The four young cheetahs have the advantage. But they don’t know where to begin with such a big prey. While they try to coordinate their attack, the ball sees an opening and limps out. They’ve lost an easy meal due to the one skill they didn’t learn, teamwork. Only one cat knows how that’s done, the lion, the only team player in the entire cat family.
The lion has mastered a skill truly unique in the cat world. The lion’s trump card is the group hunt. A lone lioness kills only once in five attempts, whereas a pride brings down its prey in one of three hunts. Amplifying the advantages of its body size and strength, a lion uses teamwork to regularly bring down a prey six times its size, the cape buffalo.
A buffalo is the ultimate prey. It weighs up to 1,500 pounds and has horns that are three feet wide from tip to tip. And it’s not afraid to use them. Buffalo wound more lions than any other prey species. So hunting this beast requires a game plan. The pride will follow an age old strategy.
Lions attack with the precision of a pro football team, with each lion playing the same position time and time again in hunts. The lions on the sides will advance up the flanks. One or two lions will run interference while the lions in the center will go for the takedown. The day’s attack begins with the flanks trying to maneuver close. They will try to separate a lone buffalo from its herd. There is no margin for error.
The rest of the pride keeps the loner busy, working together to tire him out. Before he knows it, he is surrounded. The center moves in for the kill. But bringing him down requires the extra 100 pound bulk of one of the big males.
The Buffalo will take several minutes to throttle. But even the herd knows it’s over. Teamwork is the key to this big cat’s success, allowing it to rule and hunt these plains for millennia.