Large and reputed as timid and cowardly carnivores, hyenas are commonly found in Africa. Despite their reputation of being cowardly animals, hyenas can become really aggressive and dangerous. Through history, hyenas have been in close contact with humans. For instance, ancient Egyptians used to capture and domesticate them and then feed them in plenty to fatten them and eventually feast on them. However, there were times when even humans became the food of the hyenas. Let us today learn 30 interesting spotted hyena facts and find out more about this interesting animal.
Spotted Hyena Facts: 1-5
1. While hyenas are most commonly found in Africa, they are also native to Asia.
2. There are four distinct species of hyenas – the aardwolf, the brown hyena, the stripped hyena and the spotted hyena.
3. There are basically two distinct types of hyenas – dog-like hyenas and bone-crushing hyenas.
4. The dog-like hyenas are nearly extinct. The only dog-like hyena species to live today is the aardwolf. The remaining three species are all bone-crushing hyenas.
5. When it comes to hunting, spotted hyena species uses a special hunting technique. One hyena will take the job of creating confusion in the herd of the animal they want to kill. The other hyenas will then pick up a weak or old animal and hunt it down and chase away the other animals.
Spotted Hyena Facts: 6-10
6. Spotted hyenas have a reputation of being cowardly scavengers but interestingly enough, 95% of their meals actually come through hunting.
7. The spotted hyenas are also known for warding off lionesses and leopards away from their kills.
8. Spotted hyenas are mostly nocturnal by nature however; they often come out of their lairs during early-morning hours.
9. Spotted hyenas, unlike other species of hyenas are gregarious animals. In other words, they are social animals
10. Spotted hyena in specific is a native to Sub-Saharan Africa. However, according to scientists, this species actually may have originated in Asia and used to thrive throughout Europe for about a million years but their Asian and European habitat disappeared with the end of Late Pleistocene age of the Pleistocene Epoch.
Spotted Hyena Facts: 11-15
11. Spotted hyenas are the largest of all hyenas that live today. Their body built is vaguely bear-like.
12. The physical characteristics of spotted hyenas include – not so prominent mane, rounded ears, fewer nipples, spotted pelt and dual purposed dentition.
13. Female spotted hyenas have pseudo-penis, making it difficult to distinguish between a male spotted hyena and a female spotted hyena. This makes the spotted hyena the only mammalian species that lacks external vaginal opening.
14. In case of spotted hyenas, females are larger than males and males are dominated by females.
15. Spotted hyenas live in large groups known as clans. One clan may consist of up to 80 hyenas.
Spotted Hyena Facts: 16-20
16. For male spotted hyenas, time of dispersal, mating opportunities and access to kills depends on their ability to dominate other male members of the clan.
17. Spotted hyenas are capable of digesting skin, bones and wastes of other animals.
18. This species is very territorial by nature. Each clan defends its area from intruding clans. The home area of each clan includes a central den which is the center of all activities. Cubs are always raised in dens. Clan members meet in the central den.
19. Spotted hyenas mark their home area with their droppings and also using a strong-smelling substance from their anal glands.
20. The mood of a spotted hyena can be understood from its different postures and its tail. Basically these postures are methods of communication. A hanging tail for instance says that a hyena is walking or standing leisurely. If the tail is tucked between its legs and is flat against its belly, it usually means it is afraid and is about to flee. If the tail is straight, it is about to attack and if the tail is carried high on its back, it is usually excited.
Spotted Hyena Facts: 21-25
21. Though spotted hyenas are capable of digesting bones and skins, they fail to completely digest hooves, horns and hair of their prey.
22. Spotted hyenas require very little water to survive despite the fact that they eat quite a lot of dry bones.
23. Spotted hyenas give birth to 2 to 4 cubs at a time. Cubs are born with open eyes.
24. Cubs thrive on their mothers’ milk for up to 18 months but they start eating meat by the age of 5 months from kills near their dens.
25. Cubs usually go out on scavenging expeditions with their mothers at the age of 1 year. Until then, some adult hyena will babysit the cubs.
Spotted Hyena Facts: 26-30
26. Spotted hyenas are extremely vocal animals. They make a wide range of sounds to communicate with their clan members.
27. Fast whoops, groans, grunts, growls, yells etc. are very common. They even make sounds that sound like human laughter. The common laughter sounds include loud grunt-laughs, soft grunt-laughs and giggles.
28. The pitch of the laughter can tell the age of a spotted hyena. Social rank of a hyena can be found out using the notes frequency variation.
29. Spotted hyenas are actually omnivores and they eat even vegetable matter.
30. Spotted hyenas can live up to 25 years in captivity and can weigh anywhere between 110 and 190 pounds. They can run at a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour and mostly hunt wildebeest and antelopes but they also hunt birds, lizards and snakes.
Did you know that spotted hyenas have acute sense of hearing? They can hear predators hunting or feeding on carcass from a distance of up to 10 kilometers!