DistributionThe striped hyena's historical range encompasses Africa north of and including the Sahel zone, eastern Africa south into Tanzania, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East up to the Mediterranean shores, Turkey, Iraq, the Caucasus , Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and the Indian Subcontinent. Today the species' distribution is patchy in most ranges, thus indicating that it occurs in many isolated populations, particularly in most of west Africa, most of the Sahara, parts of the Middle East, the Caucasus and central Asia. It does however have a continuous distribution over large areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Its modern distribution in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan is unknown.
BehaviorThe striped hyena is a primarily nocturnal animal, which typically only leaves its den at the onset of total darkness, returning before sunrise. Striped hyenas typically live in groups of 1-2 animals, though groups of up to seven animals are known in Libya. They are generally not territorial animals, with home ranges of different groups often overlapping each other. Home ranges in the Serengheti have been recorded to be 44 km2 -72 km2 , while one in the Negev desert was calculated at 61 km2 . When marking their territory, striped hyenas use the paste of their anal pouch to scent mark grass, stalks, stones, tree trunks and other objects. In aggressive encounters, the black patch near the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae is erected. When fighting, striped hyenas will bite at the throat and legs, but avoid the mane, which serves as a signalling device. When greeting each other, they lick the mid-back region, sniff each others noses, extrude their anal pouch or paw each others throats. The species is not as vocal as the spotted hyena, its vocalisations being limited to a chattering laugh and howling.The striped hyena may dig its own dens, but it also establishes its lairs in caves, rock fissures, erosion channels and burrows formerly occupied by porcupines, wolves, warthogs and aardvarks. Hyena dens can be identified by the presence of bones at their entrances. The striped hyena hides in caves, niches, pits, dense thickets, reeds and plume grass during the day to shelter from predators, heat or winter cold. The size and elaboration of striped hyena dens varies according to location ; dens in the Karakum have entrances 0.67-0.72 m wide and are extended over a distance of 4.15–5 m, with no lateral extensions or special chambers. In contrast, hyena dens in Israel are much more elaborate and large, exceeding 27 m in length.
ReproductionThe striped hyena is monogamous, with the male helping the female to establish a den, raise young and feed her when cubs are born. The mating season varies according to location; in Transcaucasia, hyenas breed in January–February, while those in southeast Turkmenia breed in October–November. In captivity, breeding is non-seasonal. Mating can occur at any time of the day, during which the male grips the skin of the female's neck.
The gestation period lasts 90–91 days. Striped hyena cubs are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. This is in marked contrast to newborn spotted hyena cubs which are born almost fully developed, though with black, unmarked coats. Their eyes open after 7–8 days, and leave their dens after one month. Cubs are weaned at the age of 2 months, and are then fed by both parents. Despite the males' assistance, female hyenas are very protective of their cubs, and will chase their mates away from the cubs if they approach too closely. By autumn, the cubs are half the size of their parents. In the wild, striped hyenas can live for 12 years, while in captivity they have been known to reach 23.
FoodThe striped hyena is primarily a scavenger which feeds mainly on ungulate carcasses in different stages of decomposition, fresh bones, cartilages, ligaments and bone marrow. It crushes long bones into fine particles and swallows them, though sometimes entire bones are eaten whole. The striped hyena is not a fussy eater, though it has an aversion to vulture flesh. It will occasionally attack and kill any defenceless animal it can overcome. It hunts prey by running it down, grabbing its flanks or groin and inflicting mortal wounds by tearing out the viscera. In Turkmenistan, the species is recorded to feed on wild boar, kulan, porcupines and tortoises. A seasonal abundance of oil willow fruits is an important food source in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while in the Caucasuses, it is grasshoppers. In Israel, the striped hyena feeds on garbage, carrion and fruits. In eastern Jordan, its main sources of food are feral horse and water buffalo carcasses and village refuse. It has been suggested that only the large hyenas of the Middle East, Asia minor, central Asia and the Indian subcontinent attack large prey, with no evidence of their smaller Arabian and east African cousins doing so. Because of its scavenging diet, the striped hyena requires more water to survive than most other carnivores. When eating, the striped hyena gorges itself until satisfied, though hyenas with cubs will transport food to their dens. Because of the high content of calcium in its diet, the faeces of the striped hyena becomes white very rapidly, and can be visible from long distances.Striped hyenas were hunted by Ancient Egyptian peasants for duty and amusement along with other animals that were a threat to crops and livestock. Algerian hunters historically considered the killing of striped hyenas as beneath their dignity, due to the animal's reputation for cowardice. A similar attitude was held by British sportsmen in British India. Although striped hyenas are capable of quickly killing a dog with a single bite, they usually feign death when escape from hunting dogs is impossible, and will remain in this state for long periods, even when badly bitten. On some rare occasions, hyenas were ridden down and speared by men on horseback. Although hyenas were generally not fast enough to outrun horses, they had the habit of doubling and turning frequently during chases, thus ensuring long pursuits. Generally though, hyenas were hunted more as pests than sporting quarries, as their propensity to damage skulls, skins and other edible articles from hunter's camps made them unpopular among sportsmen. In the Soviet Union, hyena hunting was not specially organised. Most hyenas were caught incidentally in traps meant for other animals. Some hunters in southern Punjab, Kandahar and Quetta, catch striped hyenas to use them in hyena-baiting. The hyenas are pitted against specially trained dogs, and are restrained with ropes in order to pull them away from the dogs if necessary. In Kandahar, hunters locally called ''payloch'' hunt striped hyenas by entering their dens naked with a noose in hand. When the hyena is cornered at the end of its lair, the hunter murmurs the magic formula “turn into dust, turn into stone,” which causes the animal to enter a hypnotic state of total submission, by which point the hunter can slip a noose over its forelegs and, finally, drag it out of the cave. A similar method was once practised by Mesopotamian Arab hunters, who would enter hyena dens and "flatter" the animal, which they believed could understand Arabic. The hunter would murmur "You are very nice and pretty and quite like a lion ; indeed, you are a lion". The hyena would then allow the hunter to place a noose around its neck and pose no resistance on being dragged out of its lair.
Because of its coarse and sparse pelage, the striped hyena is not considered a furbearer, with the few skins sold by hunters often being marketed as poor quality dog or wolf fur. Hyena skins were however once used in preparing chamois leather. The selling price of hyena pelts in the Soviet Union ranged from 45 kopeks to 1 ruble, 80 kopeks.A mural depicted on Mereruka's tomb in Sakkara indicates that Old Kingdom Egyptians forcefed hyenas in order to fatten them up for food, though certain scholars have argued that the depicted animals were really aardwolves. Striped hyenas are still eaten by Egyptian peasants, Arabian Bedouins, Palestinian laborers, Sinai Bedouins and Tuaregs. In the Muslim regions of Sistan, Kohat, Bannu, Cholistan,areas of Pakistan and Iran, striped hyena meat is considered ''halal'' under the Shafiite school, and can therefore be consumed. This represents an exception to the rule that predatory animals are not to be eaten, due to their being ''haraam''. This stems from the fact that the striped hyena is an omnivore, rather than a purely carnivorous animal. Among the Bedouin of Arabia, the striped hyena is permitted for human consumption, though hyena meat is generally considered more as a medicine than as food.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans used the blood, excrement, rectum, genitalia, eyes, tongue, hair, skin, and fat, as well as the ash of different parts of the striped hyena's body, as effective means to ward off evil and to ensure love and fertility. The Greeks and Romans believed that the genitalia of a hyena “would hold a couple peaceably together” and that a hyena anus worn as an amulet on the upper arm would make its male possessor irresistible to women. In West and South Asia, hyena body parts apparently play an important role in love magic and in the making of amulets. In Iranian folklore, it is mentioned that a stone found in the hyenas body can serve as a charm of protection for whoever wears it on his upper arm. In the Pakistani province of Sindh, the local Muslims place the tooth of a striped hyena over churns in order not to lose the milk's ''baraka''. In Iran, a dried striped hyena pelt is considered a potent charm which forces all to succumb to the possessors attraction. In Afghanistan and Pakistan striped hyena hair is used either in love magic or as a charm in sickness. Hyena blood has been held in high regard in northern India as potent medicine, and the eating of the tongue helps fight tumors. In the Khyber area, burned striped hyena fat is applied to a mans genitals or sometimes taken orally to ensure virility, while in India the fat serves as a cure for rheumatism. In Afghanistan, some mullahs wear the vulva of a female striped hyena wrapped in silk under their armpits for a week. If a man peers through the vulva at the woman of his desire, he will invariably get hold of her. This has led to the proverbial expression in Dari of ''kus-e kaftar bay'', as well as in Pashto of ''kus-e kaftar'' which literally mean "it happens as smoothly as if you would look through the vulva of a female striped hyena". In the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan, the Pakhtun keep the vulva in vermilion powder, itself having aphrodesic connotations. The rectum of a freshly killed striped hyena is likewise used by homosexuals and bisexuals to attract young men. This has led to the expression “to possess the anus of a [striped] hyena” which denotes somebody who is attractive and has many lovers. A striped hyena’s penis kept in a small box filled with vermilion powder can be used for the same reasons.
PredatorsThe striped hyena competes with the gray wolf in Israel and central Asia. In the latter area, a great portion of the hyena's diet stems from wolf-killed carcasses. The striped hyena is dominant over the wolf on a one to one basis, though wolves in packs can displace single hyenas from carcasses. Both species have been known to share dens on occasion. Red foxes may compete with striped hyenas on large carcasses. Red foxes may give way to hyenas on unopened carcasses, as the latter's stronger jaws can easily tear open flesh which is too tough for foxes. Foxes may harass hyenas, using their smaller size and greater speed to avoid the hyena's attacks. Sometimes, foxes seem to deliberately torment hyenas even when there is no food at stake. Some foxes may mistime their attacks, and are killed.
The species frequently scavenges from the kills of felids such as tigers, leopards, cheetahs and caracals. A caracal can drive a subadult hyena from a carcass. The hyena usually wins in one-to-one disputes over carcasses with leopards, cheetahs and tiger cubs, but is dominated by adult tigers.
EvolutionThe species may have evolved from ''H. namaquensis'' of Pliocene Africa. Striped hyena fossils are common in Africa, with records going back as far as the Middle Pleistocene and even to the Villafranchian. As fossil striped hyenas are absent from the Mediterranean region, it is likely that the species is a relatively late invader to Eurasia, having likely spread outside Africa only after the extinction of spotted hyenas in Asia at the end of the Ice Age. The striped hyena occurred for some time in Europe during the Pleistocene, having been particularly widespread in France and Germany. It also occurred in Montmaurin, Hollabrunn in Austria, the Furninha Cave in Portugal and the Genista Caves in Gibraltar. The European form was similar in appearance to modern populations, but was larger, being comparable in size to the brown hyena.
CulturalStriped hyenas are frequently referenced in Middle Eastern literature and folklore, typically as symbols of treachery and stupidity. In the Near and Middle East, striped hyenas are generally regarded as physical incarnations of jinns. Arab writer Al-Quazweeni spoke of a tribe of people called ''Al-Dabeyoun'' meaning "hyena people". In his book ''Aajeb Al-Makhlouqat'' he wrote that should one of this tribe be in a group of 1000 people, a hyena could pick him out and eat him. A Persian medical treatise written in 1376 tells how to cure cannibalistic people known as ''kaftar'', who are said to be “half-man, half-hyena”. Al-Doumairy in his writings in ''Hawayan Al-Koubra'' wrote that striped hyenas were vampiric creatures that attacked people at night and sucked the blood from their necks. He also wrote that hyenas only attacked brave people. Arab folklore tells of how hyenas can mesmerise victims with their eyes or sometimes with their pheromones. In a similar vein to Al-Doumairy, the Greeks, until the end of the 19th century, believed that the bodies of werewolves, if not destroyed, would haunt battlefields as vampiric hyenas which drank the blood of dying soldiers. The image of striped hyenas in Afghanistan, India and Palestine is more varied. Though feared, striped hyenas were also symbolic for love and fertility, leading to numerous varieties of love medicine derived from hyena body parts. Among the Baluch and in northern India, witches or magicians are said to ride striped hyenas at night.
The Arab word for striped hyenas, ''dhubba'', is alluded in a valley in Israel known as Shaqq-ud-Diba and Wadi-Abu-Diba . Both places have been interpreted by some scholars as being the Biblical Valley of Zeboim mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:18. The Hebrew word for hyena is ''tzebua'' or ''zevoa'', which literally means "howling creature". Though the Authorized King James Version of the Bible interprets this word as referring to a "speckled bird", Henry Baker Tristram argued that it was most likely a hyena being mentioned.
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