Do you know hyenas, strangely shaped wild animals that live in Africa and Asia?
Since it appears in TV shows and Disney movies “The Lion King”, many people will know its name and appearance.
And when you hear its name, many people may associate it with a bad image such as “creepy” or “mean”.
Are hyenas really creepy and mean animals? Let’s take a peek at what characteristics and secrets hyenas have in this article!



~ Basic information. ~


Spotted hyena.
Length:86~150cm weight:50~90kg.

Hyena is a general term for four types of animals classified as carnivorous and hyenaceae.

They are similar to dogs such as wolves and african wild dogs, but they are considered to be more like cats (especially civet cats, which are considered primitive cats) than dogs.

Many people think that what they imagine when they say hyena is a “spotted hyena” that lives in Africa and is characterized by a spotted pattern, so here we will explain the ecology of spotted hyenas.

Spotted hyenas live in groups of 30 ~ 80 heads called “clans” led by females.

The leader of the herd is called the “alpha female”, and there is a rule that the first female born by the alpha female becomes the leader of the next flock.

In a group of hyenas, the ranking is strictly determined, and males are determined to be in a lower position than females. Therefore, prey starts eating from the female with the highest ranking, and the male eats only after the female is full.

By the way, spotted hyenas are known to chirp very well, and the members of the flock communicate frequently using about 12 kinds of calls.


Males of spotted hyenas reach sexual maturity in 2~3 years of age, and females reach sexual maturity about 3~4 years after birth and can reproduce. There is no fixed breeding season and it can breed all year round, but it seems that it tends to peak from February to March.

The gestation period is about 110 days, and 1~4 babies are born in one birth. Only the mother raises the young, but the females of the same herd cooperate and raise their young in the same burrow.




Hyena’s Q&A.

Where does the hyena get its name?

It is believed that the name hyena comes from the Classical Greek word “huaina”, which means “pig”.

After that, it was derived from the Latin “hyaena”, the classical French “hiene”, and the middle English “hiena”, and as a result, it seems that the current name “hyena” was obtained.

By the way, the spotted hyena got its name because of the spotted pattern on the body, the striped hyena because of the stripes on the body, and the brown hyena because the color of the body is brown.

As an aside, hyenas have been called by very disgraceful names such as “grave vandal” and “witch’s horse” for hundreds of years in Africa and Asia, and they have been hated.


Why do hyenas live there?

Hyenas are divided into a total of four types, and spotted hyenas inhabit the entire African continent except for some areas such as the Sahara Desert.

Striped hyenas inhabit Asia (Arabian Peninsula, Middle East, India and Nepal) to northern Africa.

The brown hyena lives in the southern part of Africa, and the Aardwolf lives in the eastern and southern parts of Africa.

However, the specific reasons why hyenas inhabit these areas are unknown.

It is speculated that one of the reasons for the hyena’s habitat is that there are many herbivores and many carnivores that prey on herbivores, so there is a high possibility that they will be able to obtain a sufficient amount of food to maintain the herd.

In addition to eating animals that they normally hunt and catch, hyenas also have the face of a “scavenger” who eats the carcasses of animals, and are sometimes called “savannah sweepers”.

They have a very strong stomach acid, and they have a very interesting feature that they eat rotten meat that other animals cannot eat and use it as their own nutrition without getting sick.

In fact, animal carcasses decay more and more over time, insects such as maggots spring up, and various bacteria multiply and become the source of all kinds of infectious diseases.

However, scavengers such as hyenas and vultures can eat animal carcasses and bones to prevent the spread of pests and infectious diseases.

Animals that eat carcasses may seem creepy at first glance, but you can see that they are indispensable for maintaining a healthy natural environment.


What do hyenas eat?

Hyenas are basically omnivorous and strong carnivorous animals, but different types eat different foods.

The largest of the four species, the spotted hyena, feeds mainly on lion leftovers, animal carcasses, and herbivores such as wildebeest and antelopes.They also eat birds, reptiles, fish and insects.

Since striped hyenas do not form herds, their main food is small animals and dead animal meat, which are easily available.Brown hyenas eat animal carcasses as their staple food, but they also often eat plant matter such as juicy fruits.

In addition, the zoo seems to feed horse meat, chicken head, and chicken to the above three types of hyenas.

The last of the fourth species, the Aardwolf, is the only one that eats significantly different from other hyenas, and its staple food is termites and other insects.They rely on sound and smell to find termites and eat 20~300,000 termites (1~2Kg) per night.

Aardwolfs basically eat only one type of termite, but when termites are scarce, they may eat dead meat of insects and animals such as moths and maggots.

By the way, hyenas have nothing to eat, and when they fall into extreme conditions, they may eat herd members and children, so-called cannibalism.

Is it true that hyenas are very powerful?

It’s true.

In particular, spotted hyenas have very strong jaws due to their well-developed neck and shoulder muscles, and can easily bite through the thick bones and muscles of animals. If they are serious, they can bite the iron rod with plenty of room.

Some molars of spotted hyenas are sharp and pointed, also called “bone crushing teeth”. They use the power of their bone crushing teeth and jaws to crush the bones of large animals like a hammer, eat them, and dissolve them with strong stomach acid to nourish them completely.

By the way, the poop of the spotted hyena, which eats even the bones of animals, is white and hard like chalk, and breast milk contains a lot of calcium.


What kind of personality does a hyena have?

If you were asked, “What kind of animal does a hyena have?” what would you say?

Hyenas are disgusting animals, such as nasty animals like the minions of the villain lion “Scar” in the Disney movie “The Lion King”, disgusting animals that steal prey from lions, and creepy animals that eat corpses! I think there are many people who have an image of that.

However, contrary to such images, hyenas are actually very comrades, and if they have friends who are weakened due to injury or illness, they will lick their bodies to clean them and share their food.

There are many carnivores that form groups, such as hyenas, but weakened individuals are most often cut off in order for the members of the herd to survive.

In order to survive in the harsh nature, you may have to make cruel choices, but even so, hyenas are rare animals that have the kindness to care for their companions.

By the way, although the spotted hyenas kept in zoos have a nervous and timid side, there are also individuals with friendly and charming personalities, such as approaching the keeper or letting them touch their bodies.


Is it true that hyenas have difficulty distinguishing between males and females?

It’s true.

The physique of spotted hyenas is usually slightly larger in females than in males.

And surprisingly, females have fake penises that look very similar to males.

In addition, since this fake penis has a urethra running through it, urine can also be released from the fake penis.

And since the fake penis has even fake testicles on the side, it is very difficult to tell the sex of the hyena from its appearance.

Since hyenas form a herd centered on females, it is said that even females have a high amount of male hormones to strengthen aggression and fighting spirit.

Therefore, hyena babies are exposed to a lot of male hormones in their mother’s womb, and even females look like males.

By the way, at the time of mating, the male will never be able to mate unless the female temporarily retracts the fake penis into the tummy and creates a vagina. Therefore, hyena mating is female-dominant.

In addition hyena babies are born through this fake penis and very narrow urethra.

Therefore, it is thought that the birth of hyenas is incomparably more painful than other animals, and it is said that the probability of stillbirth when a hyena actually gives birth for the first time is 60%. Also, one in five mother hyenas die due to childbirth wounds.

And even if the baby is born safely, the fake penis will still be left with a large and painful scar.

Despite this risk of childbirth, why do female hyenas look like males? Even at the moment the reason for this is unknown.


Is it true that hyenas are good at hunting?

It’s true.

Hyenas have a strong image of stealing prey such as lions and scavenging for carcasses, but it is known that spotted hyenas in particular are very good at hunting.

Spotted hyenas are very smart and can catch herbivores larger than their bodies by coordinating with their herd mates.

The hyena’s unique body shape, with long front legs and short hind legs, is suitable for long-distance running, and the lungs and heart are so strong that they can chase their prey for up to two hours.

In fact, it is said that more than 60% of the food of spotted hyenas is prey caught in cooperation with their friends.

Therefore, isn’t it more common for lions to steal the prey of spotted hyenas than for spotted hyenas to steal lion prey? It is considered to be.

Incidentally, in zoos, intelligent behaviors have been observed, such as unlocking the lid to eat the food in the box, female spotted hyenas behaving harsherically towards female keepers more than male keepers, and using trees like pillows.


Can hyenas be kept as pets?

When breeding rare animals at home, it is necessary to follow the established laws in some countries. This time, we will introduce whether it is possible to breed hyenas at home in Japan.

First of all, Japan laws designate hyenas as “specified animals”, all species of hyenas can pose a danger to human life and property.

Since June 1, 2020, the keeping of specific animals for pet purposes has been completely prohibited, so hyenas cannot be kept as pets in Japan country.

By the way, it seems that some people once kept Aardwolf, the smallest of the hyenas, as a pet.

But it’s not easy to keep preparing termites, the food of the Aardwolfs, every day.

In addition, keeping hyenas, which originally have a wide territory and run around in groups or pairs on vast land, in a narrow place ignores all the original ecology of hyenas.

It is not recommended to keep wild animals, not just hyenas, because they are cute or cool.


What is the lifespan of a hyena?

It is said that the lifespan of spotted hyenas is about 25 years in the wild and 25~35 years in captivity.

By the way, considering that the lifespan of the lion, which is the same carnivore, is about 10 years in the wild and about 20 years in captivity, and the lifespan of the jackal is about 7 years in the wild and about 14 years in captivity, we can see that hyenas are very long-lived animals.


What enemies do hyenas have?

Wild hyenas have almost no natural enemies, but it is said that the only natural enemy is the lion.

Since both hyenas and lions are carnivores and have a common part of their behavior in groups, they often fight over their prey, and they may die in the middle of the conflict, or kill and eat their injured partner or their children in order to survive.


But for hyenas, their biggest enemy is us humans.

At the moment, it is very unlikely that spotted hyenas and Aardwolfs will become extinct.

However, it is believed that the number of striped hyenas and brown hyenas is gradually decreasing due to habitat development and extermination.

Hyenas sometimes attack people and livestock, and their indescribable posture and call may give them a negative image such as creepy or evil and may be exterminated as vermin. Unfortunately, the spotted hyena has become extinct in some areas.




Type of hyena.

・Spotted Hyena
・Striped Hyena
・Brown Hyena


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