Shenton Safaris

Lions play a game of buffalo leapfrog

Written by: Anja Grobel

This is a story that happened in the Mara triangle – a part of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve where the BBC documentary, Big Cat Diary, was filmed.

On an early morning drive we came across a herd of dagga boys, which is the unofficial name for old male buffalos. As these males are kicked out of the breeding herd and don’t have much to do but eat and get eaten by ticks, they’re usually very grumpy. And more than anything, they hate lions as lions like to eat them as a full grown buffalo will feed a small pride for a few days.


This herd was no exception as they shared their territory with the famous marsh pride. One of the lionesses of this pride, Sièna, was a professional in hunting buffalos and had passed her knowledge on to her daughters.

Of the famous Big Five, the old male buffalo is considered to be the most dangerous as they will attack without backing off if you get in their way. As a result it takes more than one lion to take down a buffalo, but on the other hand a buffalo can severely or even fatally injure a lion.


With this in mind, when we saw a herd of dagga boys near to a pride of lions warming themselves up on a termite hill in the morning sun, we waited for a potential event to unfold.

The buffalos were predictably in a bad mood and did not like the presence of the pride so were determined to take over the hill.

buffalo-heads-towards-lion-pride lion-yawns-while-buffalo-comes-over

As the lions had little cubs in tow, they did not really try to defend the hill but instead retreated with a growl and a mild counter attack.

two-buffalos-four-lions lions-head-away remaining-lion-versus-buffalo

The last two lionesses soon followed and left the area to the buffalos. The pride accepted defeat – for now.

buffalos-chase-lions three-bufffalos-pick-a-fight the-battle-begins

Later on in the day one of the buffalos had become a bit complacent while grazing and did not pay attention as to how the herd had moved on. Nor did he spot the lion pride, which had joined with a family pride nearby and now totalled 11 lions.

But the lions on the other hand, had spotted their opportunity and went after the buffalo who could do nothing other than delay his execution by jumping in a pond.


However, one thing that lions are better at than buffalos is waiting. Especially when the reward is a good meal at the end. Every attempt that the buffalo made to get out of the pond was counteracted by the lions moving in closer and bracing themselves for their final attack. Facing a certain death, the buffalo had no other option but to wait and hope for the best.

During this standoff, the lions started relaxing – arguably believing that their meal was in the bag. At one stage they were so relaxed that two lionesses fell asleep. This was the opportunity that the buffalo had been waiting for and with a mighty jump, he sprung out of the water and ran away.


Unfortunately for him, he was followed by 11 frustrated and hungry lions. Outnumbered by this fast moving pride and without any allies in the vicinity, jumping into the next pond was his only way to stay amongst the living.


Irritated by how events had unfolded, this time the lions didn’t let the buffalo out of their sight for a single moment. When the buffalo eventually left the pond, he signed his own death sentence.

The next morning a pride of lions was warming up in the morning sun with a breakfast buffet to enjoy. And fresh buffalo was on the menu.

lion-cub-enjoys-feast close-up-of-lion-with-wet-mane lion-cub Leupold

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