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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Did You Know? Incredible Hyena Facts

Hyena facts are enjoyed by kids.

Hyenas have been existing in the ecosystem from an ancient time. Hyena fossils of millions of years ago have been discovered in different parts of the world. At present, four species of hyenas exist and they are namely, the striped hyenas, spotted hyenas, aardwolf, and brown hyena.  Among the species, the population of spotted hyena and aardwolf do not face any recent concerns however, the striped and brown hyena populations are currently facing threats of extinction. Hyenas are found primarily in the forests of Africa. Fossils of different hyena species have been discovered from Mexico and the southern parts of the United States. Their range also covered Europe, Asia, and Africa in the past. Most of them are found in groups rather than in isolation. It is a carnivorous animal. Lions act as the biggest foe of a hyena in the forest and when in groups, though hyenas have the ability to kill a lion too. The unique hyena smile and their laugh are very popular all over the world. Know more about this wonderful animal by going through these facts.

Check out the articles on the striped hyena and the plains zebra.

Hyena Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a hyena?

Hyena is a special type of carnivorous mammal having both dog and cat-like features. These unique animals have four subspecies under them. Although they have physical similarities with a dog, biologically they are closely related to cats.

What class of animal does a hyena belong to?

Hyenas are warm-blooded animals that belong to the class Mammalia.  

How many hyenas are there in the world?

The National Wildlife Foundation has come up with an estimate of the total adult population of hyenas in the entire world. It is believed that there are approximately 10,000 adult hyenas of all species present in the world. Habitat losses are the main threats that these creatures are facing.

Where does a hyena live?

The four species of hyena live in separate places covering different areas. The spotted hyena is found in abundance in the jungles of Africa. Spotted hyena current distribution covers patchy West African lands. They cover a large extent and include places like Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, and some areas of South Africa. The brown hyenas are also found in Botswana and Namibia like the spotted hyenas. Apart from that, they are common in southern and western Zimbabwe, South Africa, and southern Mozambique. The largest population of brown hyenas is spotted in the Kalahari desert. The striped hyenas along with the spotted hyenas are found scattered in west African areas as well as in north and northeastern parts. Striped hyenas cover the Sahara desert, Middle Eastern countries, and some parts of central Asia. They are found mostly in continuous distributions in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya. Striped hyenas cover the largest range among all hyenas. The aardwolf is a native of eastern and southern African forests. There are two subspecies of the aardwolf, one lives in Mozambique, Angola, Somalia, and Uganda and the other clan is found in Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Egypt.  

What is a hyena's habitat?

A hyena habitat includes almost any kind of grassland. Savannas, forest areas, mountains, as well as sub desert regions also act as homes to the animals of the family Hyaenidae. The northern part of the Indian subcontinent permits the habitation of striped hyenas. The brown hyenas inhabit the dry and sandy desert lands or in coastal areas while the spotted hyenas prefer forest as well as semi-deserts and savannas. The striped ones are found in rocky mountainous areas where they make their caves or dens.

Who do hyenas live with?

Some types of hyenas live in groups while some prefer to live in isolation. Spotted hyenas are extremely social. In the wild, they live together in large groups called clans. A clan can contain more than 80 hyenas and is led by female spotted hyenas generally. Brown hyenas are also found in clans but the number varies widely from that of spotted hyenas. A clan of brown hyenas contains four to six individuals. The striped hyenas are mostly found living alone or sometimes in pairs and they are cave hyenas. The female aardwolves live with their young.                                                                                                                                                              

How long does a hyena live?

In general, hyenas can commonly live up to 12 years in the wild. However, they can also live for 25 years under optimum conditions. Brown hyenas have the shortest lifespan among all the hyenas. The oldest recorded age of a hyena is 28.5 years.

How do they reproduce?

The different species of hyenas show diversified reproduction patterns. In the spotted hyenas and brown hyenas, no specific mating season is observed. In spotted hyenas, monogamy is absent. They pair with different mates and no pair lasts long. The female hyena favors a younger male generally.  The reproduction process of spotted hyenas is the most complicated among all mammals due to the position of their reproductive organs. The process of mating between a spotted hyena pair is described as the dance. The gestation period in spotted hyenas lasts the longest. After 110 days the females give birth to two cubs and they raise them without any male hyena help. In brown hyenas, the females mate with males outside of their clans. The females give birth to one to five cubs after 90 days and the males provide food for the cubs. However, the striped hyenas are monogamous. They live in pairs and mate with a single hyena for life. Their babies are raised by both parents. The gestation period lasts 90-91 days. The aardwolves also mate with different partners but both females and males raise the cubs. The gestation period lasts 89-92 days.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of hyena animals is different among different species. The spotted hyenas and the aardwolves are found in abundance. Their population does not face any concern. The IUCN Red List has enlisted them under Least Concern animals. However, striped and brown hyenas are decreasing in numbers so they fall under Near Threatened animals in IUCN Red List.

Hyena Fun Facts

What do hyenas look like?

Hyena is mostly a nocturnal animal.

Although biologically similar to felines, a hyena resembles a dog. So it is also called a hyena dog. The general appearance of a hyena is similar to all mammals. A hyena has a wolf-like body structure with a small torso. The hyena skull shape resembles the canids but is a bit larger in size than the regular canids. A hyena catches its prey using strong teeth rather than the hyena's paws or claws. Males have a larger build than females in most species except the spotted hyenas. They have large ears and an extra rib pair from canids. The fur coat of a spotted hyena differs from the striped and brown hyena and aardwolf. The former has spots on its coat while the latter are marked with stripes on their coats. A spotted hyena's coat color changes with age varying from yellowish-grey to greyish brown. The brown hyena possesses dark brown coats and the striped ones have a dirty grey coat. The brown hyena tail is remarkably small which helps to differentiate between the striped and brown ones.

How cute are they?

A hyena's small face with its long ears resembles a dog. Their cuteness is subjective and depends on the perspective in which people see them.

How do they communicate?

A hyena's communication occurs frequently and loudly. There are a number of ways in which hyenas can communicate with each other. They include barks, laughs, and grunts. The hyena laugh is very famous throughout the world. Scent marking also plays an important role in their communication.

How big is a hyena?

The height of spotted, brown, and striped hyenas is respectively  2.2-3 ft (70-92 cm), 2.2-2.6 ft (70-80 cm), and 1.9-2.6 ft (60-80 cm). Their length ranges from 3-6 ft (95-170 cm), 2.7-4 ft (85-130 cm), and 2.8-5 ft (86-140 cm) respectively. The spotted giant hyena size is the largest among them. The length and height of aardwolf range from 22-31 in (55-80 cm) and 16-20 in (40-50 cm).

How fast can a hyena run?

A spotted hyena can run the fastest among all hyenas with a speed of 37 mph (64kph). The brown hyenas also have a similar speed to a spotted hyena. The striped hyena is a bit slow and forages with a speed of 1.2-2.5 mph (2-4 kph). Aardwolf speeds vary from 5-7.4 mph (8-12 kph) on summer nights to 1.8-5 mph (3-8 kph) on winter nights.

How much does a hyena weigh?

The hyena weight varies accordingly. The weight of a spotted, brown, and striped hyena is respectively 97-141 lb (44-64 kg), 88-97 lb (40-44 kg), and 49-121 lb (22-55 kg). An aardwolf weighs around 15-22 lb (7-10 kg) normally.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name for males and females. Both of them are called hyena in general.

What would you call a baby hyena?

Baby hyenas of any species are called hyena cubs.

What do they eat?

A hyena is a very clean eater. They eat their prey till the last bite and their diet consists of meat of all types. They can be both scavengers and predators. A spotted hyena is mainly a predator. They kill with their hyena teeth and are the most aggressive species of hyena. The diet of a spotted hyena includes sheep, wildebeest, cattle, giraffe, goat, and sometimes fish. The striped and brown hyena are both scavengers. While the brown hyena feeds on the carcasses left by other predators, the diet of the striped ones includes decomposed bones, ligaments, and bone marrow. Aardwolves take their nourishment from insects and termites and catch them using their sticky tongue.

Are they aggressive?

Hyena is a very aggressive predator. Their rage is often compared to lions and they are dangerous killers. They tend to attack outright and hyena bite force is among the strongest, around 1100 pounds per square inch.

Would they make a good pet?

Hyena is not a suitable animal when it comes to the question of petting. They are dangerous and cannot be tamed easily. They can even prey on human babies. However, if it is possible to train and pet a hyena from a very young age, they can perhaps be wonderful and intelligent companions.  

Did you know...

Not every hyena sounds like a laughing hyena.  Rather only a spotted hyena of the crocuta genus is able to make the hyena-laughing noise.

Do hyenas make good mothers?

Hyena mothers are one of the best in the animal kingdom. The female hyena gives everything to raise her cubs and protect them from all danger. They are considered the most loving mothers among all terrestrial carnivores.  

How many hyenas in a clan?

Brown and spotted hyenas form social structures called clans and live together in the family Hyaenidae. The brown hyena clan is a small one that has four to six members but the spotted hyena clans can contain up to 80 members. They kill and prey together with other members of the clan.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including lions and babboons.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our hyena coloring pages.

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