Hyenas: 10 Facts You Didn’t Know

Hyenas are one of the most popular animals to see when on safari. They are primarily nocturnal, so make sure you go to one of Southern Africa’s game lodges to experience an evening game drive to spot them.

Here are 10 facts that you most likely never knew about this wily, intelligent creature:

  1. The female hyena rules the clan 

Female power! Hyenas are one out of a number of types of animals where females are at the top of the dominance hierarchy. The matriarch is more muscular, aggressive; they have triple the level of testosterone than males. Interestingly, they also weigh 10 times more than a male.  

  1. Hyenas are as socially complex as primates 

If you think that hyenas are simple, unintelligent scavengers, you couldn’t be more wrong. Contrary to popular belief, hyenas are one of the most socially complex mammals on the planet. It’s been documented that they have a well-developed frontal cortex (an area in the brain), comparable to primates. 

  1. Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs 

It can’t be denied that at first glance, hyenas look more like canines such as wild dogs or jackals. However, according to their taxonomy, they fall under the sub-order, Feliformia – cat-like carnivores. 

  1. Hyenas have a wide array of vocalisations 

Hyenas have a diverse range of over a dozen vocalisations, each of which has a different meaning such as vocalisations for social status, territory, age and showing ownership of food. 

  1. There are different types of hyena

There are four different types of hyena, each of which live in a specific habitat. 1) brown hyena; 2) striped hyena; 3) spotted hyena and 4) the aardwolf. 

  1. Hyenas are cannibals 

Hyenas will not hesitate to attack and eat other hyenas – even their young. This speaks to their ruthless, aggressive nature. 

  1. Males have a low status 

Males have the lowest status in the clan and are forced to leave their family when they reach sexual maturity and trying to enter a new clan can be dangerous and even fatal. The dominant female will determine whether the male will be allowed to join their clan. 

  1. Not all hyenas laugh 

Spotted hyenas are known as ‘laughing hyenas’ because when they are excited, but nervous, they make a sound reminiscent of human laughter. Striped hyenas on the other hand rarely make any noise. 

  1. Hyenas are not cowardly 

Hyenas are known as scavengers, which has a negative connotation that paints them as animals who will simply steal scraps and run away. Rather, they are opportunistic, cunning hunters. They have one of the strongest bites of any animal and therefore approximately 95% of their diet comes from their own kills. 

  1. When there’s food, it’s ‘each hyena for itself’ 

Even though they are very sociable and live in cohesive clans, when it comes to food, it’s every hyena for itself; they will protect their meals by any means possible.

Pondoro Game Lodge

If you want an exclusive, luxurious safari where you will receive world-class service, look no further than Pondoro Game Lodge.

Owing to its prime location in the Balule Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park, the esteemed lodge offers guests private game drives; Pondoro’s expert guides will use their vast knowledge of the area to ensure that you’re able to witness hyenas in their natural habitat.