Why are these lions intimidated by a dog?

Here is a video of a dog barking and snapping at two lions (one male, one female). The limping dog backs them both up.

Is there a reason that a dog would attack lions (besides just being really stupid)? There does not appear to be anything nearby that he is protecting.

Is there a reason why the lions seem so non-confrontational? At 42 seconds in, it looks like the dog got really close to biting the male lion’s mouth. The lion just keeps backing up like he is scared.

Those lions aren’t intimidated. They probably know the dog (It’s not uncommon for reserves to have dags like that). And that’s the only reason why the dog isn’t a pile of minced meat right now.

In a fight, the lions would almost certainly win, and they know it. But they might well get injured in the process, and what do they stand to gain? It’s just not worth the risk.

The dog, however, might genuinely not know that it would lose or even get injured, because, as you said, it’s stupid. Domesticated animals, even dogs, are generally less intelligent than their closest wild relatives, because they’ve got us to do the thinking for them, allowing them to specialize in other ways.

Indeed, even humans, as generalists, might be taken aback if they were confronted with 3 hissing aggressive housecats even though there would be no question as to the victor in an all out fight. And if a human gets injured it can gather or borrow food from the tribe until it has recovered enough to hunt (which isn’t to say the great cats aren’t similar, but their family groups are smaller.)

I’m betting these lions don’t know the mongoose in this video, but they are similarly reluctant to apply lethal force.

They probably weren’t hungry. Why kill something you don’t want to eat?

I think the lions are amusing themselves. They clearly aren’t afraid of the dog.
ETA I just watched the mongoose vide o, same thing, the cats are playing.

The lions weren’t actually scared of the dog; they looked more shocked/curious as to what the dog was doing in their faces like that. It’s the same as if a tiny little Pomeranian or Chihuahua came charging up to you yapping and snapping at your ankles. You know the dogs isn’t a real threat, but getting bit still hurts so you back off to avoid getting bit for a few moments until you figure out whether the situation is going to escalate, diffuse, or persist. Just because you (or the lion) can apply lethal force doesn’t mean it’s the only thing in your mental tool box.

I once cornered a little garter snake; that species always just tries to get away and you can pick them up no problem (kids play with them). For whatever reason this particular snake was super aggressive and repeatedly struck at me whenever I got near, almost like it was rabid. I knew the snake would bite me if I tried to pick it up and that the bite would be harmless, but snake bites are hard-wired into our brains as not so pleasant, so I just left it alone and left. I could have just stepped on it and killed it easily, but the weird out of place aggression and instinctive “don’t let yourself get bit” kind of stuns you momentarily, especially when you know you outmatch the aggressive thing.

Because it’s fun. If you don’t believe me, just ask these dogs, who kill rat after rat after rat without eating a single mouthful.

I’ll toss in the fact that dogs and their close relatives are generally found in packs. If you are out in the wilds and you run into a wolf, it would be unusual if it is actually solitary and by itself. Pack-based hunting and defense strategies are pretty effective. Would it be an issue for a lion (or two)? I don’t know. Even large predators generally try to pick out the young, the old, and the injured prey.

That is more that we short circuited their prey drive, or at least domestication did.

Dogs do not kill out of fun, but like any predator they do get excited about the hunt but domestication modified their behavior to not consume resources but share them with humans.

This normal behavior is just interrupted along the cycle.

But you can see something similar in the lion videos: whenever the dog/mongoose turns to exit the scene, the lions feel compelled to give chase, at least until they get bored.

Because it was jumping and snapping at them?

I understand what y’all are saying that the lions aren’t looking for a fight. It just looks like they were within inches of getting bitten. Who waits until they are bitten before defending yourself?

Predators are wary of injuries that would impede their hunting and thus end their lives. The reason many people survive shark bites is that, after the initial hit, sharks swims away and let the victim bleed out, otherwise they could be injured by their thrashing, dying prey.

But that is not “Because it’s fun” which was the inaccuracy I was addressing.

The lions and the mongoose were not following through with the killing bite instinct and neither were the lions.

They attack him, those damn upright hairless creatures will no doubt show up. Those guys attack in packs, can kill at a distance, and never tire. Plus they are extremely fond of these little guys.

They’d win, but with a bitey aggressive thing jumping right up in their face, they might well get bitten.

It’s acting strangely, their first instinct is to back off and evaluate, rather than go in and attack. Avoiding unexpectedly aggressive animals is generally a good plan, they could have some disease, or 50 friends within call, and there’s nothing to gain by fighting back in a situation like that unless this is more than a one-off.

I think this is the answer. Wolves hunt in packs, as do similar canines, including I presume dog ancestors. We’ve hijacked a lot of those instincts, such as replacing their pack leaders with humans, and using their chase instinct - minus death - to herd animals.

So the instinct when wolves want to take down a bear or moose is to harry it - one threatens to attack and distracts it while others in the pack jump in and try to take out the back legs. A dog “attacking” is just getting in the other’ face without trying to get within striking, and will back off quickly (and pass the role to the next player) if their target starts to come after them. Meanwhile, a smart bear or moose or lion will not ignore the yapping uppity critter but will be wary for the backup reinforcements probably coming in silently from another direction…

Lions may not know from dogs but they do know from hyenas and the lion/hyena rivalry is well documented. The lions do not always win and they know it–they’re just assuming the dog is some kind of fucked up hyena who might have twenty buddies ready to come help.

…similar canines…

Hyenas just look particularly more vicious.

Plus, IIRC, to the question “why do Europeans far from the Serengeti have ancient traditions of a lion as symbol?” the answer was that lions did roam a lot further north, well into the Middle east, in the Good Old Days.
(Wasn’t there something about Egyptians hunting lions in the desert scrub, too? So the lion DNA would be familiar with watching out for assorted pack animals perhaps. )