Four oxen stood back to back against a lion. They quarreled and the Lion picked each off one by one in turn.
United we stand, divided we fall.
(Note: Some authors say: The Lion and Three Bulls.)
A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
Samuel Croxall (The Lion and the Four Bulls)
FOUR Bulls, which had entered into a very strict friendship, kept always near one another, and fed together. The Lion often saw them, and as often had a mind to make one of them his prey; but though he could easily have subdued any of them singly, yet he was afraid to attack the whole alliance, as knowing they would have been too hard for him, and therefore contented himself for the present with keeping at a distance. At last, perceiving no attempt was to be made upon them as long as this combination held, he took occasion, by whispers and hints, to foment jealousies and raise divisions among them. This stratagem succeeded so well, that the Bulls grew cold and reserved towards one another, which soon after ripened into a downright hatred and aversion, and, at last, ended in a total separation. The Lion had now obtained his ends; and, as impossible as it was for him to hurt them while it they were united, he found no difficulty, now they were parted, to seize and devour every Bull of them, one after another.
The moral Of this fable is so well known and allowed, that to go about to enlighten it, would be like holding a candle to the sun. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand; and as undisputed a maxim as it is, was however thought necessary to be urged to the attention of mankind, by the best man that ever lived. And since friendships and alliances are of so great importance to our well-being and happiness, we cannot be too often cautioned not to let them be broken by tale-bearers and whisperers, or any other contrivance of our enemies.
JBR Collection (The Lion and The Four Bulls)
Four Bulls were such great friends that they used always when feeding to keep together. A Lion watched them for many days with longing eyes, but never being able to find one apart from the rest, was afraid to attack them. He at length succeeded in awakening a jealousy among them, which ripened into a mutual aversion, and they strayed off at a considerable distance from each other. The Lion then fell upon them singly, and killed them all.