MOST LIKE: Brown Hyaena, but spotted hyaena have rounded ears and short yellowish coat with brown spots. Brown hyaena is totally brown.
HABITAT: Semi-desert to moist savanna. Avoids forests, must have drinking water and places to shelter among rocks in burrows, scrub or tall grass.
The spotted hyaena moves in packs which average 10 to 30 animals, although sometimes they are found in groups of up to 80. Each marks out its territory with scents from anal glands and glands situated between the toes. They can cover large distances and have huge territories. Where clans chase and kill prey within the territory of another clan, they are usually driven off, and the prey is eaten by the owners of the territory.
The spotted hyaena, when in large enough groups, will drive lions and leopards from their kill and attack cattle kraals and even solitary humans. They have excellent night vision, as well as acute smell and hearing, and with this they hunt very successfully in the dark. Packs are controlled by a matriarchal female, and females form the social nucleus of the clan, which usually consists of extended family groups. Usually 2 to 3 young are born.
The Spotted Hyaena has an astonishing appetite: it swallows large chunks of meat noisily and voraciously. The shoulders and sloping back are supported in front by powerful forelegs capable of running fast: they knock down prey and carry it off for home consumption. Due to their powerful necks and forequarters they can carry a heavy section of carcass high off the ground.
They also have heavy teeth and jaws which can shred tough carcasses in just a few minutes: the jaw of a spotted hyaena can splinter bone, and its digestive system processes bone and hide with ease. They tend to eat whatever is available and can hunt and scavenge a wide variety of prey, therefore their diet varies between different localities: however, the majority of their diet consists of medium-sized to large ungulates. They are known for their distinctive calls, hence the saying ‘to laugh like a hyaena’.