Wild Things

Watch a Porcupine Go Head-to-Head with a Pride of Lions

Note to Democrats: When you’re outnumbered, surrounded by an angry horde that is licking its chops at the thought of feasting on your defeated carcass, this is how you respond. The living political metaphor in question—and on display in the video above—is a porcupine, and it shows its exemplary resilience by single-handedly fighting off a pride of 17(!) lions.

Captured on camera at the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa by guide Lucien Beaumont, the encounter looked, until the very end, to be lights out for the prickly rodent. But the little guy just would not go gentle into that good night. While the circling pride had every advantage—size, numbers, top-of-the-food-chain status—the would-be victim had a combination of some serious tail-shaking (called a “rattle”) and impressive fearlessness, and the porcupine was helped by a general reluctance on the part of the lions to take a face full of barbs. That all kept it alive and off of the dinner menu.

As you’ll see, contrary to common belief, porcupines don’t actually shoot their quills, but that clearly doesn’t matter much in confrontations like these. Per Beaumont, “if the porcupine manages to get close enough to a predator, it does not shoot its quills, as many people may think. Rather the quills have micro-barbs, which hook into the face or paws of a predator that may get too close.”

In addition to quills likely being exactly as painful as that sounds, quills can break off, leaving parts embedded in the skin of the predator and often resulting in major infection. Apparently, that was ample motivation for the lions to ultimately retreat, stomachs empty.

That, and a valiant display of heart. Lots and lots of heart.