Hyenas belong to the order carnivora and family hyaenidae. Although it has its own identity and traits, the animal resembles both cats as well as dogs. It is closely related to cats, dogs, bears and seals which belong to the same order. However, within the hyaenidae family, there are three different species – stripped hyena, brown hyena and spotted hyena.
Generally, hyena is a mid-sized, four legged animal. However, the traits differ depending upon the specific species. Read on to come across more information about various types of the organism including interesting facts about hyenas.
Scientifically known as Hyaena hyaena, the striped hyena is the shyest of all the species. Therefore, it is seen very rarely out in the open. Humans can hardly ever spot a striped hyena. It is mostly found in the Northern and Eastern parts of Africa, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. Adult striped hyenas measure up to 80 centimeters at the shoulder with a weight of 35 to 40 kilograms.
Following are some informative facts about this species.
- As its name implies, there are around five to six vertically positioned wide and dark colored stripes located at the flanks on the body of the animal.
- Its distinguishing traits include a grey or pale brown body color, a mane at the neck as well as the shoulders and a bushy tail which is 8 inches in length.
- The animal’s front legs are longer than its hind legs. This creates a rather slopping appearance.
- It is the smallest among different types of hyenas.
- It is often featured in the folklore of Asia and the Middle East.
- The stripped hyena is famous for its outstanding hearing, sense of smell as well as vision.
- The shy animal does not usually produce any sound unless it is faced by a situation of excitement or a dangerous threat.
- It is a carnivore and mostly feeds on carrions, rodents, lizards and birds.
- Lions and tigers are its main predators.
- Its life expectancy is ten to twelve years in the wild.
The Brown hyena is scientifically known as Parahyaena brunnea. It is identified by its dark brown shaggy coat, an 8.5 inches long tail as well as banding found on the legs. It is also a shy animal which can rarely be seen out in the open. It prefers dry and hot habitats and is found in the grasslands, semi-desserts and savannahs of southern Africa.
More informative facts about this species are discussed below.
- A fully grown up brown hyena measures up to 1.3 meters.
- It weighs around 37 to 47 kilograms.
- Brown hyenas are nocturnal and, therefore, carry out their activities at night.
- It is a social animal and lives in clans. A clan of brown hyenas consists of four to fifteen members including both males as well as females.
- Its diet includes small mammals, insects, birds and fish. In addition, it also feeds on fruits and vegetables to supplement its diet.
- It is known for taking down animals much bigger than itself when it hunts with its clan. These include zebras and antelopes.
- The main predators of a brown hyena are lions and humans.
- The animal marks its territory through an anal secretion.
- A brown hyena can live up to 12 years in the wild.
Known in the scientific world as Crocuta crocuta, the spotted hyena is the least shy of all the species. Therefore, it is the most commonly encountered type of hyenas in the wild. It is identified by a reddish brown coat with black spots all over it – hence the name “spotted hyena”. It is mostly found in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. More facts about hyenas belonging to this specific species are discussed below.
- Spotted hyenas are also known as laughing hyenas due to the pitch and frequency of the sounds they produce which resemble human laughter.
- It is the largest among the three species of hyenas. A fully grown spotted hyena can be between 28 to 35 inches tall. Its weight may vary between 90 and 190 pounds.
- The female spotted hyena is around three pounds heavier than the male. It is also dominant over the latter.
- It is an intelligent animal which has been known to raid store in clans. It is also regarded as a pest for crops as well as livestock.
- Packs of spotted hyenas are skillful as hunters. The animal feeds on animals of various sizes and is also known as a scavenger.
- The Massai people living in Kenya and Tanzania have been known to leave their dead to these scavengers.
- The feces of the animal consists of high mineral content, making it appear visibly chalky white. It is used by the organism to mark its territory.
- Lions, hunting dogs and humans are the main predators of spotted hyenas.
- It is the most commonly found large carnivore in the African continent.
- It is known to live up to 25 years in captivity in the absence of predators and availability of sufficient food.
Here are some general facts about hyenas of all three species.
- The animal’s intelligence is comparable to primates. A study carried out at the Duke University, United States showed that hyenas bypassed chimpanzees in intelligent problem solving.
- Hyenas are often in a fierce competition with lions for territory and prey. Hyenas are known to kill lion cubs and steal their food.
- They use sounds as well as postures as a means of communication with one another.
- The cubs of hyenas fight with each other for dominance. These fights often end up in killing of the cubs.
- The babies feed on the mother’s milk for twelve to eighteen months. However, they can start feeding on meat as soon as they reach the age of only five months.
- Lots of myths are related to hyenas. For instance, it is believed that striped hyenas were tamed by the ancient Egyptians. Likewise, it is believed that spotted hyenas are hermaphrodites. No such myth has a basis on facts.
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