We’ve probably all heard the term “laughing hyena” at least once in our life but as you’ll discover later on in this node you’ll see that hyenas are no laughing matter. In fact, when it comes to predators, hyenas are some of the meanest motherfuckers that are seen in nature.

Hyena Basics

Hyenas come in four varieties. They are listed below in no particular order of preference.

  • Spotted Hyena
  • Striped Hyena
  • Brown Hyena
  • Aardwolf

    For the purposes of this write up we’re gonna concentrate mainly on the first three since they currently don’t have a home here on E2 while the Aardwolf already does. Besides, the Aardwolf’s diet consist mainly of termites and there’s not too much you can say about that.

    Hyena Relatives

    If you clicked on the links for the images of hyenas you’re probably thinking to yourself that they bear a slight resemblance to dogs. That’s why images can be deceiving. In fact, hyenas are their own species and are more like a distant cousin to cats. However, the closest relatives they have in the animal kingdom come from the Herpestidae family which includes such favorites as the meerkat and the mongoose.

    Hyena Myths Dispelled

    Myth One - Contrary to what you might have heard, you cannot crossbreed a hyena with a dog or a cat.

    Myth Two - Hyenas cannot change their sex. For more on why people thought that they could in the first place, skip to Hyena Sex.

    Myth Three - Hyenas do not “laugh” as we know it. As a matter of fact, the sound they make that resembles a laugh is driven more from panic when they are being threatened or attacked by another animal or another hyena.

    Hyena Diet

    The image I have of hyenas is that they are mainly scavengers and would rather steal some other animals fresh kill than be bothered to go out hunting on their own. While it’s true that they will sometimes plunder a kill from a lioness or a cheetah in fact the opposite is true. Since they share similar appetites lions and other similar predators are more likely to snatch a hyena kill. Also, since hyenas can run up to thirty miles per hour and have the stamina, patience and pack mentality they can usually run down any sick or injured zebras, and wildebeest.

    With all that competition for fresh meat it should come as no surprise that hyenas and lions don’t share a close relationship. They’re more like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s and would rather see the other dead than to make any kind of peace. The only difference is that a hyena will eat a dead lion while a lion will not eat a dead hyena. In fact, hyenas have no natural predators out there in the wild..

    Otherwise, hyenas will eat just about anything they can find. If conditions are bad enough they’ve been known to consume the bones of other animals as well as certain vegetation. If conditions are really bad, they’ve been observed eating the droppings of other animals.

    Hyena Sex

    First of all it’s really hard to tell the difference between a male and a female hyena. Unlike other members of the animal kingdom they don’t vary in size too much. Usually the female is a bit larger than the male. But what makes them even more unique is that when you check under the hood the female hyena’s genitalia closely resembles that of the male.

    Say what?

    It’s true, the clitoris on the female hyena is huge and resembles the male hyena penis. The female can even make her clitoris stand erect anytime she wants. The same goes for the male and his penis. To top it off, there’s some other bit of tissue on the female’s business end that looks like a sack of balls!

    Hyenas do not mate for life. Each mating season is different and it’s usually up to the female to decide which partner she’ll take.

    Hyena Family Life

    Most hyenas travel in packs and are led by a dominant female. Hyena packs have been known to reach about seventy members and each of them has a place within the hierarchy. Fights seldom break out within adult members of the same pack. However, if one pack is intruding on another packs territory a sort of hyena war will break out. While these wars seldom result in death they will continue until one pack retreats and cedes the territory to the other.

    Hyena cubs are another story. Since they come out of the womb with a fully functioning set of eyes and teeth the fighting begins from day one and can last until they are no longer cubs. Estimates are that in about twenty five percent of the litters, one often kills the other in competition for food and attention. Try as she might, the mama hyena is helpless to stop the carnage.

    When fully grown and depending on which species hyenas can range anywhere between 28 to 35 inches tall and weigh anywhere between 90 and 190 pounds. In the wild they usually last about 12 years however in captivity some have been known to make it to 25.