20 Elephants and 2 Buffalo Versus 22 Lions: A Battle For the Ages


Once you get outside the safe world of zoos and enclosures, mother nature is often filled with scenes of brutality and violence. If you’ve ever been curious about which animals would beat each other in a fight, just wait: it won’t take long before nature settles that debate once and for all.

However, what happened recently in South Africa when 22 lions squared off against two buffalo as well as a herd of 20 elephants? You might be surprised by the answer as we walk you through one of the craziest animal battles humanity has ever seen!

An unexpected setting for a major battle

Perhaps the only thing more surprising than these crazy group battles between animals is where they go down. It’s usually the last place you’d expect these very different creatures to fight, and this story is no different.

Our tale begins in the South African country of Greater Kruger at the MalaMala game reserve. Normally, this is the kind of place where locals and travelers alike can come to get an up-close-and-personal view of the local wildlife. This time, though, the visitors got much closer to the animals than they were expecting. And for the animals, things got much more personal than we ever could have imagined.

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A buffalo on the run

One fateful day, a tour guide had just finished driving some visitors throughout the reserve early in the morning. They were getting ready to finish that morning tour when the guide heard something the visitors did not: the sound of buffalo being hunted.

At this point, the guide knew that at least one buffalo was being hunted, but he didn’t know who was doing the hunting. Driven by curiosity, he asked the reserve visitors if they would like to see what was going on. Equally curious, they all agreed, and the guide began driving toward the sound he had heard.

The sad death of the buffalo

The drive out only took five minutes, and this was certainly not enough time to prepare everyone for what they would see. A buffalo was being hunted, certainly, but not by a single animal. Instead, he was being hunted by 22 lions!

At first, fueled by a mixture of adrenaline and curiosity, the guide and his visitors were excited to see how everything unfolded. However, it took the lions two hours to kill the buffalo they were hunting, and those hours were filled with the sounds of the buffalo moaning and groaning right up until it died. By that time, most of them had lost their appetite for witnessing the full force of nature’s ferocity.

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Unexpected challengers enter the fray

As you might imagine, the lions never lost their own appetite, and they were eager to start dining on the buffalo they had just killed. But just as they started eating its body, the most unexpected thing happened: a herd of 20 elephants suddenly came onto the scene.

Elephants hate the smell of death, and they were offended by what the lions had done to the buffalo. This caused the elephants to chase the lions away, and it looked like that would be the end of the matter. One lion, though, was so hungry that he decided to do the impossible: to take on 20 elephants by himself!

One bold lion changes everything

Like humans, the bravest and boldest lions tend to be the younger ones. Therefore, it wasn’t much of a surprise to discover that the lion who was more than ready to fight the elephants who had ruined his meal was a sub-adult and not fully grown.

Without any clear plan, the young lion suddenly decided to charge at the elephants. It was quite literally the last thing they expected: for a single lion a fraction their size to take on the entire herd. The elephants didn’t know what to do, and the decision they came to was one that certainly shocked visitors to the game reserve.

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The elephants are forced to run

Perhaps because they feared for their lives or had simply grown bored of fighting for the honor of a dead buffalo, the elephants grew tired of their would-be battle against the group of lions. And even though it was only one lion that really made an aggressive move towards the elephant herd, they collectively decided they had all had enough animal drama (and animal trauma) for one day.

After milling about in apparent confusion, the elephants moved further down the water. Their departure didn’t cause any of the lions to give chase, however. With the pack of pachyderms sent running, the lions settled down to enjoy their hard-won meal. And over the next day and a half, they fully consumed what remained of the buffalo.