Gorilla Vs. Hyena: Who Would Win A Fight? (Explained)

Gorillas and hyenas are two common wildlife species in Africa. They don’t normally share a territory, but they could sometimes meet one another in the wild.

In such an instance, who would win a fight? 

Gorillas are massive apes. They can grow up to six feet tall and weigh 500 pounds or more, but they are herbivores. Hyenas are about the size of a large dog, but they are apex predators. Hyenas are aggressive strategists that know how to take down prey, and they could take down a gorilla. However, the gorilla’s sheer power could ward off the predator in a one-on-one.

Table of Contents

Who Would Win A Fight?

Gorillas and spotted hyenas occur on the same continent, but they don’t typically share the habitat. 

Should the two meet one another, hyenas are likely to win the fight. 

Hyenas and gorillas alike are social animals. Gorillas are more powerful and have a stronger bite than hyenas, but a hyena clan can outnumber a gorilla band.

Hyena clans are organized, and these predators are accustomed to hunting and taking down prey together. 

Silverback gorillas are likely to fight the hyenas, but each gorilla band only has one silverback. The other members may join the fight or run to safety, leaving the silverback alone against the predators. 

However, gorillas would be winners when fighting one-on-one. 

14 Gorilla and Hyena Differences

The table below shows a quick list of facts and strength comparison between gorillas and hyenas*:

Classification (family)HominidaeHyaenidae
Skull morphologyShort muzzleLong muzzle
Teeth size2 inches< 1 inch 
Bite force1,300 PSI1,140 PSI
Body size 5 to 6 feet4.7 to 5.9 feet
Weight150 to 500 pounds110 to 190 pounds
Paw sizeApprox. 6 x 12 inchesApprox. 4.3 inches across
Speed 25 mph40 mph
Strike forceUp to 12,500 lb.-ft./sUp to 7,600 lb.-ft./s
BehaviorMostly docileAggressive
DietPrimarily herbivoreOmnivore
Geographic rangeEquatorial Africa Africa, Asia, Middle East
HabitatTropical or mountain cloud forestsGrasslands, savannas, woodlands, forests, sub-deserts, mountains
Conservation statusCritically endangered Least concern 

*Data in the table was sourced from scientific papers, research, journals, wildlife magazines, governmental websites, international organizations, and other official sources. The gorilla data included in the table is general and refers to all gorilla species. For comparison purposes, we considered the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), which is the largest species.

We calculated the strike forces by multiplying the top speed by the top weight mentioned for each species.

1. Classification 

Gorillas and hyenas may live on the same continent, but they are two very different species. 

Hyenas belong to the Hyaenidae family, which comprises four hyena types. Each type has its own genus, spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) being the only species in the Crocuta genus.

The other three hyena types are striped hyenas, brown hyenas, and aardwolves. 

An interesting fact about hyenas is that they are part of the Feliformia suborder and are closer related to cats than dogs despite their dog-like appearance.

Gorillas are members of the Hominidae family, together with other great apes and humans.

There are two gorilla species, eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei) and western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). Each species is further divided into two subspecies, all of which are critically endangered.

2. Skull Morphology

The first important difference between hyenas and gorillas – at least as far as winning a fight is concerned – is the shape and morphology of the skull. 

Gorilla skulls are not so distant from human skulls, morphologically speaking. There are some important differences, such as prominent brow ridges and forward-facing wide-set eyes, but the shape is more or less the same. 

These apes have 32 teeth, including a set of long and sharp canines on each jaw. Their mouths are wide, allowing for easy biting.

Hyenas are distant relatives of cats, and their skulls confirm it. 

The shape is elongated and compact, similar to that of lions. An important evolutionary aspect is the different dental formula compared to cats. 

Spotted hyenas have between 32 and 34 teeth, including long canine teeth and conical premolars designed specifically for crushing bone. The long muzzle doesn’t allow for a wide opening but improves the biting efficiency compared to gorillas.

3. Teeth Size

Gorilla and hyena skulls couldn’t be more different. One is the skull of a herbivore and human relative. The other is the skull of an apex predator. 

Yet, gorillas have longer teeth – which doesn’t come as a surprise, really, considering the size difference between the two mammals. 

Hyenas have long canine teeth for their size, but these fangs rarely exceed one inch in length. 

Gorilla fangs are typically around two inches long.

The main difference between a gorilla and a hyena is that the former mostly uses its long teeth for display and intimidation, while the latter kills prey, chews through skin and flesh, and even crushes and eats bones.

4. Bite Force

In the animal world, a powerful bite is one of the most important assets. And both gorillas and hyenas sport strong jaws.

However, gorillas have a slightly stronger bite: 1,300 PSI compared to around 1,140 PSI for the spotted hyena. 

But clenching the jaws harder might not be enough. 

Gorilla’s bite force is mostly concentrated on the molars. These apes are primarily herbivores and mostly use their jaws and molars to crush and chew plant materials. 

Hyenas have a more uniform distribution of forces since they use their teeth to both kill and crush animal materials, including bones.

They can grip the prey in a vise-like bite and not let go until there is nothing left of the unfortunate mammal.

5. Body Size 

King Kong has set unrealistic expectations regarding a gorilla’s size. When thinking of these apes, it’s easy to imagine a giant and extremely powerful monster.

However, even if gorillas are strong, they are about the same height as humans. 

Typically, they grow between five and six feet tall. Comparatively, spotted hyenas reach lengths between 4.7 and 5.9 feet

In other words, a hyena standing on its hind legs could easily rest its paws on most gorillas’ shoulders. 

6. Weight

A crucial difference between hyenas and gorillas is the heft – gorillas have the upper hand in this department. 

They typically weigh between 150 and 500 pounds, depending on species and gender. Gorillas – much like hyenas – are subject to sexual dimorphism. Males are visibly larger (and a lot stronger) than females. 

Spotted hyenas aren’t light, but they only reach between 110 and 190 pounds. Thus, gorillas can be over two times heavier than hyenas. 

7. Paw Size

While hyenas and gorillas can grow to similar lengths, there is an important difference between the size of their paws – or hands, in gorillas. 

Hyena paws are similar to those of canids; they leave slightly oval tracks with visible claw marks – since their claws are not retractable – that measure around 4.3 inches across. 

Gorillas have human-like hands and feet, with the major difference being that they have opposable thumbs on all four limbs. The size of a gorilla’s hands is around 6 by 12 inches

8. Speed 

Gorillas are larger and have stronger bites than hyenas, but hyenas are faster. They can run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour

Meanwhile, gorillas can move at a speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour

The speed difference is most likely related to each mammal’s lifestyle rather than the size: gorillas are herbivores, and due to their size, they have few predators. They don’t have to run for their lives.

Hyenas are predators themselves, and they have to be fast in order to catch prey.

9. Strike Force

There are no official studies that calculate the strike forces of hyenas and gorillas, but we can calculate the strike force of each species at the moment of the impact. 

For comparison purposes, we considered the top speed and heaviest weight for both hyenas and gorillas. 

It turns out that hyenas can strike with forces up to 7,600 lb.-ft./s. Gorillas are almost two times stronger, hitting with forces up to 12,500 lb.-ft./s. 

Obviously, the actual strike force varies greatly depending on the actual weight of the individual and speed at the moment of the impact.

Considering that most female gorillas are lighter and weaker than males and that they are slower than hyenas, there could be instances when the hyena is actually stronger.

10. Behavior

One thing that could turn the odds against gorillas is their temperament and behavior. 

As herbivores, gorillas are mostly docile creatures that mind their own business.

Silverback gorillas, which are adult males, become more aggressive during the mating season, when sensing danger, or when defending the territory. 

However, females and juveniles are typically peaceful. 

Hyenas are aggressive carnivores. They are apex predators that actively hunt and kill prey. 

Both gorillas and spotted hyenas are social animals. Gorilla bands typically count up to 15 individuals, whereas spotted hyena clans can have up to 80 members. 

11. Diet

As mentioned, gorillas are primarily herbivores, feeding on leaves, bark, stems, and fruit. Eastern gorillas may also include insects and small vertebrates in their diets, but this is rare. 

Hyenas are considered omnivores, but the truth is that they mostly eat meat. They also have a reputation for being scavengers. However, a study demonstrated that most of a hyena’s diet consists of direct kills

Spotted hyenas eat a wide variety of animals, including livestock. 

As opportunists, hyenas also take advantage of carcasses and carrion, eating everything from fur to flesh to bones. Spotted hyena clans may also ambush other predators, such as cheetahs, and steal their prey.

12. Geographic Range

Spotted hyenas and gorillas can live in the same geographic range, even if hyenas occupy a more expansive territory. Their range stretches across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. 

Similar to hyenas, western gorillas live in different geographic ranges, but their range is confined to Africa. Eastern gorillas only occur in a small area near the Virunga volcanoes. 

13. Habitat

Gorilla populations are generally concentrated in different regions in Africa, depending on their species and subspecies. However, all of them prefer the same habitat – tropical or mountain cloud forests. 

Hyenas aren’t too fussy about where they live. They can be found in deserts and sub-desert regions, savannas, grasslands, woodlands, mountains, and forests alike. 

14. Conservation Status

A major difference between spotted hyenas and gorillas is their conservation status. 

Spotted hyenas are common wildlife in Africa and beyond, and they are not threatened with extinction. All gorilla species are critically endangered, according to IUCN. 

The disappearance of gorillas is linked to habitat reduction due to landscape invasion by humans.

Leave a Comment