Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

Scientific Classification

Common Name
spotted hyena, laughing hyena
Genus Species
Crocuta crocuta (from crocus, the color of saffron, and utus which means provided with)

Fast Facts

Coat is rough and short, color is reddish brown to tan, becoming lighter and less spotted with age, tail pompom and nose are black
Male: 79 to 86 cm (32 to 34 in.)
Female: 84 to 89 cm (34 to 35 in.)
Male: 56 to 63 kg (123 to 138 lbs.)
Female:  67 to 75 kg (147 to 165 lbs.)
Carnivorous: preys on wildebeest, zebra, Thomson's gazelle, Grant's gazelle, topi, buffalo
110 days or 4 months, average 2 young per litter but anywhere from 1 to 4, non-seasonal mating
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3 years
Female: Females mature later than males
Life Span
Average 12 years; maximum 20 to 25 years
South of Sahara, except through areas with extreme desert conditions
Found in a wide variety of habitats including grasslands, woodlands, sub-deserts, and mountains up to 4,000 meters.
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed; most abundant of hyenas

Fun Facts

  1. Hyenas live in territorial social groups called clans. Clans are dominated by females and can reach up to 70 members.
  2. The spotted hyena is the largest species of hyena. The other species are the brown hyena and the striped hyena.
  3. Female hyenas possess similar looking reproductive organs to males therefore accurate sexing can be difficult.
  4. The hyena is more closely related to the mongoose and cat than the dog.
  5. The hyena is primarily a hunter, not a scavenger. They usually hunt alone however clans will hunt together in order to catch larger prey. They are also good opportunistic hunters.

Ecology and Conservation

Hyenas, like several other African carnivores, are important for the health of hoofed animal populations by weeding out the weak and sick as prey items. Their predation helps to keep the balance between these herds and their food resources. Hyenas are particularly efficient predators since they are capable of digesting bones, horns and even the teeth of their prey. Hyenas are also important to the study of the evolution of carnivores.


Berger, Diana M.P., D.V.M., M.S., Frank, Lawrence G., Ph.D., Glickman, Stephan E., Ph.D..Unraveling Ancient Mysteries: Biology and Captive Management of the Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta.

Frank, L.G., Glickman, S.E., Powch, Irene. Sexual Dimorphism In the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta).

Estes, Richard D. The Safari Companion. Post Mills: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1993.

Kruuk, Hans. The Spotted Hyena, A Study of Predation and Social Behavior. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972.

Parker, Sybil P. Grzimek's Encyclopedia Mammals. Vol. III. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Stevens, Jan E., Secrets of the Spotted Hyena. San Francisco Examiner Image. Aug. 8, 1993.