Hyena - African Spotted Hyena facts & info

Spotted hyenas are the predominant species of Africa with Brown Hyena being found in the desert & Kalahari sandveld

General info on Hyenas

Life expectancy of the spotted hyena is up to 40 years.  Hyenas can travel 40 kms in a night and 70 kms over two nights.   The jaws and stomach of the spotted hyaena are so strong that it can devour the whole carcass of a medium sized antelope — bones, hoofs, horns and hide.

Heavily built forequarters stand higher than the rump. The hyena has a large head with large rounded ears and black muzzle. Its body colour is normally fawn yellow to grey fawn with dark brown spots. They have a short erect mane which runs along the neck and shoulders

The myth that spotted hyenas are hermaphrodites came about as a result of the females external genitalia – she has an erectile clitoris which is as large as the male’s penis and a false scrotum filled with fat.

Behaviour of Hyenas

Creatures of open woodland, savannah or semi desert. They find carcasses by scent, by listening for the noises of other predators and also by watching vultures.
Hyenas are excellent hunters – achieving a 75% kill rate from their own kills.

Active mainly at dusk and night, they sleep in burrows or tall grass and enjoy mutual licking and grooming.   Hyenas also have a wide repertoire of vocal sounds. From a cubs whine when begging for food, to high pitched yells when bitten to giggles when chased from a kill.

The male spotted hyena has his entire penis freely suspended and the female’s external genitalia so closely resemble those of the male that the two sexes are difficult to distinguish in the wild, but they are not Hermaphrodites


Can produce from 1 – 4 cubs although the usual reproduction is 2 cubs born after a gestation period of 110 days. Cubs will inherit their mothers rank within the clan.

Hyena Feeding

Predominantly carrion, they hunt old, sick and young herbivores. They also eat grass and other vegetable matter and will empty refuse bins at rest camps and have even carried mini fridges away. They scavenge and will chase other predators from their kill or be chased photo right . When the Hyenas eventually outnumbered the wilddogs they feasted on the bones


Territories are defended against other “clans” and are marked with anal gland secretions, urine as well as their distinctive bright white droppings

Hyena Clans

The spotted hyena family is a matriarchal society with the undisputed leader being the heaviest female. The single dominant male will defer to the ruling matriarch.

The centre of clan activity is the den, where the cubs are raised and individuals meet. The den is usually situated on high ground in the central part of the territory. Its above-ground entrances are connected to a series of underground tunnels.

Clans can range up to 80 animals and clans are territorial. Areas are marked by anal gland pasting, also by depositing smelly secretions from glands in their feet. They also mark territory by defecating in middens

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