Spotted Hyena Facts

Latin Name: Crocuta crocuta

Weight: Males 50 – 60 kg, females 60 – 70kg.

Both males and females live 20 to 25 years in the wild. In captivity the spotted hyena can live as long as 40 years.

Sexual differentiation:
At one stage the spotted hyena was actually classified as a hermaphrodite (to have both male and female genitals).

The females have higher levels of testosterone than the males do, resulting in them being larger. They are also more aggressive. At a glance one could easily mistake a female for a male, as the genitals of both the sexes are very similar in appearance. The female has an enlarged clitoris, which she can erect at will, she also has a fake scrotum that looks similar to that of the male’s scrotum.

Social grouping:
Within a group of hyenas there are predominately more females than males. The males have a loose association with the group, often roaming alone or with other males.

Group sizes vary considerably from area to area. Large clans of spotted hyena may have as many as 70 – 80 related individuals. The females being larger than the males, dominate with a definite hierarchy between the females.
The alpha female (matriarch) is normally the oldest and most experienced member of the clan, her young are of a high ranking at birth and often take over the leadership of the clan, if old enough and should the matriarch die.

Females looking to mate, seek males from neighbouring clans to mate with, thus reducing the chances of any inbreeding.
After a gestation of about 120 days the female gives birth to 1 or 2 cubs which are hidden in old abandoned aardvark (antbear) burrows. The cubs, if of the same sex will often try to kill each other, otherwise known as siblicide. This allows only the stronger and more dominant cubs to survive. Single cubs also get more food and thus develop a lot faster. The cubs are totally black in colour, gradually getting lighter and developing spots as they mature.
The cubs may suckle for more than a year but are normally weaned by 4 months.
They reach sexual maturity by 3 years of age.

Diet and Feeding:
Although hyenas scavenge off other predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dogs, they are in actual fact superb hunters.
Instead of speed, spotted hyenas rely more on stamina and as a group they take turns in running after their prey over long distances, until the point when the animal exhausts itself and can’t run fast anymore.
The hyena then grabs hold of the prey with its powerful jaws, often tearing chunks of flesh off, resulting in the animal dying from loss of blood and shock.

Bones are no problem for the hyenas jaws to chew though and make a meal there of.

Habits and Territoriality:
The sizes of spotted hyena territories vary considerably, from as little as 30 square kilometres to 800 + square kilometres. Factors that influence the territory size are the availability of food and water as well as pressure from neighbouring rival clans.

Territory boundaries are marked by scent glands from the hyena’s anal region. When scent-marking the spotted hyena bends its hind legs slightly while walking and then smears a thick paste-like substance onto the grass and sticks.

Encounters between rival clans often start with an increase in scent-marking and vocalisations such as whooping. Vocalising acts as a warning signal to the rivals to move out of the area as well as attracting the attention of the other resident clan members to make them aware of the intruding hyenas.

If the all warnings are ignored, a battle between the two clans may begin, often resulting in serious injuries or even deaths.

Quick Facts:
-Statistically, Spotted Hyenas are responsible for EATING (NOT KILLING) more people than any other predator in Africa every year.
-Their jaws are capable of exerting pressures of up to 800 kg/square inch!
-Another name for the spotted hyena is the “laughing hyena”.


Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Great photo of the Hyena. They are incredible hunters. I was brought up to believe all the hyena's did was scavenge -how wrong my teachers were. And as always - a great blog.

Job Giant - Recruitment Agency said...

One of my favourite animals. I was in Kruger recently and manged to get some wonderful pics of a baby hyena. It lay on the edge of the road and posed for us for ages. We had seen the mother moments before, presumably searching for food. It almost seemed as though the young hyena had been told to wait for the mothers return.