Spotted Hyena

Crocuta crocuta

The spotted hyena , also known as the laughing hyena or tiger wolf, is a species of hyena native to Sub-Saharan Africa. The spotted hyena is the largest member of the Hyaenidae, and is further physically distinguished from other species by its vaguely bear-like build, its rounded ears, its less prominent mane, its spotted pelt, its more dual purposed dentition, its fewer nipples and the presence of a pseudo-penis in the female. It is the only mammalian species to lack an external vaginal opening.
Spotted Hyena - Predator Extraordinaire This image is of a large Spotted Hyena female, photographed in the complete wilds and freedom of Namibia, southwestern Africa. 

Without a doubt, through my personal experience working in the conservation / national park arena, this is absolutely the master of all predators.  It will survive through conditions tough and unbearable, it will obtain food guaranteed, and it will outlast one and all other predators.  It is tough, hardy, determined and a very long walker.  It is fearless, canning and will make a plan, it is patient and strong.  It is a super animal.  

 Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Namibia,Spotted Hyena,Summer,mammal,markings,predator,spotted,tough

Appearance

The spotted hyena has a strong and well developed neck and forequarters, but relatively underdeveloped hindquarters. The rump is rounded rather than angular, which prevents attackers coming from behind from getting a firm grip on it. The head is wide and flat with a blunt muzzle and broad rhinarium. In contrast to the striped hyena, the ears of the spotted hyena are rounded rather than pointed. Each foot has four digits, which are webbed and armed with short, stout and blunt claws. The paw-pads are broad and very flat, with the whole undersurface of the foot around them being naked. The tail is relatively short, being 300–350 mm long, and resembles a pompom in appearance. Unusually among hyaenids, and mammals in general, the female spotted hyena is considerably larger than the male. Both sexes have a pair of anal glands which open into the rectum just inside the anal opening. These glands produce a white, creamy secretion which is pasted onto grass stalks by everting the rectum. The odour of this secretion is very strong, smelling of boiling cheap soap or burning, and can be detected by humans several metres downwind. The spotted hyena has a proportionately large heart, constituting close to 1% of its body weight, thus giving it great endurance in long chases. In contrast, a lion's heart makes up only 0.45-0.57 percent of its body weight. The now extinct Eurasian populations were distinguished from the modern African populations by their shorter distal extremities and longer humerus and femur.

The skull of the spotted hyena differs from that of the striped hyena by its much greater size and narrower sagittal crest. For its size, the spotted hyena has one of the most powerfully built skulls among the Carnivora. The dentition is more dual purposed than that of other modern hyena species, which are mostly scavengers; the upper and lower third premolars are conical bone-crushers, with a third bone-holding cone jutting from the lower fourth premolar. The spotted hyena also has its carnassials situated behind its bone-crushing premolars, the position of which allows it to crush bone with its premolars without blunting the carnassials. Combined with large jaw muscles and a special vaulting to protect the skull against large forces, these characteristics give the spotted hyena a powerful bite which can exert a pressure of 800 kgf/cm2 , which is 40% more force than a leopard can generate. The jaws of the spotted hyena outmatch those of the brown bear in bonecrushing ability, and free ranging hyenas have been observed to crack open the long bones of giraffes measuring 7 cm in diameter.
Spotted Hyena cub first time out of the den  Botswana,Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Spotted Hyena

Naming

The spotted hyena's scientific name, ''Crocuta'', was once widely thought to be derived from the Latin loanword ''crocutus'', which translates as "saffron-coloured one", in reference to the animal's fur colour. This was proven to be incorrect, as the correct spelling of the loanword would have been ''Crocāta'', and the word was never used in that sense by Graeco-Roman sources. ''Crocuta'' actually comes from the Greek word Κροκόττας , which is derived from the Sanskrit ''koṭṭhâraka'', which in turn originates from ''kroshṭuka'' . The earliest recorded mention of Κροκόττας is from Strabo's ''Geographica'', where the animal is described as a mix of wolf and dog native to Ethiopia.

From antiquity till the Renaissance, the spotted and striped hyena were either assumed to be the same species, or distinguished purely on geographical, rather than physical grounds. Hiob Ludolf, in his ''Historia aethiopica'', was the first to clearly distinguish the ''Crocuta'' from ''Hyaena'' on account of physical, as well as geographical grounds, though he never had any first hand experience of the species, having gotten his accounts from an Ethiopian intermediary.

The first detailed first-hand descriptions of the spotted hyena by Europeans come from Willem Bosman and Peter Kolben. Bosman, a Dutch tradesman who worked for the Dutch West India Company at the Gold Coast from 1688–1701, wrote of "''Jakhals, of Boshond''" whose physical descriptions match the spotted hyena. Kolben, a German mathematician and astronomer who worked for the Dutch East India Company in the Cape of Good Hope from 1705–1713, described the spotted hyena in great detail, but referred to it as a "Tigerwolf", because the settlers in southern Africa did not know of hyenas, and thus labelled them as "wolves".

Bosman and Kolben's descriptions went largely unnoticed until in 1771, when the Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant, in his ''Synopsis of Quadrupeds'', used the descriptions, as well as his personal experience with a captive specimen, as a basis for consistently differentiating the spotted hyena from the striped. The description given by Pennant was precise enough to be included by Johann Erxleben in his ''Systema regni animalis'' by simply translating Pennant's text into Latin. ''Crocuta'' was finally recognised as a separate genus from ''Hyaena'' in 1828. However, although it was Pennant who first distinguished and described ''Crocuta'' in detail, the species' full scientific name is ''Crocuta crocuta'' Erxleben, 1777, a fact which goes against the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which theoretically should have given Pennant's name precedence over Erxleben's.Several languages of Africa lack species specific names for hyenas: for example, the spotted and striped species have identical names in Dioula, Swahili, Malinké, Mòoré, Ngambaye, Oulof and Fula. In other languages, other species may simply be termed "small spotted hyena", such as in Swahili, where the spotted hyena is termed ''fisi'' and the aardwolf ''fisi ndogo''.
Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)  Animal,Carnivora,Crocuta,Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Hyaenidae,Hyena,Mammal,Nature,Spotted Hyena,United States,Vertebrate

Distribution

The spotted hyena's distribution once ranged in Europe from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals, where it remained for at least one million years. Remains have also been found in the Russian Far East, and it has been theorised that the presence of hyenas there may have delayed the colonisation of North America. The causes of the species' extinction in Eurasia are still largely unknown. In Western Europe at least, the spotted hyena's extinction coincided with a decline in grasslands 12,500 years ago. Europe experienced a massive loss of lowland habitats favoured by spotted hyenas, and a corresponding increase in mixed woodlands. Spotted hyenas, under these circumstances, would have been outcompeted by wolves and humans which were as much at home in forests as in open lands, and in highlands as in lowlands. Spotted hyena populations began to shrink after roughly 20,000 years ago, completely disappearing from Western Europe between 14-11,000 years ago, and earlier in some areas.

Historically, the spotted hyena was widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. It is present in all habitats save for the most extreme desert conditions, tropical rainforests and the top of alpine mountains. Its current distribution is patchy in many place, especially in West Africa. Populations are concentrated in protected areas and surrounding land. There is a continuous distribution over large areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia and the Transvaal Lowvkel areas of South Africa.

The species dwells in semi-deserts, savannah, open woodland, dense dry woodland, and mountainous forests up to 4,000m in altitude. It is scarce or absent in in tropical rainforests and coastal areas. Its preferred habitats in west Africa include the Guinea and Sudan savannahs, and is absent in the belt of dense coastal forest. In the Namib Desert, it occurs in riverine growth along seasonal rivers, the sub-desertic pro-Namib and the adjoining inland plateau. In ideal habitats, the spotted hyena outnumbers other large carnivores, including other hyena species. However, the striped and brown hyena occur at greater densities than the spotted species in desert and semi-desert regions.
Hyena  Crocuta crocuta,Spotted Hyena

Behavior

The spotted hyena is a social animal which lives in large communities called "clans", which can consist of up to 80 individuals. Group-size varies geographically; in the Serengeti, where prey is migratory, clans are smaller than those in the Ngorongoro Crater, where prey is sedentary. Spotted hyena clans are more compact and unified than wolf packs, but are not as closely knit as those of African wild dogs. Females dominate males, with even the lowest ranking females being dominant over the highest ranking males. It is typical for females to remain with their natal clan, thus large clans usually contain several matrilines, whereas males typically disperse from their natal clan at the age of 2½ years. The clan is a fission-fusion society, in which clan-members do not often remain together, but may forage alone or in small groups. High-ranking hyenas maintain their position through aggression directed against lower-ranking clan-members. Spotted hyena hierarchy is nepotistic; the offspring of dominant females automatically outrank adult females subordinate to their mother. However, rank in spotted hyena cubs is greatly dependent on the presence of the mother; low-ranking adults may act aggressively toward higher-ranking cubs when the mother is absent. Although individual spotted hyenas only care for their own young, and males take no part in raising their young, cubs are able to identify relatives as distantly related as great-aunts. Also, males associate more closely with their own daughters rather than unrelated cubs, and the latter favour their fathers by acting less aggressively toward them.

Spotted hyena societies are more complex than those of other carnivorous mammals, and are remarkably similar to those of cercopithecine primates in respect to group size, structure, competition and cooperation. Like cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities, recognise individual conspecifics, are conscious that some clan-mates may be more reliable than others, recognise 3rd party kin and rank relationships among clan-mates, and adaptively use this knowledge during social decision making. Also, like cercopithecine primates, dominance ranks in hyena societies are not correlated with size or aggression, but with ally networks. In this latter trait, the spotted hyena further show parallels with primates by acquiring rank through coalitions. However, rank reversals and overthrows in spotted hyena clans are very rare.

Territory size is highly variable, ranging from less than 40 km² in the Ngorongoro Crater to over 1,000 km² in the Kalahari. Home ranges are defended through vocal displays, scent marking and boundrary patrols. Clans mark their territories by either pasting or pawing in special latrines located on clan range boundraries. Clan boundraries are usually respected; hyenas chasing prey have been observed to stop dead in their tracks once their prey crosses into another clan's range. Hyenas will however ignore clan boundraries in times of food shortage. Males are more likely to enter another clan's territory than females are, as they are less attached to their natal group and will leave it when in search of a mate. Hyenas travelling in another clan's home range typically exhibit bodily postures associated with fear, particularly when meeting other hyenas. An intruder can be accepted into another clan after a long period of time if it persists in wandering into the clan's territory, dens or kills.
The clan's social life revolves around a communal den. While some clans may use particular den sites for years, others may use several different dens within a year or several den sites simultaneously. Spotted hyena dens can have more than a dozen entrances, and are mostly located on flat ground. The tunnels are usually oval in section, being wider than they are high, and narrow down from an entrance width of ½-1 metre to as small as 25 cm. In the rocky areas of East Africa and Congo, spotted hyenas use caves as dens, while those in the Serengeti use kopjes as resting areas in daylight hours. Dens have large bare patches around their entrances, where hyenas move or lie down on. Because of their size, adult hyenas are incapable of using the full extent of their burrows, as most tunnels are dug by cubs or smaller animals. The structure of the den, consisting of small underground channels, is likely an effective anti-predator device which protects cubs from predation during the absence of the mother. Spotted hyenas rarely dig their own dens, having been observed for the most part to use the abandoned burrows of wathogs, springhares and jackals. Faeces are usually deposited 20 metres away from the den, though they urinate wherever they happen to be. Dens are used mostly by several females at once, and it is not uncommon to see up to 20 cubs at a single site. The general form of a spotted hyena den is tunnel-shaped, with a spacious end chamber used for sleeping or breeding. This chamber measures up to 2 metres in width, the height being rather less. Females generally give birth at the communal den or a private birth den. The latter is primarily used by low status females in order to maintain continual access to their cubs, as well as ensure that they become acquainted with their cubs before transferral to the communal den.Unlike other large African carnivores, spotted hyenas do not preferentially prey on any species, and only buffalo, giraffe and plains zebra are significantly avoided. Spotted hyenas prefer prey with a body mass range of 56–182 kg, with a mode of 102 kg. When hunting medium to large sized prey, spotted hyenas tend to select certain categories of animal; young animals are frequently targeted, as are old ones, though the latter category is not so significant when hunting zebras, due to their aggressive antipredator behaviours. The spotted hyena tracks live prey by sight, hearing and smell. Carrion is detected by smell and the sound of other predators feeding. During daylight hours, it watches vultures descending upon carcasses. Its auditory perception is powerful enough for it to detect sounds of predators killing prey or feeding on carcasses over distances of up to 10 km. Unlike the grey wolf, the spotted hyena relies more on sight than smell when hunting, and does not follow its prey's prints or travel in single file. Small prey is killed by being shaken in the mouth, while large prey is eaten alive.

Spotted hyenas usually hunt wildebeest either singly, or in groups of two or three. They catch adult wildebeest usually after 5 km chases at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Chases are usually initiated by one hyena and, with the exception of cows with calves, there is little active defense from the wildebeest herd. Wildebeest will sometimes attempt to escape hyenas by taking to water though, in such cases, the hyenas almost invariably catch them. Zebras require different hunting methods to those used for wildebeest, due to their habit of running in tight groups and aggressive defence from stallions. Typical zebra hunting groups consist of 10-25 hyenas, though there is one record of a hyena killing an adult zebra unaided. During a chase, zebras typically move in tight bunches, with the hyenas pursuing behind in a crescent formation. Chases are usually relatively slow, with an average speed of 15–30 km/h. A stallion will attempt to place itself between the hyenas and the herd, though once a zebra falls behind the protective formation it is immediately set upon, usually after a chase of 3 km. Though hyenas may harass the stallion, they usually only concentrate on the herd and attempt to dodge the stallion's assaults. Unlike stallions, mares typically only react aggressively to hyenas when their foals are threatened. Unlike wildebeest, zebras rarely take to water when escaping hyenas. When hunting Thompson's gazelles, spotted hyenas usually operate alone, and prey primarily on young fawns. Chases against both adult and young gazelles can cover distances of 5 km with speeds of 60 kmph. Female gazelles do not defend their fawns, though they may attempt to distract hyenas by feigning weakness.
Spotted Hyena  Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,South Africa,Spotted Hyena,africa,predators

Habitat

The spotted hyena's distribution once ranged in Europe from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals, where it remained for at least one million years. Remains have also been found in the Russian Far East, and it has been theorised that the presence of hyenas there may have delayed the colonisation of North America. The causes of the species' extinction in Eurasia are still largely unknown. In Western Europe at least, the spotted hyena's extinction coincided with a decline in grasslands 12,500 years ago. Europe experienced a massive loss of lowland habitats favoured by spotted hyenas, and a corresponding increase in mixed woodlands. Spotted hyenas, under these circumstances, would have been outcompeted by wolves and humans which were as much at home in forests as in open lands, and in highlands as in lowlands. Spotted hyena populations began to shrink after roughly 20,000 years ago, completely disappearing from Western Europe between 14-11,000 years ago, and earlier in some areas.

Historically, the spotted hyena was widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. It is present in all habitats save for the most extreme desert conditions, tropical rainforests and the top of alpine mountains. Its current distribution is patchy in many place, especially in West Africa. Populations are concentrated in protected areas and surrounding land. There is a continuous distribution over large areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia and the Transvaal Lowvkel areas of South Africa.

The species dwells in semi-deserts, savannah, open woodland, dense dry woodland, and mountainous forests up to 4,000m in altitude. It is scarce or absent in in tropical rainforests and coastal areas. Its preferred habitats in west Africa include the Guinea and Sudan savannahs, and is absent in the belt of dense coastal forest. In the Namib Desert, it occurs in riverine growth along seasonal rivers, the sub-desertic pro-Namib and the adjoining inland plateau. In ideal habitats, the spotted hyena outnumbers other large carnivores, including other hyena species. However, the striped and brown hyena occur at greater densities than the spotted species in desert and semi-desert regions.
Spotted Hyena as caring parent in Serengeti, Tanzania The soft side of Hyenas. Africa,Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Serengeti Central,Serengeti National Park,Serengeti area,Spotted Hyena,Tanzania

Reproduction

The spotted hyena is a non-seasonal breeder, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season. Females are polyestrus, with an estrus period lasting two weeks. Like many felid species, the spotted hyena is promiscuous, and no enduring pair bonds are formed. Members of both sexes may copulate with several mates over the course of several years. Males will show submissive behaviour when approaching females in heat, even if the male outweighs its partner. Females usually favour younger males born or joined into the clan after they were born. Older females show a similar preference, with the addition of preferring males with whom they have had long and friendly prior relationships. Passive males tend to have greater success in courting females than aggressive ones. Copulation in spotted hyenas is a relatively short affair, which typically only occurs at night with no other hyenas present. The mating process is complicated, as the female's reproductive tract is entered and exited through her pseudo-penis rather than directly through the vagina, which is blocked by the false scrotum and testes. Once the female retracts her clitoris, the male enters the female by sliding beneath her, an operation facilitated by the penis' upward angle. Once this is accomplished, a normal mating stance is adopted.

The length of the gestation period tends to vary greatly, though 110 days is the average length of time. In the final stages of pregnancy, dominant females provide their developing offspring with higher androgen levels than lower-ranking mothers do. The higher androgen levels - the result of high concentrations of ovarian androstenedione - are thought to be responsible for the extreme masculinization of female behavior and morphology. This has the effect of rendering the cubs of dominant females more aggressive and sexually active than those of lower ranking hyenas; high ranking male cubs will attempt to mount females earlier than lower ranking males. The average litter consists of two cubs, with three occasionally being reported. Males take no part in the raising of young. Parturition is difficult, as females give birth through their narrow clitoris, and spotted hyena cubs are the largest carnivoran young relative to their mothers' weight. During parturition, the clitoris ruptures in order to facilitate the passage of young, and may take weeks to heal.

Cubs are born with soft, brownish black hair, and weigh 1.5 kg on average. Unique among carnivorous mammals, spotted hyenas are also born with their eyes open and with 6–7 mm long canine teeth and 4 mm long incisors. Also, cubs will attack each other shortly after birth. This is particularly apparent in same sexed litters, and can result in the death of the weaker cub. This neonatal siblicide kills an estimated 25% of all hyenas in their first month. Male cubs which survive grow faster and are likelier to achieve reproductive dominance, while female survivors eliminate rivals for dominance in their natal clan. Lactating females can carry 3–4 kg of milk in their udders. Spotted hyena milk has the highest protein content of any terrestrial carnivore, and its fat content is second only to that of the polar bear and sea otter. Cubs will nurse from their mother for 12–16 months, though they can process solid food as early as three months. Mothers do not regurgitate food for their young. Females are very protective of their cubs, and will not tolerate other adults, particularly males, approaching them. Spotted hyenas exhibit adult behaviours very early in life; cubs have been observed to ritually sniff each other and mark their living space before the age of one month. Within ten days of birth, they are able to move at considerable speed. Cubs begin to lose the black coat and develop the spotted, lighter coloured pelage of the adults at 2–3 months. They begin to exhibit hunting behaviours at the age of eight months, and will begin fully participating in group hunts after their first year. Spotted hyenas reach sexual maturity at the age of three years. The average lifespan in zoos is 12 years, with a maximum of 25 years.
Young Spotted Hyena sleeping on Ngorongoro crater floor Many people strongly dislike hyenas for their vicious nature, thieving and "unfair" hunting strategies. As we all know though, fairness is not a concept in the wild when you have to eat. Plus, when you see a young Hyena carefully tucked away and sleeping, you'll realize they are not worse or better than any other animal trying to survive. Africa,Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Ngorongoro,Ngorongoro Crater,Serengeti area,Spotted Hyena,Tanzania

Food

Unlike other large African carnivores, spotted hyenas do not preferentially prey on any species, and only buffalo, giraffe and plains zebra are significantly avoided. Spotted hyenas prefer prey with a body mass range of 56–182 kg, with a mode of 102 kg. When hunting medium to large sized prey, spotted hyenas tend to select certain categories of animal; young animals are frequently targeted, as are old ones, though the latter category is not so significant when hunting zebras, due to their aggressive antipredator behaviours. The spotted hyena tracks live prey by sight, hearing and smell. Carrion is detected by smell and the sound of other predators feeding. During daylight hours, it watches vultures descending upon carcasses. Its auditory perception is powerful enough for it to detect sounds of predators killing prey or feeding on carcasses over distances of up to 10 km. Unlike the grey wolf, the spotted hyena relies more on sight than smell when hunting, and does not follow its prey's prints or travel in single file. Small prey is killed by being shaken in the mouth, while large prey is eaten alive.

Spotted hyenas usually hunt wildebeest either singly, or in groups of two or three. They catch adult wildebeest usually after 5 km chases at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Chases are usually initiated by one hyena and, with the exception of cows with calves, there is little active defense from the wildebeest herd. Wildebeest will sometimes attempt to escape hyenas by taking to water though, in such cases, the hyenas almost invariably catch them. Zebras require different hunting methods to those used for wildebeest, due to their habit of running in tight groups and aggressive defence from stallions. Typical zebra hunting groups consist of 10-25 hyenas, though there is one record of a hyena killing an adult zebra unaided. During a chase, zebras typically move in tight bunches, with the hyenas pursuing behind in a crescent formation. Chases are usually relatively slow, with an average speed of 15–30 km/h. A stallion will attempt to place itself between the hyenas and the herd, though once a zebra falls behind the protective formation it is immediately set upon, usually after a chase of 3 km. Though hyenas may harass the stallion, they usually only concentrate on the herd and attempt to dodge the stallion's assaults. Unlike stallions, mares typically only react aggressively to hyenas when their foals are threatened. Unlike wildebeest, zebras rarely take to water when escaping hyenas. When hunting Thompson's gazelles, spotted hyenas usually operate alone, and prey primarily on young fawns. Chases against both adult and young gazelles can cover distances of 5 km with speeds of 60 kmph. Female gazelles do not defend their fawns, though they may attempt to distract hyenas by feigning weakness.The spotted hyena is the most carnivorous member of the Hyaenidae, and is better equipped for scavenging than other African predators; not only is it able to splinter and eat the largest ungulate bones, it is also able to digest them completely. Spotted hyenas can digest all organic components in bones, not just the marrow. Any inorganic material is excreted with the faeces, which consist almost entirely of a white powder with few hairs. They react to alighting vultures more readily than other African carnivores, and are more likely to stay in the vicinity of lion kills or human settlements. Wildebeest are the most commonly taken medium sized ungulate prey item in both Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, with zebra and Thomson's gazelles coming close behind. Cape buffalo are rarely attacked due to differences in habitat preference, though adult bulls have been recorded to be taken on occasion. In Kruger National Park, blue wildebeest, cape buffalo, Burchell's zebra, greater kudu and impala are the spotted hyena's most important prey, while giraffe, impala, wildebeest and zebra are its major food sources in the nearby Timbavati area. Springbok and kudu are the main prey in Namibia's Etosha National Park, and springbok in the Namib. In the southern Kalahari, gemsbok, wildebeest and springbok are the principal prey. In Chobe, the spotted hyena's primary prey consists of migratory zebra and resident impala. In Kenya's Masai Mara, 80% of the spotted hyena's prey consists of topi and Thomson's gazelle, save for during the four month period when zebra and wildebeest herds migrate to the area. Bushbuck, suni and buffalo are the dominant prey items in the Aberdare Mountains, while Grant's gazelle, gerenuk, sheep, goats and cattle are likely preyed upon in northern Kenya. In west Africa, it is thought that the spotted hyena is primarily a scavenger, but will occasionally attack domestic stock and medium-size antelopes in some areas. In Cameroon, it is common for spotted hyenas to feed on small antelopes like kob, but may also scavenge on reedbuck, kongoni, buffalo, giraffe, African elephant, topi and roan antelope carcasses. Records indicate that spotted hyenas in Malawi feed on medium to large-sized ungulates such as waterbuck and impala. In Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve, spotted hyenas primarily prey on wildebeest, followed by buffalo, zebra, impala, giraffe, reedbuck and kongoni. In Uganda, it is thought that the species primarily preys on birds and reptiles, while in Zambia it is primarily a scavenger. Spotted hyenas have also been found to catch fish, tortoises, humans, black rhino, hippo calves, young African elephants, pangolins and pythons. There is at least one record of four hyenas killing an adult hippopotamus in Kruger National Park. The fossil record indicates that the now extinct European spotted hyenas primarily fed on Przewalski's horses, Irish elk, reindeer, red deer, roe deer, fallow deer, wild boar, ibex, steppe wisent, aurochs, and woolly rhinoceros. Spotted hyenas are thought to be responsible for the dis-articulation and destruction of some cave bear skeletons. Such large carcasses were an optimal food resource for hyenas, especially at the end of winter, when food was scarce. Spotted hyenas may consume leather articles such as boots and belts around campsites. Jane Goodall recorded spotted hyenas attacking or savagely playing with the exterior and interior fittings of cars, and the species is thought to be responsible for eating car tyres.

A single spotted hyena can eat at least 14.5 kg of meat per meal. Although spotted hyenas act aggressively toward each other when feeding, they compete with each other mostly through speed of eating, rather than by fighting as lions do. When feeding on an intact carcass, spotted hyenas will first consume the meat around the loins and anal region, then open the abdominal cavity and pull out the soft organs. Once the stomach, its wall and contents are consumed, the hyenas will eat the lungs and abdominal and leg muscles. Once the muscles have been eaten, the carcass is disassembled and the hyenas carry off pieces to eat in peace. Spotted hyenas are adept at eating their prey in water: they have been observed to dive under floating carcasses to take bites, then resurface to swallow. A single hyena can take less than two minutes in eating a gazelle fawn, while a group of 35 hyenas can completely consume an adult zebra in 36 minutes. Spotted hyenas do not require much water, and typically only spend 30 seconds drinking.The spotted hyena has been hunted for its body parts for use in traditional medicine, for amusement, and for sport, though this is rare, as the species is generally not considered attractive. There is fossil evidence of humans in Middle Pleistocene Europe butchering and presumably consuming spotted hyenas. Such incidences are rare in modern Africa, where most tribes, even those known to eat unusual kinds of meat, generally despise hyena flesh.

Several authors during the Scramble for Africa attested that, despite its physical strength, the spotted hyena poses no danger to hunters when captured or cornered. It was often the case that native skinners refused to even touch hyena carcasses, though this was not usually a problem, as hyena skins were not considered attractive. In Burkina Faso, the hyena's tail is used for medicinal and magical purposes. In Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, the animals' whole body is harvested for bushmeat and medicine. In Malawi and Tanzania, the genitalia, nose tips and tails are used for traditional medicine. In Mozambique, traditional healers use various spotted hyena body parts, particularly the paws. Oromo hunters typically go through ritual purification after killing hyenas. Kujamaat hunters traditionally treat the spotted hyenas they kill with the same respect due to deceased tribal elders, in order to avoid retribution from hyena spirits acting on behalf of the dead animal. During the early years of Dutch colonisation in southern Africa, hyenas were especially susceptible to trapping, as their prediliction for carrion and lack of caution about enclosed spaces worked against them. A feature of many frontier farms was the ''wolwehok'' , which was roughly constructed from stone or wood and baited with meat. The trap featured a trap-door, which was designed to shut once the bait was disturbed. In the Cape Colony, spotted hyenas were often hunted by tracking them to their dens and shooting them as they escaped. Another hunting method was to trap them in their dens and dazzle them with torchlight, before stabbing them in the heart with a long knife. When chased by hunting dogs, spotted hyenas often turn on their attackers, unless the dogs are of exceptionally large, powerful breeds. James Stevenson-Hamilton wrote that wounded spotted hyenas could be dangerous adversaries for hunting dogs, recording an incident in which a hyena managed to kill a dog with a single bite to the neck without breaking the skin. Further difficulties in killing spotted hyenas with dogs include the species' thick skin, which prevents dogs from inflicting serious damage to the animal's muscles.
Spotted Hyena during Ngorongoro crater sunset I got lucky with the light here. This is a Spotted Hyena navigating the tall, dry grass of the Ngorongoro crater floor by end of day. As Hyenas are quite active at night, possibly it is investigating options for a nightly feast. Africa,Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Ngorongoro,Ngorongoro Crater,Serengeti area,Spotted Hyena,Tanzania,lijstjes

Evolution

Unlike the striped hyena, for which a number of subspecies were proposed in light of its extensive modern range, the spotted hyena is a genuinely variable species, both temporally and spatially. Its range once encompassed almost all of Africa and Eurasia, and displayed a large degree of morphological geographic variation, which lead to an equally extensive set of specific and subspecific epithets. It was gradually realised that all of this variation could be applied to individual differences in a single subspecies. In 1939, biologist L. Harrison Matthews demonstrated through comparisons between a large selection of spotted hyena skulls from Tanzania that all the variation seen in the then recognised subspecies could also be found in a single population, with the only set of characters standing out being pelage and size . When fossils are taken into consideration, the species displayed even greater variation than it does in modern times, and a number of these named fossil species have since been classed as synonymous with ''Crocuta crocuta'', with firm evidence of there being more than one species within the genus ''Crocuta'' still lacking.

Both Björn Kurtén and Camille Arambourg promoted an Asiatic origin for the species; Kurtén focussed his arguments on the Plio-Pleistocene taxon ''Crocuta sivalensis'' from the Siwaliks, a view defended by Arambourg, who nonetheless allowed the possibility of an Indo-Ethiopian origin. This stance was contested by Ficarelli and Torre, who referred to evidence of the spotted hyena's presence from African deposists dating from the early Pleistocene, a similar age to the Asian ''C. sivalensis''. Studies on the phylogeographic distribution of mtDNA haplotypes indicates three migration events from Africa to Eurasia, though neither the topology of the phylogenetic tree or the fossil record exclude the possibility of an Asian origin. The earliest migration of spotted hyenas from Africa to Eurasia began less than 3.5 million years ago, most probably from the area where the first spotted hyena fossils were discovered, reaching East Asia and most likely also Pakistan. The second migration of spotted hyenas occurred less than 1.3–1.5 million years ago and resulted in the first arrival of hyenas in Europe and a separation of African spotted hyenas in a southern and a northern population. The third spotted hyena migration took place after 0.36 million years ago, starting from the northern African population and reaching both Europe and Asia. Unlike other African carnivores, with the exception of the leopard, there is no evidence to suggest that spotted hyenas underwent a genetic bottleneck during the Pleistocene.

The ancestors of the genus ''Crocuta'' diverged from ''Hyaena'' 10 million years ago. The ancestors of the spotted hyena probably developed social behaviours in response to increased pressure from other predators on carcasses, which forced them to operate in teams. At one point in their evolution, spotted hyenas developed sharp carnassials behind their crushing premolars; this rendered waiting for their prey to die no longer a necessity, as is the case for brown and striped hyenas, and thus became pack hunters as well as scavengers. They began forming increasingly larger territories, necessitated by the fact that their prey was often migratory, and long chases in a small territory would have caused them to encroach into another clan's land. It has been theorised that female dominance in spotted hyena clans could be an adaptation in order to successfully compete with males on kills, and thus ensure that enough milk is produced for their cubs. Another theory is that it is an adaptation to the length of time it takes for cubs to develop their massive skulls and jaws, thus necessitating greater attention and dominating behaviours from females. Its appearance in Europe and China during the Cromerian period coincided with the decline and eventual extinction of ''Pachycrocuta brevirostris'', the giant short-faced hyena. As there is no evidence of environmental change being responsible, it is likely that the giant short-faced hyena became extinct due to competition with the spotted hyena.The spotted hyena is depicted in a few examples of Upper Palaeolithic rock art in France. A painting from the Chauvet Cave depicts a hyena outlined and represented in profile, with two legs, with its head and front part with well distinguishable spotted coloration pattern. Because of the specimen's steeped profile, it is thought that the painting was originally meant to represent a cave bear, but was modified as a hyena. In Lascaux, a red and black rock painting of a hyena is present in the part of the cave known as the Diverticule axial, and is depicted in profile, with four limbs, showing an animal with a steep back. The body and the long neck have spots, including the flanks. An image on a cave in Ariège shows an incompletely outlined and deeply engraved figure, representing a part of an elongated neck, smoothly passing into part of the animal’s forelimb on the proximal side. Its head is in profile, with a possibly re-engraved muzzle. The ear is typical of the spotted hyena, as it is rounded. An image in the Le Gabillou Cave in Dordogne shows a deeply engraved zoomorphic figure with a head in frontal view and an elongated neck with part of the forelimb in profile. It has large round eyes and short, rounded ears which are set far from each other. It has a broad, line-like mouth that evokes a smile. Though originally thought to represent a composite or zoomorphic hybrid, it is probable it is a spotted hyena based on its broad muzzle and long neck.

The relative scarcity of hyena depictions in Paleolithic rock art has been theorised to be due to the animal's lower rank in the animal worship hierarchy; the spotted hyena's appearance was likely unappealing to Ice Age hunters, and it was not sought after as prey. Also, it was not a serious rival like the cave lion or bear, and it lacked the impressiveness of the mammoth or woolly rhino.
What's Funny?  Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Spotted Hyena

Uses

From a husbandry point of view, hyenas are easily kept, as they have few disease problems and it is not uncommon for captive hyenas to reach 15–20 years of age. Nevertheless, the spotted hyena was historically scantily represented in zoos, and was typically obtained in order to fill empty cages until a more prestigious species could be obtained. In subsequent years, animals considered to be more charismatic were allocated larger and better quality facilities, while hyenas were often relegated to inferior exhibits. In modern times, the species faces spatial competition from more popular animals, especially large canids. Also, many captive individuals have not been closely examined to confirm their genders, thus resulting in non-breeding pairs often turning out to be same-sexed individuals. As a result, many captive hyena populations are facing extinction.

During the 19th century, the species was frequently displayed in travelling circuses as oddities. Alfred Brehm wrote that the spotted hyena is harder to tame than the striped hyena, and that performing specimens in circuses were not up to standard. Sir John Barrow described how spotted hyenas in Sneeuberge were trained to hunt game, writing that they were "as faithful and diligent as any of the common domestic dogs". In Tanzania, spotted hyena cubs may be taken from a communal den by witchdoctors, in order to increase their social status. An April 2004 BBC article described how a shepherd living in the small town of Qabri Bayah about 50 kilometres from Jigjiga, Ethiopia managed to use a male spotted hyena as a livestock guardian dog, suppressing its urge to leave and find a mate by feeding it special herbs. If not raised with adult members of their kind, captive spotted hyenas will exhibit scent marking behaviours much later in life than wild specimens. Although easily tamed, spotted hyenas are exceedingly difficult to house train, and can be very destructive; a captive, otherwise perfectly tame, specimen in the Tower of London managed to tear an 8-foot long plank nailed to its recently repaired enclosure floor with no apparent effort. During the research leading to the composition of his monograph ''The Spotted Hyena: A Study of Predation and Social Behavior,'' Hans Kruuk kept a tame hyena he named Solomon. Kruuk found Solomon's company so congenial, he would have kept him, but Solomon had an insatiable taste for "cheese in the bar of the tourist lounge and bacon off the Chief Park Warden's breakfast table," and no door could hold him back, so Solomon was obliged to live out his days in the Edinburgh Zoo.
hyena_eating_2 a hyena eating what was once a sick cape buffalo...note the flies Crocuta crocuta,Geotagged,Spotted Hyena,Summer,Tanzania,africa,buffalo,eating,serengeti

Cultural

As several distinguished authors of the present age have undertaken to reconcile the world to the Great Man-Killer of Modern times; as Aaron Burr has found an apologist, and almost a eulogist; and as learned commentators have recently discovered that even Judas Iscariot was a true disciple, we are rather surprised to find that someone has not undertaken to render the family of Hyenas popular and amiable in the eyes of mankind. Certain it is, that few marked characters in history have suffered more from the malign inventions of prejudice





Traditional Western beliefs about the spotted hyena can be traced back to Aristotle's ''Historia Animalium'', which described the species as a necrophagous, cowardly and potentially dangerous animal. He further described how the hyena uses retching noises to attract dogs. In ''On the Generation of Animals'', Aristotle criticised the erroneous belief that the spotted hyena is a hermaphrodite , though his physical descriptions are more consistent with the striped hyena. Pliny the Elder supported Aristotle's depiction, though he further elaborated that the hyena can imitate human voices. Additionally, he wrote how the hyena was held in high regard among the Magi, and that hyena body parts could cure different diseases, give protection and stimulate sexual desire in people.

The author of the ''Physiologus'', who infused pagan tales with the spirit of Christian moral and mystical teaching, reactivated the myth that the hyena is a hermaphrodite. The author compared the species to "double-minded men" who are neither "man nor woman, that is, neither faithful nor unfaithful". He further states that "The sons of Israel are like this animal since in the beginning they served the living God but later, given over to pleasure and lust, they adored idols." The bestiaries of the Middle Ages embraced the ''Physiologuss descriptions, but further elaborated on the animal's necrophagous habits. These bestiaries almost invariably depict hyenas feeding on human corpses. These illustrations were largely based on the descriptions given by Aristotle and Pliny, though the animals have no spots or other bodily markings, thus making it unlikely that the authors had ever seen hyenas first-hand.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, travellers to Africa provided further descriptions of the species. Leo Africanus repeated some of the old concepts on the hyena, with the addition of describing its legs and feet as similar to those of men. In 1551, Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner rejected the belief of the hyena's hermaphroditism, and theorised that it originated from confusion over an androgynous fish bearing the same name. He adds three other animals within the category of hyenas, including an Ethiopian quadruped named "Crocotta", which was thought to be a hybrid between a hyena and a lioness. Sir Thomas Browne also argued against the hyena's supposed hermaphroditism, stating that all animals follow their own "Law of Coition", and that a hermaphrodite would transgress this. Sir Walter Raleigh, in an attempt to rationalise how Noah's Ark could have fitted all extant species of animal, wrote that hyenas were hybrids between foxes and wolves which originated after the Great Flood. References to the spotted hyena's vocalisations are referenced in numerous contemporary examples of English literature, including Shakespeare's ''As You Like It'' and George Chapman's ''Eastward Ho''. John Milton, in his ''Samson Agonistes'', compares the species to Delila.

Natural historians of the 18th and 19th century rejected stories of hermaphroditism in hyenas, and recognised the differences between the spotted and striped hyena. However, they continued to focus on the species' scavenging habits, their potential to rob graves and their perceived cowardice. During the 20th century, Western and African stereotypes of the spotted hyena converged; in both Ernest Hemingway's ''Green Hills of Africa'' and Disney's ''The Lion King'', the traits of gluttony and comical stupidity, common in African depictions of hyenas, are added to the Western perception of hyenas being cowardly and ugly. After the release of ''The Lion King'', hyena biologists protested against the animal's portrayal: one hyena researcher sued Disney studios for defamation of character, and another - who had organized the animators' visit to the University of California's Field Station for Behavioural Research, where they would observe and sketch captive hyenas - included boycotting ''The Lion King'' as a way of helping to preserve hyenas in the wild.

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Status: Least concern | Trend: Unknown
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC
Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyHyaenidae
GenusCrocuta
SpeciesC. crocuta