Unusual features/differences from similar
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
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
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
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.
are hunted by single hyenas, wildebeest is
taken by groups of three,
eland and adult
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
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.