Alien vs. Predator Central logo

Predators Ripping Spines: Yautja Hunting Traditions

By | Published February 08, 2023

The Yautja are renowned for their great hunting skills. One of their most iconic practices is the act of ripping out the spine of their prey. This hunting tradition is a symbol of their strength and prowess as hunters, as well as a rite of passage to prove their worthiness. In this article, we will delve into the different methods and significance of this tradition, as well as other hunting rituals performed by the Yautja species.

Predators Ripping Spines

City Hunter Predator with a ripped spine on top of a building

Ripping out spines is probably the most well-known Predator hunting tradition and the most gruesome one. The Yautja have been known to do this to both dead and alive victims, first seen on performed on Billy from the first Predator movie. The ability to rip the spine out is a prowess of their strength and precision, however, their main goal is to gain a trophy. This feat is not performed on any victim, only worthy opponents who are defeated in combat get to have this "honor". The Predators usually revel in the moment of extracting the spine, often going to a higher place (rooftop or tree), roaring in triumph, and waving the new possession in hand.

Start With Predator Comics

Spine Extraction Process

City Hunter Predator ripping the spine of Jerry, from Predator 2 comic

The Predators use a few different methods for extracting the spine. The most efficient seems to be to cut into the midsection of the chest with the wristblades, cut down to shred the ribs, and pull from the head to extract the full trophy. This happens in Aliens vs. Predator 2010 and Predator: Hunting Grounds to great gory effect. However, some stronger Predators are able to rip the spine out with their bare hands, with the help of their sharp fingernails which are shoved into the body. An interesting visualization of this procedure happened in the Predator 2 movie comic, where the City Hunter ripped out Jerry's spine while he was still standing, a scene not directly shown in the movie.

DNA Harvesting From Spines

Assassin Predator ripping the spine of Fugitive Predator

Shane Black's The Predator introduced some controversial Predator lore aspects that did not sit well with fans. The movie revealed that both the Fugitive Predators and Assassin Predators harvested DNA from the species they killed and then hybridized their own bodies with the positive traits of the species. The Assassin Predator had clearly modified his body to be bigger and better armored, although he wanted to further hybridize himself with a human child suffering from Asperger syndrome. Perhaps he wanted to become more intelligent as that was the main thing he (and the movie) was lacking. This deviation from the Yautja hunting traditions can be explained by these Predators being from different clans and subspecies of Yautja (most likely being Bad Bloods).

Start With Predator Books

Prized Trophy: Extracting an Engineer Spine

Ahab rips the spine of an Engineer

Besides hunting another Predator or crossing over with superheroes like Batman or Superman, one of the toughest enemies the Yautja has ever faced was the Engineer from the Prometheus series. An Engineer trophy was something that many Predators sought, but only a few would ever be successful. Ahab Predator was an Elder Yautja who was obsessed with hunting an Engineer and extracting his spine. He got his chance on LV-223, the same planet as Prometheus, now transformed into an exotic and lush world by the Black Goo Pathogen. Using the help of a mercenary named Galgo, Ahab fought the Engineer to a stalemate, being gravely wounded in the process. He used his self-destruct device to kill the Engineer. Miraculously, the body was still intact enough for the Predator to rip the spine and skull off the Engineer, becoming one of the most successful Predators ever.

Collecting Skulls

Big Game Predator with collected skulls

Predators often disregard the spine and just collect the skull, for various possible reasons. Perhaps the body or spine is in such bad shape that taking the skull is enough. Such was the case with Blain the minigunner from Predator, who had a plasmacaster hole right through his spine and ribcage. It can also be speculated that the worthiest opponents will get more trophies extracted from them, including body parts and weapons. In the end, the Predator might just have a field day killing dozens of enemies and wants to collect them all, taking the spines would just take too much space. The Yautja from the Predator: Big Game comic series walked around with a web full of skulls resembling a grocery bag.

Skinning Victims

A Predator skinning victims in progress

Skinning (or flaying) is another Predator hunting ritual that is both macabre and mysterious, not directly shown in the movies. Supposedly the Predator has used a flaying tool to remove the skin of his victims while leaving the skin itself to dry somewhere. A drying skin is also seen in the Super Predator camp in Predators. The skulls and spines of Jim Hopper's men were still intact, so possibly the Predator had taken their skin as an insult to unworthy opponents while considering Dutch Schaefers men to be worthy of spine-ripping and skull removal.

Hanging Bodies

Hanged bodies from Predator

Hanging of bodies is a way for Predators to simplify skin removal and intimidate their opponents. Dutch Schaefer and his men became unnerved after seeing a fellow US army team being massacred, being both confused and mystified. The Jungle Hunter used this moment to study his prey. The idea of the Predator skinning and hanging bodies dates back to the original script of Predator (titled Hunter), where the antagonist was a scientist-like chameleon, being interested in the human anatomy and studying their organs.

Cleaning Trophies

The City Hunter Predator cleaning trophies

When the spine, skull, or skin has been removed, it needs to be properly cleaned by the Predator for displaying purposes. The Yautja have a wide variety of cleaning equipment seen in Predator lore. The Jungle Hunter used a toothbrush-like device to clean the flesh off of Billy's skull in the first movie. The City Hunter had some extra gear on his ship, a scalping tool, and a suction tube, to remove the blood from the skull of King Willie. Furthermore, the Feral Predator used a dissolving gas on a wolf skull that was perhaps the easiest way to clean a trophy.

Displaying Trophies

The Lost Tribe Trophy Wall from the end of Predator 2

After cleaning, the trophies are ready for the final step - being displayed in a Yautja trophy room or wall. Dozens of different trophy walls have been seen in various Predator media, and they are one of the Predator's most iconic possessions. The trophy walls show the hunting successes of individual Predators, but can be used for the whole Yautja clan as well. These trophies often contain various animals, creatures, and sentient beings, humans being only a small portion of hunted species.

Wearing Trophies

The Chopper Predator wearing skulls as trophies

Finally, some Predators love their trophies so much that they take them with them on their hunts, as ornaments are worn on their bodies. The Jungle Hunter wore a necklace of small creature skulls around his neck, although it is questionable if these were worthy creatures to be hunted. The Greyback Elder from the end of Predator 2 had his flintlock pistol and a ceremonial sword, while the Young Blood Chopper Predator wore two human skulls attached to spikes on his back. The Predator: Hunting Grounds video game lets the player choose one trophy to be added to the Predator's back, which can be both a skull or an ancient weapon.


In conclusion, the Yautja's tradition of spine-ripping is a symbol of their strength and prowess as hunters. It is also a rite of passage to prove their worthiness and mastery of the hunt. While it may seem brutal to some, it is a deeply ingrained part of Yautja culture and may seem common to most Predators. The spine-ripping, skinning and trophy collecting is just one of the several unique hunting traditions performed by the Yautja species, making them a fascinating and complex alien race.

Featured Articles

Recent Articles