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Contents:
  1. No Laughing Matter: Unlovable Hyenas Are Threatened in the Wild
  2. Additional Reading
  3. Everything you know about hyenas is wrong — these animals are fierce, social and incredibly smart
  4. Hyenas are not the ‘Underdogs’ of Wild - EcoTraining

Colour is pale gray with black throat fur and stripes on the body and legs. The hair is long, with a crest running from behind the ears to the tail; the crest is erected to make the animal look larger.

Striped hyenas apparently do not scent-mark or defend territory. Litters of one to four cubs are born any time during the year after a 3-month gestation; they are weaned at 10—12 months. Striped hyenas have a diet much like that of brown hyenas: insects, fruit, and small vertebrates. In Israel striped hyenas are pests of melon and date crops. Order Carnivora branched into dog and cat lineages 50 million years ago; hyenas arose from the cat group.

Thus, although hyenas look like dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats.


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Family Hyaenidae diverged about 30 million years ago. Early hyaenids did not all have bone-crushing molars; those were probably a recent development as some hyenas exploited large carcasses left by sabre-toothed cats. Hyaenidae also includes the aardwolf , which looks like a small striped hyena.

It has a specialized diet of insects and belongs to a subfamily separate from hyenas. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback.

Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Britannica Demystified. It sounds like a human giggle or even maniacal laughter, but are hyenas really laughing? Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. In hyenas, the clitoris is large and often mistaken for a penis, and female scrotal pouches, lacking gonads, are present.


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  • Hyenas are not the ‘Underdogs’ of Wild.

So much do the male and female external genitalia resemble each other that…. There are three aquatic families: Otariidae sea lions and fur seals , Phocidae true, or earless, seals , and Odobenidae the walrus. These aquatic families are referred to as pinniped…. The shy, mainly nocturnal aardwolf lives on the arid plains of Africa.

No Laughing Matter: Unlovable Hyenas Are Threatened in the Wild

There are two geographically separate populations, one centred in South Africa and the other in East Africa. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. More About. Striped hyenas are not highly territorial, as they frequently move from den to den. However, anal gland marks and latrines have been uncovered close to eating sites and well-worn pathways, signs which usually imply the boundary of a territory.

Spotted hyenas are usually seen alone or in pairs in areas of concentrated prey. They may form temporary or permanent groups to share, patrol and defend a hunting territory against other clans. Spotted hyenas are not individually territorial; they make and break bonds with other hyenas very easily. Once a group has been formed, however, they may exhibit territorial behavior. A hyena showcases its submissiveness in a social meeting by presenting its anal gland. The hyenas begin by sniffing noses and then proceed to sniff genitals.

The Man Who Tickles and Plays with Hyenas

Youth demonstrate submission to adults, and adults display submission to one another in turn. Whoever is defeated in a match shows submission by presentation of the anal gland.

Additional Reading

They are also adept hunters, generally preying upon sick, weakened animals which make an easier kill. Their immensely strong jaws can crush and chew up bone, which can be digested with the aid of extremely acidic stomach secretions. Hyena droppings are white and crusty, mainly due to the high concentration of powdered bone. Spotted hyenas show a primitive form of cooperative hunting which is generally more successful and better able to resist the consequences of a counter-attack by another wild beast. They race down their prey, similar to wolves, instead of stalking it or preparing ambushes like lions.

Yet, like the majority of carnivores, they are adaptable and can change their hunting approaches to prey-specific situations. Striped hyenas are more omnivorous than spotted hyenas, and often consume insects, birds, reptiles and fruit as staples of their diet. However, they also scavenge larger mammals, including wildebeests, zebras , impalas and gazelle. The striped hyena hunts primarily at night, journeying solo around its territory in search of food. The striped hyena will hastily answer to the scent of carcasses in the wind.

Everything you know about hyenas is wrong — these animals are fierce, social and incredibly smart

It also frequently visits fruit trees, garbage dumps and the big kill sites for scavenging food. Striped hyenas will drink water each night if it is accessible, but they can survive without water for long stretches in arid areas. The striped hyena will behave submissively towards the larger spotted hyena, and will allow it to steal its food. They generally try to stay a safe distance away—typically about feet—from bigger carnivores such as lions.

When in groups, however, they are able, to chase off cheetahs and leopards from food sources.

Hyenas are not the ‘Underdogs’ of Wild - EcoTraining

Young are born in dens shared by several females. After a gestation period of three to four months, one to three usually two cubs are born. A striped hyena female forms a temporary bond with the male with which it has most recently mated. Gestation is three months, and as many as six normally two to four cubs are born in a den. Both parents will bring food to the cubs. Photo Credit: Ona Basimane.