The Hyena, warmly known around the world as ‘The Laughing Hyena’ is one of the most famous African Animals. Physically similar to the canine species, the Hyena is actually more closely related to felines, and with only four species it makes up one of the smallest biological families of any animal group. Hyenas are an interesting species, and they form an important part of every ecosystem that they’re found in.

The Hyena is not a new animal by any stretch, but has been around for more than 10 million years, originating in the jungles of Africa, it is said as long ago as 22 million years.

Hyenas are easy to identify to anyone who is even vaguely familiar with these African animals. Looking almost like a cross between a feline, canine, and a bear, hyenas can be spotted or stripped. Hyenas are small in the torso but are an overall large animal, bearing some resemblance to a wolf in their build. Hyenas of all species feature prominent ears, of a more rounded shape than either felines or canines. The spotted hyena is the largest species, as well as being the most widely dispersed in Africa. It can grow up to 6ft in length and weigh up to 80kg.

Spotted Hyena Cubs CC0 Licensed in the Public Domain Thank you to - Gallias M

Spotted Hyena Cubs CC0 Licensed in the Public Domain –  Thank you to – Gallias M

Once being found as far as Europe and parts of Asia, modern Hyenas are predominantly African Animals. The spotted hyena can be found all over sub-Saharan Africa and has populations ranging in to the tens of thousands. The most likely place to find hyenas are in sparse woodlands, savannahs, and semi-deserts. There are significantly large hyena populations in both South Africa and neighboring Namibia, but they can be found in almost every African country. Most hyenas live in the wild, but there are examples of ‘urban hyenas’ that scavenge around built up settlements.

Hyenas are carnivorous and will both hunt and scavenge. Almost 75% of a hyena’s diet comes from their own prey. A hyena will eat almost anything, including other mammals like zebra and antelope, as well as carrion, fecal remains, and some vegetable matter. Hyenas will sometimes scavenge prey from other predators such as Lions, working as a pack to claim prey from a lion huntress.

Hyenas are incredibly social, and always live and hunt in packs. Breeding for hyenas can be difficult, due to a masculinized female genitalia. Mating is usually exclusive to immigrant male hyenas, but this is completely at the discretion of the females within a pack, who are the dominant leaders of the group. Similar to canine mating, there is a swelling of the male genitalia which locks couples together while mating to increase the chances of fertilization.

Out of the four hyena species, only two are currently classified as threatened. These two species are the striped and brown hyena. The Spotted hyena that is commonly featured in wildlife parks and found living all over Africa is of least concern.

The biggest threat to hyenas today is the destruction of their habitat as human settlements spread.

More information on the Hyena as well as some history can be found at Wikipedia’s Hyena article.