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African Lion vs. Hyena: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 30, 2023
The African Lion is a large, carnivorous feline, while the Hyena is a carnivorous mammal often recognized for its laugh-like sounds.

Key Differences

The African Lion, known for its majestic mane and powerful build, is a symbol of strength in many cultures. The Hyena, on the other hand, is often associated with cunning and is not as revered as the lion.
While both the African Lion and the Hyena reside in Africa, they occupy different niches in the ecosystem. Lions typically hunt in prides and are apex predators, whereas Hyenas often scavenge but can also hunt in groups.
Physiologically, the African Lion has a muscular build, a short coat, and males possess a distinctive mane. The Hyena has a more hunched back, stronger jaws relative to its size, and lacks the mane seen in lions.
In popular culture, the African Lion is frequently depicted as regal and noble, often the "King of the Jungle." In contrast, the Hyena is sometimes portrayed as sneaky or treacherous, though such representations don't always align with their true nature.
From a behavioral standpoint, African Lions exhibit social behavior with hierarchical prides, while Hyenas, particularly spotted hyenas, have complex clan structures with matriarchal dominance.

Comparison Chart

Species Family

Felidae (big cats)


Carnivorous (hunter)
Carnivorous (scavenger & hunter)

Social Structure

Prides (male & female groups)
Clans (often matriarchal)

Physical Traits

Mane (in males), muscular
Hunched back, strong jaws

Cultural Symbolism

Regal, noble
Cunning, sneaky

African Lion and Hyena Definitions

African Lion

The "King of the Jungle" known for its majestic mane.
People traveled from all over to witness the African Lion in its natural habitat.


Often a scavenger, but can also be an effective hunter.
The Hyena waited patiently for the lions to finish before moving in.

African Lion

An endangered species due to habitat loss and human conflict.
Conservationists work diligently to protect the African Lion population.


Recognized for its unique, hunched appearance and strong jaws.
The Hyena's jaws are powerful enough to crush bone.

African Lion

A symbol of strength and bravery in many cultures.
He wore an African Lion pendant as a token of courage.


Belongs to the Hyaenidae family and not related to dogs or cats.
Despite some misconceptions, the Hyena is neither a feline nor a canine.

African Lion

A large feline predator native to Africa.
The African Lion roared, signaling its presence.


Lives in complex social structures called clans.
The Hyena clan was led by a dominant female.

African Lion

A carnivorous cat that hunts in groups called prides.
The African Lion pride strategically surrounded its prey.


A carnivorous mammal native to Africa known for its laugh-like sounds.
The Hyena's distinctive laugh echoed in the night.


Any of several carnivorous mammals of the family Hyaenidae of Africa and Asia, which feed as scavengers and have powerful jaws, relatively short hind limbs, and coarse hair.


Any of the medium-sized to large feliform carnivores of the subfamily Hyaenidae, native to Africa and Asia and noted for the sound similar to laughter which they can make if excited.


(Sub-Saharan Africa) A man that performs ritualized sex acts with recently widowed women and menarchal girls.


Any carnivorous mammal of the family Hyænidæ, doglike nocturnal mammals of Africa and southern Asia, of which three living species are known. They are large and strong, but cowardly. They feed chiefly on carrion, and are nocturnal in their habits.


Doglike nocturnal mammal of Africa and southern Asia that feeds chiefly on carrion


Do Hyenas only scavenge for food?

No, while Hyenas are known scavengers, they can also be effective hunters.

Which is larger, the African Lion or the Hyena?

The African Lion is typically larger and heavier than the Hyena.

How fast can an African Lion run?

An African Lion can reach speeds up to 50 mph in short bursts.

Why do male African Lions have manes?

The mane protects the lion's neck in fights and serves as a sign of maturity and health.

What is the basic habitat of the African Lion?

The African Lion primarily inhabits the grasslands, savannas, and open woodlands of Africa.

Are Hyenas more closely related to cats or dogs?

Despite their appearance, Hyenas are more closely related to cats.

What do Hyenas primarily eat?

Hyenas consume a variety of animals, from insects to large ungulates, and will also scavenge carcasses.

Are African Lions territorial?

Yes, African Lions are territorial and mark their territory with scent markings.

Is the Hyena's laugh a form of communication?

Yes, the Hyena's "laugh" can convey various messages, including age and social status.

Is the African Lion considered endangered?

Yes, African Lions face threats from habitat loss, hunting, and human-wildlife conflict.

How many types of Hyenas are there?

There are four species: spotted, striped, brown, and the aardwolf.

How is the social structure of the African Lion organized?

African Lions live in groups called prides, often with a dominant male or coalition of males.

How do Hyenas communicate with each other?

Hyenas use a range of vocalizations, postures, and scents to communicate.

Do African Lions climb trees?

While not common, some African Lions are known to climb trees, especially to avoid bugs or look out for prey.

Are Hyenas nocturnal?

Yes, Hyenas are primarily nocturnal but can be active during the day as well.

Do African Lions and Hyenas compete for food?

Yes, they often compete for the same prey and may steal kills from each other.

How many cubs does an African Lioness typically have?

A lioness usually gives birth to 2-3 cubs at a time.

Do Hyenas have a matriarchal society?

Yes, especially the spotted hyena, where females are dominant over males.

What's the lifespan of a Hyena in the wild?

Hyenas typically live up to 12 years in the wild.

How often do African Lions hunt?

African Lions typically hunt every few days, but this can vary based on food availability.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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