• IUCN Status
    least concern
  • Population
    27,000 - 47,000
  • Diet
  • Group
  • Size
    up to 2 metres
  • Continent
  • Lifespan
    Around 25 years
  • Weight
    50-86 kg
  • Habitat
    Sub- Saharan Africa found in Grassland & Savanna.
  • Scientific Name
    Crocuta crocuta

Meet the Spotted Hyena


The spotted hyena, also known as the "laughing  hyena" is the largest and most common of the four different species of hyena in the world. Their interesting appearance consists of a large head and powerful jaw which is on a thick muscular neck. The  coat is a deep sandy yellow–grey colour with a dark spotted pattern and a mane of hair which stands upright on its back.

The hyenas ‘laugh’ is one of 12 different vocalisations. They do this to convey excitement, frustration or fear and this can be heard 5 km away.

Although hyenas are doglike, they are not dogs and are in fact more closely related to civets and mongooses. Hyenas have the extraordinary ability to eat and digest bone, horns, hooves and even teeth. Amazingly the digestion cycle for all of this is just 24 hours. They are also the only carnivore capable of eating hide. Hyenas therefore, are able to utilise prey resource more completely and efficiently than other carnivores giving them a distinct advantage against other African wildlife.



Wicked & Snicked at Wolds Wildlife Park

Did you know?

Here are just some of the things to know about Spotted Hyenas

Who is the leader of a hyena cackle?up arrow

The females are the dominant and more aggressive of this species. They are the first to eat, alongside their cubs. They also decide if a male cub may be accepted into a cackle after it has been kicked out of its original birth cackle.

A hyena cackle can consist of approximately 30 members and have very complex hierarchies.  Cackles of up to 80 individual members have been recorded.

How many different species of hyena are there in the world?down arrow

There are four hyena species - the brown hyena (also known as the strandwold), the spotted hyena, the striped hyena and the aardwolf.

The spotted hyena is the largest, growing up to 2 metres in length and weighing between 50-86 kgs. They are also the most widespread of all the species.  

Are hyenas good hunters?down arrow

Yes!  It was generally thought that hyenas are purely scavengers, feeding off the kills that other large predators have made. 

However this is false, approximately 95% of what spotted hyenas eat is prey that they have killed themselves.

In fact this hunt & kill rate makes the spotted hyena one of the most successful carnivores on the planet!

Does a spotted hyena have a strong bite?down arrow

Yes - it's jaws are powerful enough to crush bones and hold prey for a long time. The bite force of a spotted hyena outmatches that of the brown bear. 

Do hyenas and lions fight?down arrow

They can do.

Lions and hyenas hunt for the same food, so it's not surprising that they sometimes find themselves in competition for the same meal. When that happens, a fight may break out.

Lions typically win, often injuring or killing the hyena — but hyenas can call out for help when threatened. If the hyena is joined by a group of friends, the hyenas may be able to chase away a lion.