The Herd

Spotted Hyena

Elsa Molarsky, Critter Corner Writer

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The Spotted hyena is a frightful predator, that many people are afraid of, rightfully so as the hyena has some of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. There are many misconceptions about these animals, however, such as being scavengers or bullies. Hyenas hunt at night and kill up to 95% of their prey. They eat everything; the skin, meat, bones, antlers, horns, tusks, and even the hair. There is a perception that hyenas are lowlife criminals who steal from the heroic lion, when the opposite is true. The lions chase the hyenas from their prey and eat it, leaving the hyenas to scavenge for their own meal as the sun comes up. Another misconception is that hyenas are hermaphrodites, The reasoning behind this is that people would observe what seems to be a male hyena nursing cubs and playing the mother figure. In reality, the Spotted hyena does not have sexually dimorphic genitalia like us humans do. The female hyena actually has genitalia more like that of a male, making childbirth and mating significantly difficult, with either the cubs suffocating during birth or first time mothers tearing internally and dying of infection. But the females are the ones who lead the pack. The female hyenas have three times more testosterone than the males and are at least 20 pounds heavier than the males. The lowest ranking females’ cubs rank higher than the highest ranking male. Another common misconception is that the hyena is a canine, when in reality they are much more closely related to cats, and are in fact a family all their own, Hyaenidae. There are four species of hyenas, with Spotted hyenas being the largest and the boldest around humans. The other three are the Striped hyena, the Brown hyena, and the Aardwolf. The Spotted hyena is, at the moment, not in danger of going extinct; however, populations are declining as a result of human activity such as hunting and trapping in response to hyenas killing livestock. Hyenas are very misunderstood animals, and the media’s villainization of them has not helped. We’re looking at you Disney! Even though Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed are my favorite villain sidekicks, their portrayal of Spotted hyenas is unrealistic. They are amazing animals, and do not deserve the stereotypes given to them, there will still be hyenas for generations to come.



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Spotted Hyena