Leopard vs Hyena: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Animal comparisons are a fun way to keep ourselves entertained. After all, no geographic channel would be able to have answers to your specific questions. For example, if you are reading this article, you are probably wondering who would win in a fight – a leopard or a hyena?

Although you may think that the answer is probably that the leopard wins, you will be shocked to know that in Africa, packs of hyenas can kill this spotted predator. So what would be the case if it were a single one against a leopard? Continue reading this article to know everything about this unique duel!


What is a Leopard?

Leopards are big cats with a spotted pattern – often confused for cheetahs. It belongs to the cat family, Felidae, and is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Russia, and some areas of central and western Asia. You can distinguish them from cheetahs without a teardrop marking near the eye. 

Leopards are also solitary creatures – seen mostly perched atop trees and only coming down to hunt. These majestic big cats are especially feared and known for their fierce hunting skills, beautiful rosette spots, and grace in their hunting skills. Although leopard numbers are declining, you can find them in most places.  

What is a Hyena? 

Hyenas, famously known for their laughing sounds, is a feliform, carnivorous animal of the Hyaenidae family. Despite being such a unique animal, often confused with its origin (feline or canine), hyenas only have four types of species – spotted hyena, striped hyena, aardwolf, and brown hyena. 

These rough-looking creatures are the smallest in the Mammalia class and are primarily found in African ecosystems. Although hyenas make excellent hunters, these little predators are more of scavengers and most of the prey they consume are kills of other bigger animals. Interestingly, they are closely related to cats rather than dogs. 

Comparison Table Leopard Vs Hyena

The following is a short but quick table of a comparison between a leopard and a hyena. It shall touch upon the most basic differences between these two animals and how they function. 

AppearanceBig cat with a gold color and rosette spots.Large skulls and shorter, stubbier legs with rounded paws.s Brown, dark, dusty, striped, or spotted. 
Short, stocky paws with solid, powerful teeth. 
HabitatAfrica, Asia, and the Caucasus.
Prefer riparian woodlands and koppies over grasslands. 
Africa, India, and the Middle East
Prefer cool places but can be found in desserts, savannahs, and even forest edges. 
GeneticsFelineFeliform suborder
Skills and AbilitiesLower bite power but experience from hunting alone.
Hunting style is ambushing prey, especially at night. 
Higher bite power

Teamwork and strategy style
DietCarnivorousPrey according to convenience. OmnivorousHas shunting skills but chooses to scavenge. 

Differences Between Leopard vs Hyena

1. Appearance 

The first difference between a leopard and a hyena is very obviously their appearance. Although both are closely related to cats, one would be able to immediately tell that a leopard is a feline while questioning about whether a hyena is a cat or a dog. 

Leopards are light-colored gold and have spots that are much more defined than normal animal spots. These uniquely shaped spots are called rosettes, after their rose-like shape. A male leopard can grow up to weigh 80 to 165 pounds, which is much larger than the size of an adult, male hyena. 

Although they are big cats, leopards tend to have shorter and thicker legs with very large skulls. Its fur seems ideal to hide in during opportunistic hunting and has a much smaller and lighter physique than a big cat. When it comes to variations, a lesser-known fact about leopards is that black panthers are just melanistic leopards!

On the other hand, hyenas have an odd shape that research terms Hyaenidae. They have a darker, dustier color and look extremely shabby compared to leopards and come in different fur styles – black, red, white, gray, or striped/spotted. An average male hyena can also grow up to weigh 20-50 pounds. 

They also have an odd shape – a wolf-like appearance but with lower hind legs and a back that goes downward noticeably. Compared to leopards, hyenas are also much thinner and have short, bushy tails in contrast to a leopard’s long, majestic tail which starts in rosettes and ends with stripes. 

ColorGolden, with rosette spots and can also be melanized (black panther) or white-gray (snow leopard). Can be either red, brown, white, gray, or mixed variants. 
ShapeCat-like body – only bigger with a large skull, thick and short legs with large paws.Smaller in size and appears to be slightly hunched.

Hind legs are visibly lower than the front ones any bends in a hunch. 
WeightMale: 80 – 165 pounds Female: 46 – 132 poundsMale: 20 – 50 pounds Female: 20 – 50 pounds
HeightMale: 60 cm – 70 cmFemale: 57 cm – 64 cmMale: 60 cm – 80 cmFemale: 70 cm – 91.5 cm
TailLong and sturdy tail which has the color and print of the leopard skin itself.Unkempt, bushy and short tail, usually brown or dusty colored, as per hyena’s fur. 
PawsLarge, round and heavy paws with retractable claws. Average-sized, rounded paws with retractable claws. 
TeethSharp, carnivorous teeth – grow up to two inches or longer.Long, sharp teeth with a maximum of 1.45 inches. 

2. Habitat

Although the general habitat of the leopard is Africa, where they are the most in number, the big cat has the largest distribution of wild cats. A huge chunk of their population is also found in Caucasus and Asia. Since they are solitary creatures, they can adapt to many types of habitats – savannahs to deserts, and even arid regions. 

They can even be found in mountainous regions where snow leopards – an adapted species of the big cat, thrive vastly. Leopards have also been found in alpine areas, and are also known for often invading villages and towns to hunt. Hence, this feline is highly adaptive. 

However, it is certain that leopards like riparian woodlands and koppies are more than open grasslands. 

On the other hand, hyenas can be found mostly in Africa and Asia only but are also not fussy about the kind of habitat they live in. As scavengers, they go where it is easiest to obtain food and hence can be found in all kinds of areas like deserts, savannas, sub deserts, forest edges, and grasslands. 

3. Genetics

Hyenas and leopards may both be related to cats, but the former is included in a Feliform sub-category that includes many cats, mongooses, and other small animals. Leopards, on the other hand, are directly related to cats and are perhaps the most similar in behavior to them. 

You will notice that out of all big cats, it is mostly the leopard and the cheetah that behave the most like their feline predecessors – sitting atop high places and lazing around. 

4. Skills and Abilities

Both the leopard and hyena are skilled hunters but have their own set of skills and abilities. In terms of speed, both are tied, as their maximum speed is between 35 mph – 37 mph. Although both are the same in terms of this ability, they differ in terms of their hunting styles. 

Hyenas mostly eat as scavengers, but when they hunt, they work together in a pack and have a formation surrounding the prey before taking it down. As the smallest mammals, they need to work in a pack and hunt their prey sometimes as even stealing a kill from bigger predators can be a task for them. 

On the other hand, leopards are solo hunters and have a unique style of ambushing their prey. Unlike other big cats who spot the prey from far away and then start the chase, leopards choose to creep closer and then attack suddenly, with the help of the disguise that is their fur. 

They also choose to hunt at night, probably due to their stealthy ways. When it comes to bite power, leopards have a bite force quotient of 94 while the small but ferocious hyena has a BFQ of 119. Despite their smaller size, hyenas have long, pointy teeth that make their bite power much harder than that of the leopard. 

Bite Power94 BFQ119 BFQ
Speed35 – 37 mph35 – 37 mph
SoundAll kinds of cat noises like grunting, hissing, meowing, growling, and sometimes roaring. Short grunts that are high-pitched and sound like laughter. 

5. Diet

Leopards and hyenas are both mostly carnivorous creatures that like to feed off other small prey. However, the latter of the two is also known to consume plants, fruits., and vegetables apart from meat. Hyenas are also famous for invading human areas and garbage dumps if they feel the need. 

On the other hand, leopards are exclusively carnivorous, but it does not mean they have a simple diet. These big cats eat anything from rodents and hares to baboons and dung beetles. 

They are also known to consume warthogs, fish, porcupines, birds, and lizards. Due to this eccentric diet, leopards are the highest among big cats in number.

Who Would Win in a Fight? Leopard or a Hyena 

In a fight between a leopard and a hyena, it is certain that the leopard would win due to its bigger size, hunting skills, and the heaviness of its paw. A one-on-one fight will be unfair for the hyena as it is used to hunting in packs due to its small size. Not just that, but the leopard’s big skull makes for hard bites that can kill instantly.

However, if the fight were a fair one where a hyena is allowed to hunt with its pack, their teamwork and agility could easily bring down the leopard. With their bite force quotient of 119, multiplied in numbers, the leopard will be dead in no time. 

Apart from these factors, it is clear that any predator like the leopard, who is used to hunting alone, will triumph over one that needs help. Hence, it is not the skills of the big cat that push him forward, but the hyena’s natural lack of strength and size. 

Final Thoughts

As you can tell from this article, though leopards and hyenas have many differences, they are also similar in many ways apart from speed. Both animals have an instinct for survival and have survived due to the adaptiveness of their personalities. We hope that this article has helped distinguish these two animals better. 

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

About Shaun Clarke

Shaun is passionate about pets and animals, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits. He owns a dog and a couple of cats too. He loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries and shares a strong bond with animals. When he is not writing, he loves to do a barbecue in the backyard with his family and friends.