The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is thought to have originated somewhere in Asia and Europe a million years ago. It is the largest of the hyena species and the animal is mainly recognized by its large bear-like build. The spotted hyena is not only most social but is also the most vocal of the Carnivora. Hyena is also known as ‘laughing hyena’. It is believed to form one of the largest but complex social groups.
Spotted Hyena Facts
- Adult hyenas reach a length of about 95–165.8 cm (37–65 in) and they stand 70–91.5 cm (28–36 in) high at the shoulder.
- Males weigh 40.5–55.0 kg (89–121 lb) while females averaging 44.5–63.9 kg (98–141 lb) in weight. The Zambian population is relatively larger and heavier.
- The spotted hyena has powerful straight neck like polar bears. They have strong forelimbs but the hindlimbs are poorly developed.
- They have got spots all over the greyish-brown coat. These spots may be reddish or black in color.
- The back portion of the body or rump is a little rounded which creates difficulty for the predators who intend to attack it from the back. Predators don’t seem to have a firm grip on a rounded rump.
- Spotted hyenas have short tail which measures 300–350 mm (12–14 in) in length.
- Females are larger than the males.
- They have got big heart which makes up 1% of the entire body weight.
- The skull of spotted hyena is likely to be bigger in size than that of striped hyena. It is powerfully built like most other land carnivorous.
- Spotted hyenas possess powerful teeth which can even crush the hardest part of the bones. The powerful bite of spotted hyena exerts a crushing force of 80 kgf/cm2 (1140 lbf/in²). The bone-crushing power is greater than many of the heaviest carnivores including brown bear and leopard.
See also: Hyena Facts For Kids
Range & Habitat
- Spotted hyenas are widely distributed in all over the major habitats of Ethiopia, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya.
- They typically make homes in a many different habitats ranging from desert conditions, alpine mountains to the tropical rainforests. Spotted hyena’s habitats include open woodlands, semi-deserts, mountain forests, and savannas.
- Spotted hyenas are found at an altitude of up to 4,000 meters above the sea level.
- Spotted hyenas form one of the large groups as they are highly social. The group size can go up to 80 individuals. However the size of the group typically relies on the availability of prey. If the prey is migratory as in Serengeti, hyenas form small groups.
- Female hyenas are thought to rule even the most dominant males. They are always highest in ranks.
- Males may forage in small groups and they mostly disperse when they become 2 – 3 years of age.
- In the Kalahari spotted hyenas occupy a large territory of 1000 sq. km. Each of clans claims territory either by marking scents or simply by vocalisations.
- Spotted hyenas are extremely territorial and are often seen chasing after the intruders until it leaves the territory.
- Sometimes clans may use the same dens year after year but chances are that they use different dens in a single year.
- They make dens with a small entrance measuring up to 25 cm in width.
- Spotted hyenas mostly use dens abandoned by other animals such as warthogs, jackals or springhares. One or more females may use the same den at the same time.
- Hyenas are intelligent animals. Anthropologists often compare hyenas’ intelligence with primates.
- Spotted hyenas utter a series of 6 – 15 different calls which can be heard at a distance of about 5 kilometers. Hyena’s calls include yell, growl, grunt, giggle, groan, and soft squeal.
Feeding Ecology & Diet
- African carnivores are known to prey only a few animals—that is to say they limit their prey. They eat only what they like to eat! Spotted hyenas are however exceptions.
- They have a wide range of animals they hunt. Hyenas will hunt animals weighing 56–182 kg. Nonetheless, they prefer to hunt younger animals.
- Spotted hyenas have acute hearing, sight, and smelling sense. They often follow vultures to track down the carcasses.
- They are able to detect sounds of predators from over a distance of about 10 km. spotted hyenas use their sight more than their smell during hunting.
- The average speed of spotted hyenas is 15 – 30 km/h but they can reach the speed of about 60 km/h (37 mi/h).
- Spotted hyenas are not scavengers as they eat live animals. Hyena’s diet consists of wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, Cape buffalo, impala, greater kudu, gemsbok, Grant’s gazelle, kob, reedbuck, gerenuk, and roan antelope.
- They are thought to consume almost 15 kilograms of meat every day.
- Hyenas wait 30 – 100 meters before the final strike on the prey.
- A group of 10 – 25 hyenas typically hunt zebras.
- Predators of young spotted hyenas include Nile crocodiles.
See also: What Do Hyenas Eat
- The birth typically occurs in the wet season. Males will mate with multiple females.
- The average time of the gestation period is about 110 days.
- A female gives birth to usually 2 cubs. Cubs show brownish black hair but the fur is extremely soft. They weigh 1.5 kg at birth.
- Cubs are born with open eyes and they have got 6 – 7 mm long canines. Cubs are often observed attacking each other right after the birth. Their life starts with the fight.
- Males quickly reach adulthood as compared to the females.
- The mother will milk her cubs for about 12 – 16 months. During this time cubs may eat solid food.
- The weaning period is 14 – 18 months.
- The average lifespan of spotted hyenas is 12 years and can live up to maximum of 25 years. Hyenas are one of the few mammals that have short lifespan in captivity.