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Hyena Facts

Spotted hyena with prey in Serengeti, Tanzania. If undisturbed, sported hyenas will gorge themselves, eating up to a third of their weight in meat at a time. That's between 30 to 40 pounds!

Spotted hyena with prey in Serengeti, Tanzania. If undisturbed, sported hyenas will gorge themselves, eating up to a third of their weight in meat at a time. That's between 30 to 40 pounds! (View larger version)

Photograph by iStockPhoto

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  • Spotted hyenas are the most abundant large carnivore in Africa.

  • Although hyenas appear similar to dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats.

  • The hyena’s loud, cackling 'giggle' vocalization inspired the phrase “laughing like a hyena."

  • The hyena's famous 'laugh' can be heard up to 3 miles (5km) away. When hyenas interact with lions over a kill, or with other hyenas in a clan war, they will often whoop more quickly in an attempt to call in reinforcements to assist in the battle.

  • Unlike the big cats, hyena cubs are born with their eyes open and have fully-functional canine teeth.”

  • Spotted hyenas are the only wild mammal whose infants seem genetically programmed to attack and often kill their siblings.

  • With a protein content of 15% and a fat content of 14%, hyena milk is packed full energy and allows cubs to last a week between feeds if necessary.

  • Spotted hyenas live together in large groups called clans that may include up 80 individuals and are led by a matriarch. Females are dominant over males, and even the lowest ranking female is dominant to the highest ranking male.

  • Being the dominant sex, the females are more aggressive and larger than the males. They weigh up to 190 pounds (85 kg), around 55 pounds (25 kg) heavier than the males.

  • The reproductive organs of female hyenas share a striking resemblance to those of the male hyena.

  • The spotted hyena is still widely regarded as a scavenger that picks up leftovers at the kills of other carnivores (cheetah, leopard, lion) or feeds on carrion. Although spotted hyenas will scavenge opportunistically, they kill as much as 95% of the food they eat.

  • Hyenas can be very opportunistic and has been recorded eating almost any mammal, bird, fish or reptile, irrespective of size or species.

  • If undisturbed, sported hyenas will gorge themselves, eating up to a third of their weight in meat at a time. That’s between 30 to 40 pounds (14 – 18 kg).

  • The average lifespan of a hyena in the wild is about 25 years.
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