Spotted hyenas, the most common type of hyena, live in the grasslands, forests, mountains and deserts of sub-Saharan Africa. Brown hyenas inhabit the grasslands and deserts of southern Africa while striped hyenas live in the scrub forests and grasslands of northern and eastern Africa and parts of Asia. Hyenas feed on wildebeests, zebras and other mammals, as well as eggs, birds and carrion. They live to be up to 25 years old in the wild.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Carnivora
Suborder - Feliformia
Family - Hyaenidae
Genera - Crocuta, Hyaena
Species - There are a few species of hyenas. These include Hyaena hyaena (Striped Hyena), Hyaena brunnea (Brown Hyena) and Crocuta crocuta (Spotted Hyena)
Hyenas are related to cats, although they are often described as dog-like in appearance. Spotted hyenas have coarse yellowish coats covered in dark brown or black spots. Their large heads have rounded ears and powerful jaws. Adult spotted hyenas weigh between 110 and 190 pounds and measure between 44 to 73 inches from head to tail. Brown hyenas and striped hyenas are smaller than spotted hyenas. Brown hyenas have shaggy dark brown coats whereas striped hyenas have gold or grayish coats with black stripes and shaggy manes along their heads and backs.
Hyenas do not have a specific breeding season. Female spotted hyenas give birth to one to four offspring after a gestation period of roughly 110 days. While multiple females and their young often share dens, the females do not help care for each other’s offspring. Young hyenas are not weaned until they are between 12 and 16 months old. Males leave the clan while females remain in the same clan throughout their lives.
Hyenas have a matriarchal society and live in clans that range in size from three to 80 members. All male hyenas in the clan are subordinate to females. Hyena clans generally gather to defend their territory at communal dens and at the sites of kills. Although hyenas are typically thought of as scavengers, most of their food comes from prey that they hunt.
Spotted hyenas were once widespread in Africa, as well as in parts of Europe and Asia. They are now only found in certain areas of Africa. Brown and striped hyenas also have much smaller ranges compared to their historic ranges.
Spotted hyenas are listed as "least concern." Their numbers are abundant, although their population is decreasing overall, mainly due to trapping and hunting by humans. Brown and striped hyenas are both listed as near threatened.