Hyenas are aggressive animals known to share a habitat with some big cats. One hyena species, in particular, can sometimes share a habitat with tigers.
What happens when these two predators come together, and who would win a fight?
Tigers and striped hyenas can live in the same geographic range. If it would come to a fight, the tiger would almost always come out victorious. Tigers are two to three times bigger than hyenas and a lot heavier. They are faster too, and very powerful. Hyenas could only stand a chance against a cub or weak tiger.
The table below shows a quick comparison between hyenas vs. tigers*:
|Body size||3.25 to 3.75 feet||7.1 to 10.75 feet|
|Paw size||3 x 4 inches||7 x 7 inches|
|Weight||57 to 90 pounds||140 to 660 pounds|
|Speed||31 mph||40 mph|
|Teeth length||<1 inch||3 inches|
|Bite force||1,100 PSI||1,050 PSI|
|Strike force||Up to 2,790 lb.-ft./s||Up to 26,400 lb.-ft./s|
|Habitat||Africa, Asia, Middle East, Siberia||Asia, Middle East, Siberia|
|Conservation status||Near threatened||Endangered|
*For comparison purposes, we considered the striped hyena. This species is the only one that sometimes shares a habitat with tigers. Tiger data is general and refers to averages between all tiger species.
The strike forces in the table were calculated based on the top speeds mentioned in the table multiplied by the maximum weight each species can reach.
Hyena Vs. Tiger: Differences & Strength Comparison
Tigers and hyenas belong to different families, so there are few similarities between the two. As far as strength is concerned, tigers have an advantage in almost all situations.
1. Body Size
It only takes one look at tigers and hyenas to see that tigers are definitely larger.
Siberian tigers, which are the largest in the world, can grow up to 10.75 feet in length and 3.5 feet in height. Females are generally smaller than males, but they are still a lot larger than hyenas.
Sumatran tigers are the smallest in the world, but they still reach a whopping length between seven and eight feet.
Comparatively, striped hyenas grow to a length between 3.25 and 3.75 feet and have a shoulder height of only 28 inches (about 2.3 feet). This makes the smallest tigers around two times larger than hyenas.
Spotted hyenas are larger in size, measuring around 4.9 feet in length. They are also heavier but are still a lot smaller than tigers.
However, spotted hyenas don’t occur in the same habitats as tigers, so a clash between the two is improbable (at least in the wild).
2. Paw Size
Body size aside, the paw size also matters when it comes to winning a fight.
Thanks to their larger bodies, tigers are again at an indisputable advantage: their paws measure around 7 by 7 inches, whereas the paws of hyenas are only about 3 by 4 inches.
Not only do tigers have bigger paws, but they also have long and very sharp claws – something hyenas don’t possess.
This is where being a cat comes in handy. Like most felines, tigers have retractable claws that can grow up to 4 inches in length.
The retractable nature makes it easy to keep these claws sharp and ready to slash through flesh.
Hyenas may be closer related to cats than dogs, but their paws look like those of canids and don’t have retractable claws.
Because of this, a hyena’s claws are almost always dull and won’t inflict a lot of damage in a fight, giving tigers another advantage.
The weight difference between hyenas and tigers doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the difference in their size.
Tigers are obviously heavier than hyenas, some of the largest tigers weighing around 7.5 times more than the largest striped hyenas.
To talk about numbers, some of the largest tigers can weigh up to 660 pounds. Comparatively, the largest striped hyenas weigh around 90 pounds.
Tigers may be a lot heavier than hyenas, but they are faster – and generally more agile.
Despite their weight, tigers often reach top speeds between 35 to 40 miles per hour. This is about the same speed lions can reach, and it’s definitely faster than striped hyenas’ 31 miles per hour.
Spotted hyenas are faster and can sometimes reach speeds up to 37 miles per hour, but that’s still slower than tigers.
Speed aside, tigers also have another advantage – they can cover up to 33 feet with a single jump. This characteristic gives them another clear advantage over hyenas.
5. Teeth Length
Another essential difference between hyenas and tigers is the teeth size.
Both species are essentially carnivores, and they both have sharp teeth that can tear through flesh and crush bones. However, hyenas have teeth that are much smaller than the teeth of tigers.
In fact, Amur tigers’ canines often grow between 2.5 and 3 inches long. However, a study on hyenas’ dentition showed that their teeth rarely grow over 25mm long, which is roughly one inch. More often, hyenas have shorter teeth, of under one inch in length.
The most plausible explanation for the shorter canines is that hyenas are smaller; thus, they have smaller mouths. However, this puts them at a disadvantage compared to tigers (and other large predators).
6. Bite Force
One area where hyenas come first is the bite force – even though tigers have a higher bite force quotient (BFQ).
From a strictly scientific standpoint, tigers have a stronger bite. Their BFQ is 127, whereas striped hyenas have a quotient of only 113. Spotted hyenas have a slightly stronger bite, but their quotient is only 117.
However, this quotient is related to a mammal’s size, and the actual bite force turns out to be around 1,100 PSI for hyenas, whereas tigers have a bite force of only 1,050 PSI.
Sure, the difference is minimal, and tigers have many more advantages. Yet, if the two would measure the bite force alone, hyenas would be at an advantage.
7. Strike Force
There are very few studies on the actual strike force of hyenas and tigers, but the impact force is relatively easy to calculate based on the top speed and weight.
Based on this data, tigers can manage a strike force up to 26,400 lb.-ft./s, which is roughly the equivalent of 820 pounds of force.
Hyenas reach lower top speeds and are lighter, so their strike force is only 2,790 lb.-ft./s, which is under 100 pounds.
When thinking of hyenas, we generally think of hyena groups (called clans). That’s because spotted hyenas, who live in Africa, are one of the most widely known species and they are highly social.
However, even if all hyenas are social animals, not all hunt together.
Striped hyenas are spread across Africa, Asia, and even Siberia. They can sometimes share a habitat with tigers, and like all hyenas, they form clans. However, striped hyenas are actually semi-solitary.
The clans come together in the evening when a group’s members share a den. During the day, however, striped hyenas forage or go hunting on their own. This is why most encounters between hyenas and tigers are one-on-one.
Comparatively, a lion is more likely to encounter a hyena clan since spotted hyenas forage or hunt in groups.
Unlike hyenas, tigers are solitary creatures, except for mothers and cubs or during the breeding season. However, their size and sheer power make it easy for them to manage almost all situations on their own.
Food is one of the main reasons tigers and hyenas might get into a fight.
While both mammals are essentially carnivores, striped hyenas are opportunistic scavengers and have an omnivorous diet – they take advantage of human food scraps and livestock carcasses.
That’s why striped hyenas often live on the edge of human settlements.
Tigers are apex predators and exclusively carnivores. They can sometimes have a scavenger behavior, feeding on carcasses and carrion of large animals, but they mostly hunt and eat the prey they kill themselves.
While tigers don’t come near human settlements out of their own volition, territory reduction due to urban developments has brought tigers closer to humans in the past decades.
The proximity to human settlements of both tigers and hyenas could lead to clashes between the two species.
Tigers are distributed across a wide range of ecological systems, from the Siberian tundra to tropical savannas and grasslands.
The only common factor between these ecosystems is that they are all clustered in Asia. Countries where tigers occur in the wild include India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, China, and Russia.
Out of the four hyena species, three of them only occur in Africa.
Striped hyenas are also found in Africa, but populations also occur in Asia, including India, southern Siberia, and extending to the Caucasus. Striped hyenas are also found in the wild in the Middle East.
While most striped hyenas prefer mountainous regions and scrub woodlands, they are also found in savannas and grasslands.
It goes without saying that hyenas in India and Siberia can come face to face with tigers living in each of these areas.
11. Conservation Status
Different tiger and hyena species have different conservation statuses, with spotted hyenas being one of the least concerned species.
The table below shows the conservation status for all hyena and tiger types:
|Striped hyena||Near threatened||5,000 to 14,000|
|Brown hyena||Near threatened||4,000 to 10,000|
|Spotted hyena||Least concerned||27,000 to 47,000|
|Siberian tiger||Endangered||350 to 400|
|Bengal tiger||Endangered||Approx. 2,500|
|Indo-Chinese tiger||Endangered||Approx. 250|
|South China tiger||Critically endangered||Approx. 100 (in captivity)|
|Sumatran tiger||Critically endangered||400 to 600|
|Malayan tiger||Critically endangered||Fewer than 150|
*Conservation status and population data were sourced from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for each mentioned mammal.
Who Would Win A Fight?
Hyenas and tigers can face one another in the wild, but there haven’t been reported clashes between the species. That’s likely because striped hyenas – who generally hunt or forage on their own – avoid stealing food or provoking tigers.
If it would come to a clash of forces, though, the tiger would almost always come out victorious.
Tigers are stronger and larger than hyenas in all but bite force. However, a hyena’s bite isn’t much more powerful than that of a tiger. Moreover, tigers have longer teeth and very sharp and long claws. They can generate a higher impact force than hyenas and are faster.
Tigers can also climb trees and are stealth masters, so they could ambush a hyena and take it by surprise if wanted.
There is only one scenario where hyenas could win a fight, and that is fighting against a tiger cub or a very weak adult.