Afrikaans Gevlekte HiŽna
Zulu Mpisi Shangaan Mhisi Shona Bere

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F 8 cm
H 6 cm


4-8 cm
Green when fresh but turns white 
with age due to high bone content
Deposited in middens

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The ears are rounded as opposed to the ears of the brown hyena which are pointed. Shorter body hair than the brown hyena,  Females have sexual organs almost the same shape as a male's penis.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Females are dominant and larger than males and a the back slopes less sharply upwards than a male's. Lactating females have one pair of nipples between their hind legs. The females' pseudoscrotum is less deeply lobed than the male's scrotum.

Habitat and Distribution

A wide range of habitats, excluding dense forest and desert. 


The staple diet is medium-sized and large antelope such as blue wildebeest, gemsbok, zebra and impala. Also scavenges and takes smaller mammals, mice, birds, reptiles, fruit, eggs and insects. Not only a scavenger but also an active hunter, it will kill its own food.


Litters of 1-2 are born at any time of year after a gestation of 90 days. Cubs are born with eyes open and well-developed teeth. If both cubs are females they fight savagely and one is often killed. Weaning begins at 9 months, and is complete by 12-16 months. Cubs first accompany adults on the hunt at 6-9 months. Permanent teeth are erupted by 15 months. Both sexes are sexually mature at 3 years. Males are full-grown at 30 months and females at 36 months. All the females in a clan breed. Lions kill spotted hyenas but rarely eat them.

Behavior and Habits

Active at night but also in the daytime. They are highly social and they live in a clan which is controlled by the dominant female. Separate dominance hierarchies exist among males and females. Females dominate all males. High-ranking females have first access to food and they raise more cubs than low-ranking females. High-ranking males have priority sexual access to females. Males ensure their position in the clan by months of  submissive behaviouir and groveling to females. Territories are patrolled by groups of clan members, Borders are marked by anal gland scent marks and middens containing large accumulations of white faeces. Neighbouring clans fight to defend their areas. Spotted hyenas may travel as much as 70 km in one night.

Spotted hyena hunt by chasing their prey at speeds of up to 60 km/h over distances of up to 3 km. They kill prey by viciously disemboweling the animal and biting major blood vessels. Prey is detected by sight and sound. The size of the hunting group size depends on intended prey. Springbok and springhares are hunted by single hyenas, wildebeest is taken by groups of three, eland and adult gemsbok are hunted by groups of four. Carrion can be detected by smell from as far as 4 km downwind. and the sound of other predators feeding can attract spotted hyenas from up to 10 km away. Lions' kills can not be robbed unless they are outnumbered four to one or if an adult male lion is present. Lions will steal carcasses from spotted hyenas.


The most distinctive call is a drawn out 'whooo-oop', which is a long-range contact call and assembly signal. Around carcasses, in fights and when attacking lions they hysterically scream, giggle, whoop, laugh, low, growl and snarl. Cubs whine for food and milk.

Dung and Field sign

Dung is 4-8cm long with tapered ends, dark when very fresh and white when old. Deposited in middens. Spotted hyena dens are less likely than brown hyena dens to have large accumulations of bones. Scent marks are brown smears which are white when very fresh on bunches of grass stems.


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