Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Hyaenidae
Size:    Height: 2.3 to 4 feet (70 to 120 cm) to shoulder   Length: 5.4 feet (1.6 m)
Weight: 105 to 189 pounds (48 to 85 kg)
Diet: Large hoofed animals, carrion, eggs, insects and fruit
Distribution: Africa, south of the Sahara
Young:  Litter of 2 to 4 cubs
Animal Predators:  Lions and wild dogs
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent 
Terms: Young: Cub  Group: Clan
Lifespan: Up to 20 years in the wild and as long as 40 years in captivity



·       In ancient African cultures, hyenas were 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 somewhat similar in appearance, but hyenas are much larger. 



Spotted hyenas are also known as laughing hyenas because of the cry they emit when they are afraid. They are dog-like animals with short, spotted brown fur. Female hyenas are larger and stronger than males and therefore are the dominant sex. Hyenas have incredibly powerful jaws, easily capable of crushing large bones. 



Spotted hyenas are adaptable animals, able to comfortably live in flat grasslands, marshes, mountains, forests or rocky country, although they prefer semi-desert lands with large game populations. They rest in long grass, abandoned burrows, or rocky dens. They sometimes dig their own burrows, two to three feet underground. 


Feeding Habits

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 and fruit. 



Hyenas have no specific mating season—females are able to conceive throughout the year. Females select their partner and the male’s fear of the female, even during courting rituals, is noticeable. Females have a high level of testosterone. About three to four months after conception, females give birth to two or three cubs in a den, away from the clan. They bring the cubs to the communal den when they are two to six weeks old. Males play only a small role in raising the cubs because they are usually not allowed near the den, but they may occasionally play with them. The newborns are black in colour, but their coats lighten after about five weeks. Weaning begins at one year. The cubs of the alpha female, the leader of the clan, begin to go on kills with the clan and may eat meat starting at three months, as opposed to other cubs who will not begin to get meat until they reach eight to nine months. All the cubs go on hunts with adults at one year of age, but do not become capable hunters for another half year or more. Male cubs reach maturity at about three years of age, with females maturing later than males.



Of the four hyena species, the spotted hyena is the largest and best known. Hyenas have matriarchal societies, living in groups called clans of up to 100 hyenas. They are formidable predators and can gallop over 30 mph (48 km) for several miles when chasing prey such as zebra, wildebeest, gazelle or buffalo. However, they often retreat if the victim puts up a fight. They are tireless runners, able to cover large distances each day, travelling and hunting in groups. They tend to be nocturnal, but in areas uninhabited by man, will hunt during the day as well. 



Spotted hyenas are not considered at risk at this time.



Spotted Hyena Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US