Cheetahs are better natural hunters than lions because of their speed and dexterity, which give them a 50 percent success rate when hunting, as opposed to the 20 percent success rate of the slower lion. Lions will frequently use their size and power to steal prey from smaller predators like cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and African wild dogs.
There are several reasons that lions are not especially good hunters, aside from a lack of speed. They have low endurance and can’t chase prey as far as a cheetah can. Lions are poor swimmers, but they will go after large prey that like the water, such as buffalo, Nile crocodiles, black rhinos, hippopotamuses, giraffes and sometimes even elephants. These animals will retreat into lakes or rivers, forcing lions to give up the hunt.
Since lions are bigger and better fighters than cheetahs, they go after dangerous prey, while cheetahs prefer small prey that can’t fight back, such as gazelles and impalas. Cheetahs are built for mobility, not combat. They are the fastest land animal due to their streamlined muscle and bone structure, as well as an extremely efficient heart and lung system, which allows for excellent oxygen distribution. Their claws are designed to give them good stability while running.