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Spotted Hyena

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Spotted Hyena Range Map (Africa)
Spotted Hyena Range Map (Africa)

Spotted Hyena
Latin Name Crocuta crocuta
Conservation Status Conservation Dependent
Location Africa
Colour Sandy to Grey/Brown with Black Spots
Length 1.3 m (4.25 ft)
Tail 25 cms (10 inches)
Weight 62 - 70 Kgs (135 - 155 lbs)
Life Expectancy

12 Yrs (wild)
Up to 25 Yrs (in Captivity)

Main Characteristics

Spotted Hyenas are the largest species of hyena, with females being up to 10% larger than males. They have a body length of 1.3 m (4.25 ft), a tail length of 25 cms (10 inches) and they weigh between 62 and 70 kgs (135 - 155 lbs).

Their coat is short and it is sandy to grey/brown in colour with black spots. The hair on their neck and back slopes forward and it stands on end when the hyena becomes excited.

Spotted Hyenas are strongly built animals and they have a large head and neck. Their ears are short and rounded and they have extremely strong jaws. Their front legs are longer than their hind which gives their back a sloping appearance. Their feet have four toes with broad toe pads and non-retractable claws.

Females are difficult to distinguish from males due to them having enlarged sexual organs. They are often displayed in meeting ceremonies to reinforce social bonds and hierarchies.

Spotted Hyenas are strong swimmers and they can travel at speeds of 50 km/hr (30 mph) for 3 kms (1.9 miles).

They are very vocal animals with over 11 different calls recorded and they emit sounds that are too quiet for the human ear to detect. Their calls include whoops to rally the group or locate cubs, soft squeals when greeting another member of the group, and the famous hyena "laugh" which is a raucous cackle that is emitted in fear or to show submission to a senior clan member.


Spotted Hyenas are found on the prey rich savannahs of Africa. Their social structure is female dominated and they live in clans containing 5 - 80 members. When young males reach adulthood they usually leave their maternal clan but young females stay with the clan they were born into.

They share a communal den and latrine and they occupy a territory of 40 - 1,000 sq. kms (15 - 390 sq. miles). They defend their territory using calls, scent marking and boundary patrols.


Spotted Hyenas feed on a variety of prey and they are powerful hunters. If they are hunting alone they will prey upon smaller animals such as birds, hares, foxes, jackals, fish, snakes and carrion.

Usually they will split into hunting groups containing 2 - 5 individuals and together they will hunt medium to large hoofed animals such as zebra, wildebeest, thompson's gazelle, grant's gazelle, topi, waterbuck, eland, impala and hartebeest.

Spotted Hyenas and lions prey upon the same animals and they occasionally end up in confrontations that can lead to the group of hyenas killing a lion.

To supplement their diet, Spotted Hyenas will also eat fruit, eggs and invertebrates.

Spotted Hyenas consume 3 - 6 kgs (6.6 - 13.2 lbs) of meat per day and using their powerful jaws they are able to crush bone and feed on the marrow inside. Their stomach contains concentrated hydrochloric acid which enables them to digest the bones they consume.


After a gestation period of approximately 4 months 1 - 3 cubs (average 2) are born in a birthing den. At birth the cubs weigh between 1 and 1.6 kgs (2.2 - 3.5 lbs), they are black in colour, their eyes are open and their teeth are fully developed.

If the cubs are of the same sex, soon after birth they begin violent fighting which often results in the death of one of them. They are one of the few mammals to commit neonatal siblicide and it is estimated to contribute to 25% of hyena cub mortality.

Spotted Hyena milk is extremely rich having a protein content of 14.9% and a fat content of 14.1%, so unlike lions and wild dogs, Spotted Hyena cubs can go for several days between feeds.

Females have sole responsibility for rearing the cubs and when they are 2 - 6 weeks old their mother will move them to a communal den. The young hyenas are dependent entirely on milk for approximately 8 months and they are weaned when they reach 12 - 16 months old.

Spotted Hyenas reach sexual maturity at 2 - 3 years of age. Young males leave their natal clan at around 2 years of age where as females remain. The breeding interval for adult females is between 11 and 21 months.


Predators of Spotted Hyenas include humans and lions.


There are no subspecies of Spotted Hyena.

Interesting Facts

Spotted Hyenas are also known as:
Laughing Hyena

Spotted Hyenas are often labeled incorrectly as scavengers, but they are actually powerful hunters.

Spotted Hyenas belong to the Hyaenidae family.

Similar Animals

Brown Hyena
Striped Hyena


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