Porcupine goes up against 17 lions—and wins

Porcupine is surrounded by 17 lions and manages to escape unscathed. Photo is a screen grab from the video
Porcupine is surrounded by 17 lions and manages to escape unscathed. Photo is a screen grab from the video

Usually when the odds are 17-to-1 against you, you're toast, especially when you are the prey and 17 apex predators surround you. Such was the dilemma facing a lone porcupine that found itself in the middle of 13 lionesses and four coalition males at the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa.

Lucien Beaumont, a wildlife photographer and guide at the reserve, spent a day with the Mhangeni pride, something he had dreamed about for years, and he was there after dark to document the moment when the lions gathered around the porcupine.

"This is not an ideal place to be, especially if [you're the] feature on the menu of a lion!" Beaumont wrote on his blog. But there is a surprise ending to this David vs. Goliaths moment:

Fortunately for porcupines, they have a defense mechanism in the form of sharp, painful quills. The quills typically lie flat until the porcupine is threatened. Then they stand up at attention, ready to inflict pain on a would-be predator.

Beaumont wrote on his blog that the porcupine began shaking its tail, resulting in a distracting noise.

"The porcupine began to run backwards into any lion that would come too close for comfort, a common defense mechanism for a threatened porcupine," Beaumont wrote. "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.

"The quills simply pull out of the porcupine's skin without causing damage to the prickly creature. The predator then has to deal with a painful quill. The downside of this is that there is a chance of the quill breaking off in the skin and this can cause a major infection. The porcupine simply re-grows any lost quills—the quills are a type of fused hair."

Smartly, the lions went their separate way.

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