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Predatory Competitions

by Ron Kurtus (revised 7 October 2011)

A predatory competition is one where a stronger person, company, or even country makes an unprovoked attack on a weaker foe. In some cases, it really isn't really a competition, because the result of the attack is a quick victory. Other times, the attacker gains a competitive advantage that can lead to victory.

The victim may try to flee and sometimes will go on the defense. On some occasions, the predator may overestimate the ease of victory, and the victim may counterattack, turning the competition into a head-to-head battle.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Purpose of predatory attack

The purpose of most competitions is to either win the contest or gain a competitive advantage in a continuing contest. In a predatory competition, the opponent may be unsuspecting of the attack or at least may not have agreed to compete.

Usually, the predator is stronger or more well-prepared for the competition. In some cases, a weaker contestant may use a surprise attack to gain a competitive advantage, in anticipation of a later head-to-head fight.

An examples of predatory attacks include:

In the 1930s, Japan had built up their military and had attacked weaker and unprepared Chinese areas in an unprovoked manner. These predatory attacks lead to easy victories. Then on 7 December 1941, they made a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in order to gain a competitive advantage over the Americans for a planned head-to-head competition or war.

The purpose of a predatory attack is to easily win and gain the spoils of victory. Examples can be seen where a bully will pick on a weaker person or where a large company will run others out of business.


The schoolyard bully will beat up a smaller child, not so much to take his lunch money, but rather to simply feel tough and feared.

Birds will be competing for a share of some sunflower seeds at the bird feeder when a larger bird such as a crow with swoop down and chase them all away. The crow will then help himself to the spoils of victory.


Large companies will force smaller companies out of business, if they see them as potential competition. For example, John D. Rockefeller used his Standard Oil Company to force smaller oil companies out of business through bullying tactics.

Response to attack

When a predator attacks, it is often unprovoked or at least unexpected. The victim of the attack can try to flee or perhaps defend himself.

Run away

One response is to try to run away. When the fox attacks a rabbit, the rabbit will run for its life. A group of radical extremists may attack an unsuspecting village, causing the people in the village to flee and leave their belongings behind.

Defend self

In many cases, the victim of the predatory attack will try to defend himself. A company may resist a hostile takeover in the competition for ownership of the company. A boy who is attacked by a bully may cover his face to protect against blows instead of being deemed a coward by running away.


Sometimes the predator will be surprised when the competition not only defends itself but turns around and counter-attacks. This will turn the one-sided predatory competition into a head-on-head competition, where the predatory may even suffer a loss.


When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, they made a predatory attack on the United States—a competitor that was larger and potentially stronger than them. Their ability to bring other countries to their knees in predatory competitions made them overconfident. The United States counterattacked and ultimately defeated Japan in the World War II battle of the Pacific.

Bully loses

Another example is when the schoolyard bully attacks a boy, who then goes home and gets his older brother to help him. The brother then beats up the bully and tells him never to pick on his kid brother again.


In a predatory competition, a stronger person, company or even country will attack a weaker one to gain the spoils of victory. The victim may try to flee and sometimes will go on the defense. On some occasions, the predator may over-estimate the ease of victory and may even be defeated.

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