Spotted Hyena

(Crocuta crocuta)




Facts about this animal

The spotted hyena reaches a head-body length of 120-150 cm, shoulder height of 75-85 cm and tail length of 25-35 cm. The body-weight ranges in males from about 45 to 60 kg whereas females weigh 55 to over 70 kg. It is an unmistakable animal. It has a large head with a domed forehead topped by rounded ears and a lengthened muzzle ending in a naked nosepad. The forequarters are large with a massive neck, the back is sloping, and the hindquarters are rather weekly developed. The tail is medium in length and bushy. The forelegs have four or five digits, the hindlegs always four. The claws are not retractable. The fur is coarse, forming a short erect mane on the neck and shoulders. Its colour is light brown or greyish brown with dark brown spots and blotches all over the body and upper half of the limbs. Head, throat, chest and feet are not spotted.


There is no marked sexual dimorphism except that females are somewhat larger and heavier than males. To the contrary, the female genitals look almost like those of the males (see: "Did you know"). Spotted hyenas are predominantly nocturnal. They are effective hunters, hunting singly or in packs and killing animals up to the size of a giraffe. They feed however also on insects, small vertebrates, carrion, steal prey from other predators and raid dustbins and rubbish-heaps. They are social animals living in clans led by a female.


They are very vocal ("laughing hyena") and territorial, marking their group territory with secretions of their anal glands, urine and their distinctive white droppings, and defending it against other clans. Male spotted hyenas become sexually mature at an age of about 3 years, females some months later. Breeding occurs throughout the year. After a gestation period of 110 days 1-4, usually 2 cubs are born. Two or more females may keep young in a communal burrow for several months. Usually the young are weaned at an age of 12-16 months.

Did you know?
That the external genital organs of male and female hyenas look almost identical? The female hyena has a huge clitoris she can erect at will and even has a sack of fibrous tissue that looks like testicles. Therefore it was in former times believed that hyenas were hermaphrodites.


Name (Scientific) Crocuta crocuta
Name (English) Spotted Hyena
Name (French) Hyène tachetée
Name (German) Tüpfelhyäne
Name (Spanish) Hiena manchada
Local names Afrikaans: Gevlekte Hiena, Tierwolf
chiShona: Bere
isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu: Impisi
kiSwahili: Fisi madoa
oshiVambo: iMungu ongue
otjiHerero: oMbungu ombidiwa
seSotho, seTswana: Phiri
Somali: Waraabo
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat All types of savanna, with woodlands and open plains and semi-desert scrub, from sea level up to mountain areas
Wild population 27,000-47,000 (1998) (Red List IUCN 2011).
Zoo population 169 reported to ISIS (Oct 2009)

In the Zoo

Spotted Hyena


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


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Zoo Leipzig

Why do zoos keep this animal

Spotted hyenas are currently considered to be at lower risk. Zoos keep them predominantly for educational reasons, in particular because of their role in the food chain and their interesting social behaviour. However, the number of zoos keeping this species is relatively low, as zoos tend to focus rather on the African wild dog, which has a similar distribution, plays a similar ecological role and is also organized in packs, but which, differently from the hyena, is Endangered in the wild .