Photo: Franz Schallmeiner via Getty Images
When we think of Africa we generally think of lions, elephants, and other large mammals. However, there is another group of animals that call the African Savanna home - hyenas.
Hyenas have often been represented as cowardly scavengers, but they are actually highly efficient predators.
In this dedicated GB blog article, we'll take a closer look at these fascinating creatures and discuss some of the myths that have surrounded them in history.
Description and Appearance
Photo: Andy Diamond via Getty Images
The hyena is a member of the Feliformia family. The spotted hyena is the best known and most common species, but there are also striped and brown hyenas. They have a strong build, with powerful jaws and sharp claws.
They are easily recognizable by their large heads, big eyes, and small ears. Their front legs are shorter than their hind legs, which gives them a hunched appearance.
Their fur is coarse and ranges in color from light brown to grey. Spotted hyenas get their name from the spots that cover their body.
They weigh between 50 and 150 pounds, with males being larger than females.
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Gage Beasley’s Hyena Soft Stuffed Plush Toy
Hyenas are both scavengers and predators. They will eat just about anything, including carrion (flesh of dead animals), insects, rodents, reptiles, and other small mammals.
They are also known to hunt and kill prey as large as zebras, wildebeests, and antelope.
They'll also hunt in packs and use their powerful jaws and sharp claws to take down their prey. They will also eat the bones, which is how they get their nickname - the bone-crushers.
Hyenas will often challenge lions for food, and sometimes they will even steal kills from them. This behavior is a popular event to portray in documentaries on African animals.
Hyenas are polygamous and the females typically have two to four cubs per litter. The cubs are born after a 90 to 98 day gestation period.
Cubs are born blind and weigh only about two pounds. They will start to develop their spots after about six weeks.
The cubs will stay with their mother for up to two years before they leave to start their own packs.
Newborn hyenas are vulnerable to harm from lions, leopards, and other large predators. Snakes will also sometimes prey on hyena cubs.
Distribution and Habitat
Hyenas are found in Africa, the Middle East, and India. They prefer open habitats such as savannas, woodlands, and steppes.
They are mostly nocturnal animals, but they can often be seen during the day. They'll usually rest in the shade during the day and hunt at night.
Hyenas are social animals and live in packs of up to 80 members.
The spotted hyena is the most common species and can be found in most of Africa. The striped hyena is mostly found in North Africa and the Middle East, and the brown hyena is found in India.
The spotted hyena is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The striped and brown hyenas are both listed as Data Deficient.
The main threats to hyenas are habitat loss and persecution by humans. They are also killed for their body parts, which are used in traditional medicine.
Hyenas are also a common exotic pet, which contributes to the illegal trade of these animals.
Despite these threats, hyena populations are stable and they are not currently considered to be endangered.
Other Interesting Facts
- Hyenas are the only animals (besides humans) in the world that eat bone marrow.
- They can digest bone, hair, and nails because they have a highly specialized stomach acid.
- Hyenas laugh when they are excited or happy. This is why they are sometimes called "the laughers of the Savannah."
- Hyenas are not afraid of humans and will often approach them. They are sometimes mistaken for dogs due to their appearance and behavior.
- They're known to run up to 35 mph and jump up to six feet in the air.
Hyenas are fascinating animals that are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem and are a vital part of the African Savannah. Although they have a bad reputation, they are actually intelligent and social creatures. I hope this article has helped you to learn more about these amazing animals! Thanks for reading!
Do you have any questions or comments about hyenas? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out our other articles about all things Africa!
As always, thanks for reading! Until next time!