiger and a South African lion (a difficult work).

2.-A lone tiger can kill a bull gaur; instead, to kill a bull Cape buffalo lions act in group. In every sense a tiger is more strong and better hunter than the lion.

3.-In the lion/tiger fights, it's a fact that the tiger was frightened. I think is the crowd´s blame,tigers had been more persecuted than the African lions, maybe his fear of humans restrained them.

4.-I saw in a National Geographic issue a tiger stealing the carcass of a sambar from the crocodiles. And in a Survival Anglia film a tigress that killed a python, and a pic of a jaguar that killed a big anaconda. I´ve read about big snakes; even very big snakes can´t eat animals above 70kg.

5.-About tigers and dholes (wild dogs),I´ve see in a program that dholes are very alert of the presence of tigers. I don´t see why a pack of dholes will lose several members attacking a tiger. The same thing was said about lions and African hunting dogs, (that hunting dogs attacked lions) but researchers found that hunting dogs are afraid of lions, even lions prey on them. I think is the same with the tiger and the dholes.

6.-About the fighting superiority of brown bears in front of tigers and lions: As you said, the physical nature of bears and cats are very different, bears have thick skin and a great layer of fat, while big cats doesn't. Again I´ve seen a film of a puma chasing off a grizzly bigger than him, and pics of  pumas attacking black bears. The tiger and the lion are, of course, much more powerful and ferocious than the puma. Of course, the bigger size and weight of the brown bear is a trouble. But in a fight between animals of the same weight, the big cats will tear apart the bears. In addition, cats are very good avoiding attacks.

7.-The ultimate carnivore is the bengal tiger. The only true hunter of the  Ursidae is the polar bear. And it is obvious that it isn't the same to kill a seal as to kill a Cape buffalo or a gaur.

8.-Brown bears used to live in the Atlas mountains in north western Africa.T hat´s the only place in Africa where brown bears lived, in the cover of the mountains. I think they only inhabited that part of Africa because they never were able to handle the competition from large herbivores (elephant,rhino,zebra,etc) and from large carnivores (lion,leopard,hyena,hunting dog). Lions do.Bears can´t face the big competition. Big cats do.--Vlad


I am a lover and great respecter of these great cats. I have always wondered which is the more powerful and the better fighter. I always kind of thought that the tiger was the better fighter but now I'm not so sure.

After reading alleged clashes between the two, it seems that on an average basis,the lion is the better fighter because head pride males have to fight more against other males to protect their territories and because of their manes which protect their throats. They obviously developed these manes because they do fight more otherwise they wouldn't have them in the 1st. place.

On a near pound for pound basis I would put my money on the large "Barbary-like" lions. If the Barbary Lion wasn't extinct I would match it against ANY land carnivore including grizzly bears because of their much greater size and the fact that they hunted game by themselves. Also I personally thank a liger of equal size as a Grizzly, if the cat had some outside hunting experience, could easily beat  a Grizzly. I've heard of a liger weighing in at about 1600 pounds.--Greekules (Edited)


My thanks and compliments to the Authors of this site - big cats have always fascinated me and I found this site extremely interesting.

I would just like to add a little to the Tiger v Lion debate.  So which is the better fighter? Personally, I would call it a draw. This may not be in line with the evidence amassed on this site, as although it is clear that tigers do have their share of victories, it seems that more lion victories have been recorded.  So why do I insist that it is still even?  I will explain:

It is true that the Lion has an advantage in its mane but the tiger (Bengal and Siberian) have a slight size advantage - so you could say that these factors cancel each other out.  The reason, I think the lion appears to be notching up more victories against the tiger is for the other important factors of ferocity and fighting experience.  As pointed out several times, the main job of a male lion is to defend his pride from other male lions - this gives him plenty of battle experience. 

However, it should be noted that a male tiger also has the job of defending a territory (containing food as well as a number of females) from other male tigers.  It is true that he has to hunt too, but nevertheless, fighting other males (also to the death, in some cases) is part of his "job-description".  The reason why lions are doing it better these days could be due to the fact that there are so few tigers left in the wild (approximately 5000).  This is mainly because of poaching.  As a result of poaching, male tigers no longer fight so much because there is always a vacancy for a new male in an area to replace the previous one (killed by a hunter rather than a tiger).

 I think I can draw on some of the evidence on your web site to back me up here - the case of the particularly ferocious Bengal tigers found in the Nepal Valley.  Here were tigers that did have to fight each other for territory and they became extremely good at it, so much so that they almost always defeated lions in combat.  The theory of tigers backing off because they are solitary hunters and don't want to risk injuries from fighting (as it would result in the inability to hunt and hence, starvation) does not hold true in this case.  In places where there is a high-density tiger population, if a male tiger backs off, he will never win a territory of his own and hence, would also starve - so backing off is no longer the best option.  A ruling male tiger would not tolerate a rival on his turf and would try to kill or drive him away (there are no places to hide either, a territorial male would soon know if there was any other tiger about, as he spends a lot of time patrolling and looking for signs).

 I should also add that Male lions can and do hunt by themselves (or in groups) when they have not taken over another pride yet. So my conclusion is that if decent sized tiger populations were allowed to thrive in the wild - they too would produce individual males with a ferocity and battle experience equal to that of the lion (thankfully still very numerous in the wild).

 I hope you keep adding to this site - I know of many people interested in the subject and will be passing on the address.

 Thanks again.--Chris K.


 When reading through the Lair's section on interspecies conflict I noticed that the ultimate carnivore must be the one who wins all the fights. This I think is a mistake, the fact is there are relatively few confrontations between carnivores that result in death, with the exception of lions (still not a daily occurrence). Factors that kill carnivores are normally starvation and climate (much more rare, but significant factor). So why focus on interspecies conflict, it's not an important factor in survival? (ex. lions) cause it's entertaining to think about.

Now I probably favour the Amur tiger (though try not to) but I do think that this is where it really shines to find it's sparse prey it must hunt 400-800 km2 (male). I think few if any other species survive with such low prey densities. None on the other hand do this and have to deal with the cold Siberian winter (or equivalent) for a climate.

As for the bear it's not strictly a carnivore, therefore can't be compared in this way. Also one forgets why the tigers are uncomfortable with combat, they don't experience it tigers avoid killing each other and other predators. (why is anyone's guess scared, civilized, friendly who knows but it's evolutionary advantage is obvious, when solitary animals are disabled even temporarily they die, lion's don't fear this).

Bear fights are weird for tigers (I would imagine), mostly because of it's omnivore status they can fight quite well, but they can be seen grazing what does a tiger do? Is it the competition or the prey? For all but a male Siberian the answer doesn't even matter it's big so avoid it. For the male Siberian though it's most likely choosing between life and death. If a tiger treats it as prey then it wins being largely ignored until it's got it's teeth in the bear throat. If the tiger treats it as the competition and challenges it could be in big trouble. Bears are just too big to do anything about in face to face combat, a tiger can accidentally kill a man but not bears. This is however speculation as I'm not an expert on bears or tigers (though far from ignorant). As bear tiger relations go it's a balance as usual some large male tigers hunt bear successfully for a living (don't know about the big male bears). A big male bear on the other hand if challenged will kill the tiger.

Pythons though are another weird case here everything depends on the circumstances. In open ground the tiger wins by biting wherever. In thick forest pythons win (living or not is still a variable) because the approach more or less unseen till they start to entangle the tiger.

However in the end it is the cat that wins as the feline body structure is obviously a very successful one with various large and small cats reigning throughout the world. Who knows with luck and people like us it might even survive stupid humans.--Christopher Pickwell.


Interspecies Conflict - Page 1&2: How Likely Are Lion/Tiger Encounters? | 3: Fight Rituals |
4,5&6: Historic Fights
| 7: Modern Lions & Tigers | 8: Size Comparisons9&10: Bears | 11: Snakes & Crocs
12: A Game -- The Crocodile Challenge | 13: The Ultimate Carnivore | 14: Feedback

Mating | Early Days | Raising Cubs | Hunting & Captive Feeding | Water Play | Sleeping | Tree Climbing
The Man-Eater | Myths & Facts | Conflict with other Animals

Habits of the Tiger Index | Home