What Do Hyenas Eat? How Humans Can Help Hyena Conservation

Aryan Khanna
Feb 21, 2023 By Aryan Khanna
Originally Published on Nov 12, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Hyena walking in the park.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.0 Min

Apart from the fact that hyenas aren't just scavengers and neither are they wild dogs of any sort, there will be various facts throughout this article that will amaze you.

What might perhaps come as the biggest shock to you is, you thought there existed only one kind of hyena in the world but there are multiple species falling under the hyena family. There are three different kinds of hyenas, namely spotted hyena, striped hyena and brown hyena.

Apart from these three types, there is also a fourth kind known as aardwolf but it looks quite similar to striped hyenas. The population of hyenas is scattered all over from Africa to Asia; one can find these animals in the plain grasslands roaming around like predators. Hyenas may seem to you as big-sized dogs out on a hunt looking for food, whereas, in reality, they are biologically greater inclined towards the cats. These mammals can be considered as scavengers, as well as, carnivores because not only do they scavenge leftover dead bodies of other animals but also hunt as and when needed.

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about what do bears eatandwhy do hyenas laugh here on Kidadl?

How much do hyenas eat in a day?

A hyena's diet is pretty diverse as well as flexible, and it can hunt down large animals like zebras, antelope, wildebeest, gazelles but when need be, they can feast on small termites and insects too. These animals live in groups known as clans and are led by the females.

In a single meal on average, a spotted hyena can consume up to 32 oz (14.5 kg) of meat. Interestingly, even though hyenas have been labeled as scavengers, they prove themselves to be adept carnivores and hunt around 95% of the total food they eat in a day. Among the different kinds of hyenas, the spotted hyenas are the ones that are most commonly seen and the largest of all hyenas. Aardwolves, unlike other types of hyenas, eat only insects and termites and can eat up to 30,000 of them in a day. The other hyenas live in clans, and thus, the larger the clan size, the larger the size of the prey. It has been seen at times that hyenas eat lions too; the clans hunt down lions if they are alone and it's a weak lioness or a young one. Hyenas refrain from hunting adult lions especially males. When there is scarcity or difficulty in hunting large animals in the wildlife, hyenas resort to eating bird eggs and snakes.

Do hyenas eat each other?

This is a characteristic of the Crocuta species where young hyenas attack each other just sometime after their birth. This situation usually arises when there is a scarcity of meat for hyenas. There is usually a hunting contest between hyenas who live in a clan such as spotted hyenas or brown hyenas and lions.

Both of these animals prey on the same kinds of animals like antelope, wildebeest, and zebras. Eventually, when there isn't enough food to eat, hyenas start to attack and eat each other.

A hyena in the park.

What do hyenas like to eat?

Well, hyenas aren't choosy animals, and they eat whatever they can. Spotted hyenas, the most well-researched category of hyenas live in clans led by females rather than males. A clan can comprise even 80 spotted hyenas at a time.

With these large numbers, spotted hyenas at times manage to prey on elephants living in the wild jungles of Africa as well. However, spotted hyenas are sensible predators and do not attack such huge creatures when there are multiple of them. They attack these wild animals when they are isolated from the herd. Apart from elephants, these predators prey on wild dogs as well. Spotted hyenas and wild dogs are known to have a rivalry of their own. Wild dogs are usually on the backfoot as they cannot match the physical strength of spotted hyenas. Spotted hyenas are infamous for hunting suburban areas close to jungles during the nighttime when there is a scarcity of food and prey on domestic animals like cats and dogs or even a human at times.

Smaller Hyena Prey

The diet of a spotted hyena, a striped hyena or a brown hyena isn't very rigid, they do prefer to hunt down relatively large animals as most of these species live in clans but when necessary, they can prey on smaller animals too.

Some of the most common smaller prey that these wild predators feast on include bird eggs, ground birds, lizards, hares. Hyenas eat snakes too at times but only when the food is very scarce, snakes are not a common part of the diet of any hyena species. Similarly, it has been noted that when hyenas do not have anything to eat, they even hunt down rats. An interesting fact about the spotted hyena species is that they are also known as laughing hyenas as there are around 11 different kinds of laughing voices of this species that have been recorded already. Their scientific name is Crocuta crocuta.

Larger Hyena Prey

Unlike the striped hyena who lives alone, the brown hyena and spotted hyenas live in packs and are thus capable of hunting down larger prey to inculcate them in their diet. As striped hyenas live alone, they do not have the power to take down animals larger than their own size.

Brown hyenas or spotted hyenas often prey on wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, lions, elephants and various other large wild animals as well. However, they are smart enough to not prey on lions or elephants when they are in a herd, and they usually wait till the nighttime when they are isolated and then prey on them. It has been noticed that hyenas usually attack weak females or young ones of these animal species.

Do hyenas eat everything they kill?

Well, even though it is not a difficult task for hyenas to hunt down animals larger than their own size as they attack as a clan, they might at times not be able to consume the entire meat in one go.

Under such conditions, hyenas store the leftover food in water holes for future use, and they refrain from wasting any food. This is not the case for smaller prey like land birds as when it comes to small prey, they eat everything they kill.

Are you wondering do hyenas eat humans? Now that we know that spotted hyenas can even prey on elephants, it must not come as a surprise that these predators can also hunt down an entire human being. Yes, hyenas do eat humans, especially when they don't have a choice. Whether it is a striped hyena or a spotted hyena, both of them are well capable of taking down a human being on their own. It has been observed that whenever there is a shortage of food in the natural habitat of the hyenas, they resort to attacking and eating humans.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do hyenas eat,then why not take a look at what do lions eat or hyena facts?

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Written by Aryan Khanna

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

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Aryan KhannaBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

A dedicated and hardworking content writer currently pursuing his Bachelor's in Management Studies from St. Xavier's University, Kolkata. Aryan aims to gain corporate exposure and enhance his skills while creating well-researched and engaging content that is SEO-friendly. Aryan is a talented individual who puts in the effort to overcome any obstacle in his way.

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