Status: No special status.
Size: Height 2 to 3 ft to shoulder, 5.5 ft. length, 110 to 175 lbs.
Area: Africa, south of the Sahara.
Offspring: Litter of 2 to 3 pups.
· Female hyenas are generally larger and stronger than males.
· In ancient African cultures, the hyena was thought to contain special powers.
· Spotted hyenas are the only mammals to disgorge (like owls) indigestible hair, hooves, horn, bone, and grass.
· Hyenas and wild dogs are similar in appearance, but hyenas are much larger.
Spotted hyenas are also known as laughing hyenas because of the cry they emit when they’re afraid. Of the three hyena species, the spotted hyena is the largest and best known. Hyenas have matriarchal societies, living in groups called clans of up to 90 hyenas. Female hyenas are larger than males and therefore are the dominant sex. Hyenas have incredibly powerful jaws, easily capable of crushing large bones. They’re formidable predators and can gallop over 30 mph for several miles when chasing prey such as zebra, wildebeest, gazelle or buffalo. However, they often retreat if the victim puts up a fight. Leftover food after a kill is sometimes dropped into water, to keep it safe from other carnivores, and later retrieved. Hyenas occasionally eat carrion or garbage, as well as eggs, insects, fruit and berries. They tend to be nocturnal, but in areas uninhabited by man, will hunt during the day as well. They’re tireless runners, able to cover large distances each day, travelling and hunting in packs. They rest in long grass, abandoned burrows, or rocky dens. They sometimes dig their own burrows, two to three feet underground.
The spotted hyena is an adaptable animal, able to comfortably live in flat grasslands, marshes, mountains, forests or rocky country, although they prefer desert lands with large game populations. They’re not friendly towards people and have been known to attack with little provocation.
Hyenas have no specific mating season—females are able to conceive throughout the year. The female selects her partner and the male’s fear of the female, even during courting rituals is noticeable. Females have external genitals resembling the males, obscuring their female genitalia. They also have a high level of testosterone. About 3 to 4 months after conception, the female give birth to 2 or 3 pups in a den, away from the clan. The female brings the pups to the communal den when they are two to four weeks old. The male plays only a small role in raising the pups because he’s usually not allowed near the den, but occasionally he may play with the pups. The newborns weigh 2 to 3.5 lbs and are born black in colour, but lighten after about 5 weeks. Weaning begins at one year. The pups of the alpha female, the leader of the clan, begin to go to kills and may eat meat starting at three months, as opposed to other pups which will not begin to get meat until they reach 8 to 9 months. All the pups go on hunts with adults at one year of age, but don’t become capable hunters for another half year or more. Male pups reach maturity at about three years of age, with females maturing later than males. Hyenas live up to 20 years in the wild and as long as 40 years in captivity.