The Life of a Hyena

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The Life of a Hyena

Obscure Fact: Females have three times more Testosterone than Males.


Photo byBrendan Greenway onUnsplash


Hyenas are very unusual animals in their structure which is fairly massive and wolf-like in build. With short, thick necks and with long forelegs, a short torso with short hindquarters, they have an unusual slope.  Each leg with four digits and they have non-retractable claws. Hyenas have a hunchback look. 


Their coats are tan or brown with stripes or spots with sparse poorly developed or absent underfur. The skulls resemble canids but are larger and heavier with shorter proportions. There is a mane of long hair running from the head.


There is limited mobility in their vertebrae. They have one more pair of ribs than canids. The males are larger except for the Spotted Hyena where the female is much larger, dominates the male and has external genitalia which closely resembles the male. Female hyenas have three times as much testosterone as males. 


The Hyenas teeth are similar to canids but more specialized for consuming coarse food and crushing bones. The teeth have broad bases and cutting edges. They are said to kill a dog with a single bite to the neck without breaking the skin. 

Hyenas eat virtually the entire animal, bones and all, leaving nothing on the carcass. 


They lack perineal scent glands, with a pouch located at the anal opening which makes a strong secretion smelling of boiling cheap soap which is used for territorial marking. 


There are four species with different habitat preferences. In fact, the hyena species are the opposite in many of their attributes. 


Aardwolves live in dry, open bushland and plains and areas where termites are plentiful, making them insectivores. Spotted hyenas live in mountainous areas, woodlands, savannas, and semi-deserts.  Brown hyenas live in deserts, semi-deserts, savannas, and will scavenge in urban areas. Striped hyenas live in mountain regions, and scrub woodlands. 


Hyenas groom themselves like cats, with the exception of their faces. They are more intelligent than chimpanzees and most will play dead when attacked. The spotted hyena is the exception and will defend itself ferociously.


The spotted hyena is very vocal producing whoops, grunts, growls, laughs while the striped hyena is relatively silent. The spotted hyena is an active pack hunter of medium to large-sized ungulates. They are known to drive off large predators such as lions from their kills. 


Mating is a single drawn-out copulation. Spotted hyena cubs are born almost fully developed, with their eyes open, teeth erupting, but lacking adult marking.   In contrast, the striped hyena cubs are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. The female will move to an isolated den when she is ready to give birth. Gestation differs between species.



Photo byjean wimmerlin onUnsplash


As the cubs become older, they will move into a communal den where the most dominant cubs eat the most and will be more likely to survive. Male spotted hyenas play no part in raising their cubs. They are pushed out of the group when reaching adulthood. They will have to find a place in another matriarchal group where they must fight for hierarchy. 


The striped hyena is a scavenger and will supplement its diet with fruit. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal. They will rarely attack humans but have been known to attack the sick or young when outside at night.  They are generally timid of humans


They can’t be domesticated and are not a good pet. Hyenas excel at problem-solving as a team and can remain silent giving non-verbal cues to one another. 



Shirley Langton 2021


Submitted: January 12, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Shirley M. Langton. All rights reserved.

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