When two hungry lions stumbled upon an injured buffalo all alone in the bush, they likely thought their dinner was in the bag. However, after they launched their coordinated attack, the bovine in question had a major change of fortunes.
Lions are known as the “Kings of the Jungle” for good reason. The wild cats sit proudly atop the food chain, with no natural predators except for us humans. With that in mind, the animals hunt confidently in open spaces, easily picking off their prey from one meal to the next.
In the wild, lions often feast on an array of animals including buffalo, zebra and even giraffe. They hone their skills young and are competent hunters by the age of two. The big cats typically hunt in groups, but a lone lion can take down an animal double its own size.
With that in mind then, when a pair of lions stumbled across an injured buffalo in South Africa’s Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, you’d have been forgiven for thinking they’d make light work of the poor beast. However, before the two cats could see their prey off, the tables turned.
The incredible scenes were captured on film by Oliver Lane, who was serving as a student ranger at the reserve’s Umlani Bushcamp at the time. He released the resulting footage in 2017 and since then it has captivated large swathes of viewers.
As part of his job, Lane orchestrated game drives for people staying at a nearby lodge. One morning, he and his tracker had been out with their tour group when some lions chanced upon an unsuspecting buffalo. The action unfolded only 80 feet from the group’s vehicle.
In Lane’s clip, the two lions can be seen closing in on the buffalo as they stalk their prey slowly across the savanna. As they do so, the bovine plods on with its back to the predators. The beast appears unaware of the terrible fate that looks set to envelop it.
Suddenly, Lane’s footage jumps forward to the point at which one of the lions has caught up with the buffalo. With his dinner in sight, the cat paces in front of the animal to stop it from escaping. And when the buffalo eventually attempts a run for it, it is confronted by both lions.
Now it appears that the buffalo’s chances of an escape are slim. And soon enough, one lion leaps onto the buffalo and drags it to the floor while biting into its back. The predator continues its attack and before long it is joined by the other fearsome feline.
The buffalo howls in despair as the twosome attempt to tear into it. Eventually, the lions roll their prey onto its back, preventing it from finding its feet and running away. However, that’s when things take a dramatic turn.
While the lions are busy trying to tear chunks off their prey, a herd of buffalo appears from seemingly nowhere. Despite being faced by one of their natural predators, the animals make a beeline for the lions. Then some of the buffalo take matters into their own horns and start to barge the hunters using their pointy headgear.
Sensing that they are now outnumbered, one lion flees the scene. However, the other continues to bite at the captured buffalo’s neck. But the herd refuses to give up. They persevere with their ramming technique until the remaining lion has released its grip on their comrade.
Perhaps realizing that they had bitten off more than they could chew, the two lions begin to flee. But to ensure that they really do leave the scene, the herd of buffalo walk behind them until they are confident that the cats will not return. With the brave bovines emerging victorious, it’s then that Lane’s dramatic footage comes to an end.
In May 2017 the incredible footage was posted on YouTube by Caters Clips. Since then it has proved a popular draw, clocking up more than 300,000 views. However, while the clip may seem astonishing, it’s not that uncommon for buffalo to fight off lions in the wild.
The big cats are buffaloes’ biggest predators in the wild. But the cumbersome beasts have devised ways to defend themselves against attacks. Usually, it takes many lions to bring down one buffalo. And some herds have even killed predators that have misjudged their ambush.
If a buffalo herd does find itself under attack from a hungry pack, members stick close together to make it more difficult for lions to target an individual. Calves are usually protected in the middle of the herd, as they are the most vulnerable.
Meanwhile, should a buffalo become separated, they will advertise the fact by issuing a distress call to gain their herd’s attention. The group will then rely on their superior numbers to try to fend the predator off. In some instances, the animals have chased lions up trees and held them there for hours in a bid to protect the herd.
And it’s not just lions that have been known to get on the wrong side of buffalo. The animals reportedly kill 200 people every year. And their perceived danger has made them an attractive target for trophy hunters.
Buffalo are one of Africa’s big five game, alongside lions, rhinoceroses, elephants and leopards. Of the five, buffalo are the only ones without threatened or endangered status. However, that doesn’t stop hunters from paying upwards of $10,000 for the chance to kill one of the majestic creatures.
So when it comes to the wild, there’s really no such thing as the “King of the Jungle.” Even the most able predators – like lions – can find themselves hunted from time to time. And while buffalo may be herbivores, that doesn’t mean they won’t kill if they need to.