The Spotted Hyena…no laughing matter!

Without impalas and hyenas, the lion cannot be the king of the jungle. (African Proverb)

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Three iconic sounds that are the epitome of Africa…The roar of a Lion, the cry of a Fish Eagle and the laughing whoop of a Hyena in the darkness. Of these 3, it is probably the Hyena that is shrouded in mystery and often associated with witchcraft.


But nothing could be further from the truth! Hyena, as a species, has been around for 24 million years, while humans, on the other hand, come in at a paltry 220000 years. Much like the Rock Hyrax being the closest relative to the elephant, the Meerkat and Mongoose are the closest relatives to this animal…who would have guessed THAT.

Did you know? The heart of a hyena is twice as large as that of similar-sized animals and they can eat up to 1/3 of their own body weight in one meal. If you think you can outrun them, think again. Their lope might look awkward and slow, but they can reach speeds of up to 60 kph.


When in the bush, in the dark of the night, the “laugh” of the hyena echoing around can be both scary and exciting at the same time. They utilize this form of communication to express either excitement (during a hunt) or frustration if things are not going as they planned.


While other predator species will leave bones, skin and hooves behind, the Spotted Hyena, have strong stomach acids that can digest all of those. They do enjoy chewing on bones and they will drag those a distance from the site of a kill and continue gnawing on them until there is nothing left of any nutritional value.


Hyenas enjoy spending time in the water, cooling off on a hot day or just to relax in while enjoying the sights and sounds of the surrounding area.

FYI: The Spotted Hyena is often treated a being connected to witchcraft and their body parts are used as ingredients in traditional medicine. But nothing could be further from the truth. They are not associated with the dark arts…black cats traditionally are, neither are they the fearsome creature they are portrayed as. They are social, caring animals who, when seen in a family situation can be properly appreciated.


Hyenas don’t use their dens for relaxing in…those are for protection and safety. You will probably find them lazing in a pool of water, soaking their troubles away…and looking somewhat funny at the same time.


Female Spotted Hyenas have up to three times more testosterone than the males of many species. As such they are far more aggressive and the clans that they control are matriarchal.

Did you know? The alpha female is called a Queen and the second in line would be called a Princess. In the case where these clans come into direct competition with lion prides, the latter will often kill both the Queen and the Princess to cause the clan to disband or leave an area that is under dispute.


Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed are the names of the trio of Hyenas that are the followers of Scar in the 1994 version of The Lion King.

Spoiler alert…the Hyenas betray and kill Scar after he is thrown off Pride Rock by Simba.

Baby Spotted Hyena are called cubs and will live together with the adults in a den site that can vary in size and number of animals. Without outside interference, these sites will be used on an ongoing basis by many litters of hyenas and their offspring.


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