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Hyaenas are biologically closer to cats but behaviourally closer to dogs. In fact, they are neither.

Description: The Spotted Hyaena has a spotted coat and is the largest of the three hyaena species. The hyaena has a large head, large ears, long front legs and shorter back legs with a back that slopes down from the shoulder to the tail. It can be difficult to distinguish the females from the males. Females are also larger than the males.

Diet: Hyaenas are carnivores and eat a wide range of animals, including wildebeest, zebra, gazelles when hunting in packs and ground birds. Spotted Hyaenas will steal prey from cheetah or even lions if they are in a pack. They are also very good scavengers and their digestive system allows them to eat all parts of the animal—meat, skin and bone.

In the wild: Spotted Hyaenas live in large groups called ‘clans’ that may have up to 100 individuals. Females are dominant over males which take no part in the rearing of the young. Hyaenas often compete with lions over territory and food.

Threats: Because of reduced habitat and natural food sources, hyaenas will kill livestock, provoking conflict between farmers and hyaenas.

Did you Know?

Hyenas make a variety of vocalisations, including wailing calls, howling screams and the well-known 'laughter' used to alert other clan members up to three miles away of a food source.

African Savannah
Scientific Name
Crocuta crocuta
Conservation Status
Least Concern
Body Length
1.5–1.7 m
62–75 kg
100 days
Number of Young
Central and southern Africa
Flat, grassy plains

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