It’s no secret that the hyena has a pretty bad reputation. What’s more, there is a lot of confusion surrounding whether they are of the dog or cat family. So we are here to iron out some of these tales!

The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is the largest of the three hyena species, and the only species that is found in The South Luangwa National Park. These spotted brown mammals are infmaous for being scavengers and dining on leftovers of kills that leopards, lions and wild dogs have made. Although, this may be true for the most part, these robust omnivores are in fact, accomplished hunters.

The Spotted Hyena

The spotted hyena may appear more dog-like. However, they are actually more closely related to cats. Therefore, their offspring is often mistakenly named pups, but actually they are cubs. Similarly, these hardy animals live large groups named clans that can reach up to 80 members, led by the females.

Clan quick facts:

  • A low-ranking females cubs rank higher than the highest-ranking adult male.
  • Females give birth in isolated dens before moving their offspring communal dens.
  • Mother only nurse their own cubs.
  • Males do not stay in their birth clan, once matured at around three, they leave their birth clan.

The Spotted Hyena

So, lets discuss hyenas hunting. These wooping creatures compete with lions for the same food in overlapping territories. It is common for both species to steal a kill off one another. Often a hyena has done the work of conducting the start of a hunt, for a pride of lions to come in and complete the job or steal the kill. Thus, as we all know, the hyena will often stay close to a kill and ambush when the time is appropriate. What’s more, a large clan of hyenas has potential to chase lions away from a kill.

Hunting quick facts:

  • Hyenas can chase down prey for long distances and can reach speeds of 60km/h
  • They often hunt rabbits, birds and sometimes fish.
  • The hyena eats every part of the animal including hooves, bones, teeth and skin.
  • They have powerful jaws making eating bones easy.

The Spotted Hyena

Despite their bad reputation, here at Shenton Safaris, we find the spotted hyena not only extremely skilled, but also very loveable. Their wailing calls, high pitched screams and well-known laughter can be heard from 5km away. Interestingly, we love the fact that the female spotted hyena is among natures most devoted mother.

The Spotted Hyena

By Anna Mansfield
Post courtesy of Shenton Safaris

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