Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


Spotted hyenas are the largest of the hyena species. Their coat is short and sandy to grey/brown in colour with black spots. The number of spots tends to decrease with age. The hair on their neck and back is slightly longer and slopes forward, but will stand on end when the hyena becomes excited.  Their front legs are longer than their hind legs, which gives their back a rounded, sloping appearance.  This prevents attackers chasing from behind from being able to get a firm grip.

(C) Carrie Lizauskas

Spotted hyenas are known for being scavengers but they are incredibly skilled hunters that can take down wildebeest or antelope.  Their immensely strong jaws can crush and chew up bone, and their acidic stomachs can digest it. Their droppings are pale and crusty because of all the powdered bone in them. A single spotted hyena can eat around 15 kg of meat in one go while a group of hyaenas has been known to consume an adult zebra in 15 minutes.

The female hyenas are larger than the males.  Hyenas live in groups of up to 90 individuals called clans, which are headed by a dominant female. They share a communal den and toilet area and they occupy a territory of between 15 and 400 square miles.  Spotted hyenas are very vocal and make a variety of different sounds to communicate with each other, most famously their cackling laugh which can be heard by other hyenas from 3 miles away.  The spotted hyena is also sometimes known as the laughing hyena.

(C) Arno Meintjes
(C) Colin Jackson

Baby spotted hyenas are born with their eyes open and teeth already through. They are almost black in colour, and their coat lightens and develops their distinctive spots when they get to a few months old. The female usually gives birth to two cubs, and they can be very aggressive towards each other. Once they are 2-6 weeks old the mother will move them to a communal den with other females and their cubs.  Because hyena milk is so rich and nutritious, cubs can go for several days between feeds. 

Spotted hyena populations in eastern and western Africa, including those within protected areas, are thought to be declining. Persecution by humans appears to be the main reason for this as unfortunately for them, African legends and folklore have associated the hyena with witchcraft and the supernatural. The spotted hyena is shot, poisoned, trapped and snared, even in the protected areas. Like most wild animals, an ever-increasing threat to hyenas is loss of habitat due to human development, and will continue to get worse unless real conservation efforts are made.

Males: Dog
Females: Bitch
Body Length: 80cm to 150cm
Tail Length: 25cm to 36cm
Body Height (should to floor): 70cm to 90cm
Weight: 50kg to 90kg
Life Expectancy: 20-25 years
Diet: Wildebeest, zebra, birds, lizards, vegetables
REGION: Africa
HABITAT: Grasslands, savannahs, woodlands, sub deserts
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

Share | |