Fierce Creatures: The Hyena
The Hyena is a dog like animal that is predominately found in savannas, woodlands, grasslands, forest edges, sub-deserts and even mountainous terrains. They are also one of nature's more unique creations both in looks and sizes.
Most hyenas are 28 to 35 inches tall and they weigh 90 to 190 pounds. This makes them very short and stocky animals. They are often considered wolf-like in their build with the exception of their high shoulders which slope downward toward their hind end. They also have a long mane of hair that runs from their withers to their head. They have a smaller snout than other "canines". The female spotted hyena is often taller and larger than the male. The female is also the more dominant.
Their teeth are designed to consume coarse food and to break bones. Their upper teeth are very strong and they are also shifted back so that they get the most force out of their jaws they can. It has been reported that the strength in the jaws is so strong that they can kill a large dog with one single bite to the neck and it can be done without ever breaking the skin on the dog's neck.
If you happen to see one using the bathroom you will notice how unique they are in the fact that they do not raise their legs as other dogs do. They are also prone to cleaning themselves much the same as a cat would but they do not clean their face.
It is difficult to tell a female from a male though the female do have female genitals though they do look similar in that area to the male. It is believed that the female may look more "manly" so that they can protect their young by appearing stronger and more dominate. This is useful since they are the primary caregivers of their young and some male hyenas may attack and eat the younger cubs.
Gestation is between 90 to 110 days and usually they will have two to four cubs. The babies are born with their eyes opened and this sets them apart from most all other animals. The cubs may nurse on their mom for up to 18 months old due to the fact that hyenas eat their food where they kill it and pups do not go on long hunts until they are about one year old. However, they do start to eat things that are killed near their den at 5 months. If the mother goes out to hunt, another female babysitter will sit with the cubs to watch over them at the den and protect them from predators.
They are most often seen as cowardly or timid in nature but they are also able to bold and dangerous if they choose to attack another animal or even a human. In the wild hyenas are very family oriented with the exception of when the males cannibalize the young cubs. They live in large groups of family members and their goal in life is to protect their clan and they are very sociable within their clan. They usually mark their territory and in the center and the highest point is where you will find their den.
Hyenas will eat virtually anything they can. When they make a kill, there is often nothing left the next morning. They consume bones, hair and even hooves of other animals. This being said, they do not require a lot of water to drink even with their shady diet and all of their food gets digested except for hair, horns and hooves. These are spit out in the form of pellets. They eat mostly meat and other animals; however they do eat vegetation as well. Some campers also report that hyenas will also eat pots and pans though this has not been proven.
Dens have an above ground entrance that leads underground and into a series of tunnels. These dens are used for raising young and protecting the clans young when something or someone threatens their territory.
When one hyena finds food or makes a fresh kill, they can call to others in their clan. The howling screams, wailing calls and even their laughter can be heard for up to three miles away.
In captivity they can live up to 25 years. In the wild their largest threat is humans, lions and other hyenas and this makes it nearly impossible to guess how long they may live in the wild. If they are attacked by one of their treats or harmed while trying to capture food for their clan to eat, they may die at a very young age.