Unarmed Combat Against a Wild Animal

I recently went hiking in one of the many canyons we have in Southern California and there were many warnings about mountain lions.

In the visitor center there was a “taxidermicized” mountain lion and he was actually quite small. I looked at it and thought to myself that, attacked by a mountain lion, I could actually very likely get my hands around it’s throat- the neck was really just about the size of an adult human’s neck.

What would be my chances of successfully strangling a mountain lion? I also bet if I went for his eyes with a stick, or even my thumbs, I’d make out pretty well too. I figure my chances against a wolf or a coyote would be about as good.

Even if the animals are much better clawers and biters than we are, it seems the human brain ought to help us figure out an effective way to fight dirty if we are attacked. Is it fear and panic, alone, that make humans so ill equipt to fight off an attacking animal? Or am I just plain wrong and, in fact, humans are really just ill equipt to fight off animals like these?

How well could an non-panicking human adult do in a fight with a wolf? a mountain lion? a tasmanian devil? assorted nasties smaller than bears and tigers?

There was a photographer attacked by one of the large cats while in Africa. I think it was a leopard but I know it wasn’t something as big as a lion. Anyway, he stick his arm down it’s throat and choked it to death. Seems like as good a plan as any to me.


I have heard that most wild animals are stronger pound for pound than humans. I don’t know why this is…are their muscles and skeletons put together differently, do they work out more, or is it just a function of their having to live out in the wild and either avoid or fight off predators (if they are herbivores) or attack and subdue their food (if they are carnivores) that develops their strength?

In any case I know leopards are notoriously strong for their size…they can kill an antelope and then carry the carcass up into a tree with little difficulty.

I know you were posing an academic question but I trust you realize that the odds of a healthy adult human being attacked by a single wolf is extremely unlikely, and I have never heard of a coyote attacking an adult…that isn’t their usual
modus operandi.

Say…your not one of those vicious bunny’s are you?


…with nasty big sharp teeth!..

I think we’d get our butts kicked. I have heard that the average chimp could wallop the crap out of anybody. I think if you tried to strangle a member of the large cat family, you’d get your arms sliced by their claws.

Strangling a mountain lion would be a good strategy if you don’t mind being eviscerated at the same time. While your hands are busy, its claws of front and hind paws will be very busy.

Best bet might be to punch it, hard, upside the head every time it comes close enough, and hope you don’t get slashed by its claws when it swipes back at you. A couple of good impacts to the head might drive it away.

Or it might get pissed off, pounce on you and then you’re screwed.

O.K. O.K. O.K. but the mountain lion attacks do happen every once in a while. What are my chances as a 5’7" 155lb male of kicking some major mountain lion ass?

Kilt-wearin’ man’s simulpost leads me to believe I’m boned. :frowning:

Only if they’re feeling frisky.

I’d imagine that for most animals it’s just more muscle mass (and more regularly used). I remember hearing somewhere that they also lack some of the internal feedback that we have in our muscles so they can access a lot more of the strength of the muscle but are more likely to injure themselves. I don’t know if anyone can shed any more light on that half remembered thought or not.

I was positive there was a thread about what animals a human could reasonably take out, but I can’t find it. So have this one instead.



I remeber hiking on the Usury Mountain Pass in Arizona, about 20 miles outside Phoenix. It was dusk, and I was getting some wonderful shots of a phoenix sunset. Before I knew it, it was getting very Dark and I knew I had a 1.2 mile hike back down the mountain to the car.

I rounded the first corner, not 50 feet in front of me was a large male Mountain Lion…I remeber thinking to myself…Oh shit, I just got engaged…I don’t want to die…second thought was…Don’t panic, he can smell fear a mile away…

He screamed several times, as he walked down into a small Gully. I never took my eyes from his. He never looked away…I remember thinking WOW! that cat is HUGE!! and the muscles…Holy Shit the muscles were enormous. I’m a 6.1 foot 220 pound guy…One swip from that animal to my neck, or other major artery, I’d have been a 220 pound lump of carbon…And probably dinner.

So no, I think your chances would be sad at besting an American Mountain Lion.

You are more likely to scare it away by making yourself look bigger. Oh and I hear pepper spray works very well. Just make sure you are up wind.

This strategy might work if the big cat swaggered out in front of you on the trail and said “let’s throw down biped”. Unfortunately for you, the first indication you’re going to have that the cat is even interested is when it hits you from behind and it’s jaws lock on your neck. The initial pounce of even a moderate-sized cat will take you to the ground, so you better brush up on your juijutsu ground fighting if you want to last long enough to even get a punch in.

You often see a big cat snarl and bat the air with their claws, but this isn’t an attack posture. This is what you get in a nature film when a photographer interrupts a cat doing something it wants to do (like eat its dinner) and the cat is just saying “go away”. The cat has no interest in eating the photographer or you’d never see it on film.

The biggest advantage a cat has over a human is speed and stealth. As mentioned above, if you are in a situation where the cat and you are looking at each other and posturing, the cat doesn’t really want to kill you and eat you…he wants you to go away. The main thing to do then is not act in a way that tells the cat that you are prey. Don’t run away, don’t play dead. Yell, wave your arms, hold your coat open to look bigger, wave a stick around so that the cat focuses on the stick rather than your body. If you run, that gives the cat the chance to jump on your back and grab your neck with his teeth. If that happens, you’re done. If the cat really wants to kill you, he’s going to try to sneak up on you, and again, jump on your back and take you out.

All these “who would win in a fight?” scenarios assume something like a “fair fight”. But there is no such thing as a fair fight. A predator doesn’t want a fight, he wants a meal. If he thinks there’s a decent chance he’d be injured trying to kill you, he’ll back off. What a predator wants is to grab you by surprise and kill you before you have a chance to fight back. If it devolves into a wrestling match the predator is likely to run away rather than fight to the death.

If you come across a cat like in the movies where he’s looking at you and screaming and hissing and looking vicious you are very likely to walk away from the encounter without a scratch because neither of you really wants a fight. If you’re walking along unaware and he drops on you from behind, you’re finished.

I wouldn’t want to have a pissed off bobcat on me, let alone a mountain lion. I’ve read somewhere that if we had the leg muscles of cats, we could jump from the ground to the top of a 5 story building. That kind of power would tear a person apart. bienville, please, don’t be getting into it with a mountain lion just to prove you’re a badass.

I was talking to one of the local morons here (we have a lot of them) who told me that his dream is to kill a Kodiak brown bear with an axe.

I told him I would buy him the axe and the plane ticket if I could watch him try.

And if he’s lucky, they might be able to bury the axe…because there won’t be much of the moron left.

Two chances slim and none. I believe that Slim just left town.
If you don’t see the cat first (and you probably won’t) and you don’t have a weapon your first indication of a cat in the neighborhood will be as his jaws close around your neck. :eek:
If you see the ML first (not real likely, but could happen) your best bet is to make yourself look very large and loud. Wave your backpack, hold your mountain bike over your head, all the while screaming and shouting. Do not look away, do not bend over to pick up a stick, if you look small the cat will attack.
We had a thread on this a few months ago after that mountain biker was killed in Orange county. Linky
In that thread galen posted this link on mountain lion behavior.
Oh and one last thing you are not as tough as this guy :slight_smile:

Back in college I watched one of those stupid “faces of death” movies. In one scene, a wife was videotaping her husband walk up to a bear - he wanted to get close to it for a good picture. Well, the bear swiped at the guy and ripped his arm off like it was a piece of paper.

I wouldn’t fuck with one of those things.

This isn’t true. Just because a housecat can jump 5 times it’s hight, doesn’t mean that a human sized cat can. In general, an object’s volume and mass go up as the cube of it’s size, but it’s strength and area only go up as the square.

For example, a human sized ant couldn’t even move, but an ant sized ant can lift many times its own weight.

Big cats have a different strength advantage besides their on average better toned muscles. Their arms are leveraged for strength, like a monkey’s, as opposed to a human who is leveraged for speed. The muscles attach farther from the joints, which gives them more torque. Human muscles evolved to throw things, by having the muscles attach closer to the joints for less torque but more speed.