If you have a canine companion at home, chances are you've experienced "the boop" – and it turns out you'll find boopers among domestic and wild dogs alike. 

This predator size-up was filmed recently during a game drive in South Africa's Sabi Sands Game Reserve by tourist Merrell Foote. And the unusual interaction had park rangers stumped. 

"Our guide and tracker had never seen anything like it in all their years in the bush," Foote told Latest Sightings, who shared the encounter on their YouTube channel. "Other guides and trackers who saw the video later also said they'd never seen such a sight."

The confrontation went on for over 30 minutes, and much to the onlookers' surprise, tensions never escalated. 

"The dogs were playfully scampering with each other across an open field while the hyenas skulked around them," Foote recalls. "The dogs were so carefree ... they reminded me of domestic dogs I'd see playing at dog parks in our hometown of Austin, Texas. The hyenas displayed the opposite behaviour – nervous around the dogs."

It's not uncommon for spotted hyenas – which are much bigger and hardier than the "painted" pack hunters – to muscle in on wild dog kills. Oddly enough, however, there was no bone of contention (i.e. tasty carcass) in sight this time.

But if we're not looking at a food fight, what is this standoff all about? Some online commenters have suggested the encounter might be interspecies play, but this is unlikely. 

"It really does warm my heart when two known enemies can put their differences aside for a few minutes and have a friendly play together," wrote one YouTuber. 

As much as we love a heartwarming tale, however, this isn't one of them. Instead, our best guess is that the interaction is a territorial tiff – one the hyenas bowed out of.

Despite being one of Africa's most common carnivores, the infamous cacklers easily rank among its most misunderstood. These cat relatives (yes, hyenas are feline kin!) are intelligent animals that operate under a remarkable social system. For whatever reason, the prospect of fighting this dog pack was not appealing.  

The bodily signals seen in this clip – the lowered head, tail and posture, as well as the flattened ears and bared teeth – are all signs of hyena submission

Foote explains that the dogs outnumbered their opponents two to one, so it's possible those unfavourable odds played a part in influencing the hyenas' behaviour.

"This funny boxing match ... was still going on when we finally left," she says. 



Top header image: Mathias Appel/Flickr