Spotted Hyena

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The most common of the hyenas with dark brown spots on a yellow-brown coat. The back slopes from the head to the low-slung rump.


Wide range throughout sub-Sahara Africa except in the tropical forest areas. It had disappeared from much of its range in southern Africa but has recently been re-introduced into new reserves and private game areas.

Social structure

Hyena clans are made up of a matriarch and other adult females. A class structure exists in the clan with the offspring of high-ranking females enjoying a higher status than the lower ranks. Clan sizes depend on availability of food. The largest clans are found in the Ngorongoro Crater where up to eighty individuals have been observed. In this case, the whole clan does not share the same den, but rather breaks up into smaller groups. In southern Africa the clans are seldom more than fifteen individuals strong.
Range differentiation.

The social structure varies in its range where the clans of East Africa can number over eighty individuals compared to the relatively small clans of fifteen too twenty in southern Africa.

Occur in a wide range of habitats except dense forests and deserts.


Hyenas have a reputation for being scavengers but, although a large part of their diet is made up of scavenged food, they are very capable hunters. In some areas they hunt more than they scavenge. They will also steal carcasses from other predators, including lions. With lions they will only challenge for a carcass when males lions are not present. Hyenas are also infamous for raiding park and camp rubbish bins and dumps.


These species are a female dominated society where the males play almost no role in the survival of a clan. The males’ only role seems to be to mate and even this is directed by the female. Females are noticeably larger than the males.

Hyenas were once thought to be hermaphroditic because the females possess pseudo male reproductive organs.

Although females have a pseudo penis it is only the male’s penis that becomes erect during intercourse. Competition in a clan starts at infancy when newborn of the same sex fight for dominance eventually resulting in the death of the weaker one.

Impala unfazed by the Spotted Hyena walking passed

Although catious other species will not pay much heed to a hyena in the open.
Playing in the water is the Spotted Hyenas favourite game

Hyenas love playing in water and will do so even on cold days. young Spotted Hyena with their mother

The young of dominant mothers will bully the young of lower ranking females.