One of the most interesting mammals we have on earth, with unique matriarchal social aspects, bear-like appearance and ferocity, the spotted hyena lives in sub-Saharan Africa.
The largest of the four extant species of hyena, the spotted hyena is about the size of a large german shepherd dog. Adults measure 37-65 inches (95-165.8 cm) in body length, females in the Serengeti weigh more than the males, at 98-141 lbs (44.5-63.9 kg).
A matriarchal species, females are larger than males, and dominate them. The clans are also nepotistic, in that dominant female offspring outrank less-dominant female offspring. All females are in higher rank than any male.
Unlike other hyena species, spotted hyena are not scavengers. They are primarily hunters (but will scavenge if food is scarce). As a carnivore–and opportunistic–they make the most efficient use of their kill, more than any other African carnivore, able to eat and digest hide, bones, and almost all body parts.
Their strong jaws outmatch the brown bear in bone crushing ability, and have 40 per cent more bite pressure than a leopard.
When we sat around the evening campfires with the guides, more than any other animal, they talked most fearfully about the hyena.
How many nights I went to bed, on my little cot in a canvas tent, visualizing the guides’ stories about one or another human victim who had their face bitten off by a hyena.
We had the grisly opportunity to observe the spotted hyena take down each of these three prey. With a large heart, they are champions of endurance.
Clan size varies depending on where they live and territory. Behavior is sometimes more competitive than cooperative. Read more about this unique mammal here.
A very vocal and vociferous mammal, the spotted hyena has a variety of different calls. They whoop and groan, squeal and grunt, giggle, yell, and scream. Also known as laughing hyenas, they have a different sound for each communication.
Fearsome hunters, matriarchal, highly opportunistic, and successful, this is a mammal that has intrigued humans for centuries.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander
Range map from Wikipedia
I am taking a summer break, my friends, will be back in two weeks.