Discover The Spotted Hyena

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a look at striped hyenas, brown hyenas, and aardwolves. We’re going to finish the series today with some fascinating facts about spotted hyenas.

Spotted HyenaSpotted hyenas, or laughing hyenas, can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. They typically prefer to live in open grasslands but can also survive in swamps and mountainous forests. It wasn’t always the case that spotted hyenas were confined to Africa, however. Up until about 8,000 years ago, there is fossil evidence that these hyenas could also be found in Asia, Europe, and North America.

These hyenas don’t only scavenge, although eating large prey killed by other predators (mostly lions) does comprise a portion of their diet. When hunting alone, spotted hyenas go after smaller prey, such as small mammals and birds. In large groups, though, they are able to take down even large animals, like gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, and rhinos.


Spotted hyena clans are large, sometimes reaching 100 individuals. Their societies are matriarchal. In terms of their social hierarchy, the lowest-ranking female is still given preference over the highest-ranking male. Females stay with the clan they were born into, while males usually leave to join another clan by the time they turn three.

Baby Spotted HyenaA litter of spotted hyena cubs usually has two cubs. They are born being able to see and have their teeth. Sometimes the competition between the siblings is so fierce that only one survives. For the first few weeks or one month of their lives, the cubs’ mother keeps them in a private, separate den. Afterward, they are moved into the “kindergarten” den. All the cubs in the clan live in this den together and learn how to hunt, fight, and eat. Each cub is only nursed by their own mother, however.



Adult Spotted HyenaJust like the other hyenas we’ve talked about, spotted hyenas have their own misconceptions. While spotted hyenas are often depicted as unintelligent, sly, or evil, the truth is that their intelligence is on par with primates and they have brilliant organization and hunting skills. Hyenas do not hunt humans but are often the victims of hunters. In addition to deliberate human killings, spotted hyena populations could be in danger in the future due to deforestation and drought. As of right now, they are at the Least Concern for extinction.


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