The Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is a medium sized, scavenging mammal found in Africa, the Middle East, West India and the Arabian Peninsula.
There are 3 species of hyena, the Striped Hyena, the Spotted Hyena and the Brown Hyena. The smallest hyena in the family hyaenidae is the Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus).
The Aardwolf looks most like the Striped Hyena, however, it is significantly smaller with a more pointed muzzle and sharper ears which are used for listening for harvester termites.
There are 5 subspecies hyena:
Hyaena hyaena syriaca, Middle East
Hyaena hyaena sultana, Arabian Peninsula
Hyaena hyaena dubbah, Northeast Africa
Hyaena hyaena barbara, Northwest Africa
Hyaena hyaena hyaena, India
Striped Hyena Description
Male and female Striped Hyenas are very similar in appearance, although males are slightly larger. Striped Hyenas generally measure between 1 – 1.15 metres in length excluding the tail (which measures 12.5 inches), and stand 0.66 – 0.75 metres at the shoulder. Males weigh between 26 – 41 kilograms (57 – 90 pounds) and females weigh 26 – 34 kilograms (57 – 75 pounds). Their coats are generally light grey to beige in colour and they have a black patch on their throat.
Striped Hyenas have vertical stripes on their flanks and black vertical stripes in their legs. Stripes are more prominent in the summer and less defined in the winter. Striped Hyenas, like other Hyena species, have a downward sloping back, a pointed muzzle and pointed ears. Like many animals that inhabit very hot desert climates, their ears radiate heat. When threatened, the mane that extends down the centre of their back can be made erect which makes the hyena appear much larger (38%) and more intimidating to predators. Their tail is long, bushy, covered in long, course hair and is black and white in colour. Each of their paws has four non-retractable, short, blunt claws.
Hyenas have large scent glands on their rears. They have broad heads and very large eyes. The Striped Hyenas hinds legs are shorter and heavier than their back legs.
Striped Hyena Habitat
The Striped Hyena typically inhabits deserts, semi deserts, scrub forests, woodlands, grasslands, acacia bushlands, rocky terrain and tropical savannas. Family groups live in dens which are usually caves with narrow entrances and are concealed with large boulders. Dens can extend over a distance of 4 – 5 metres.
Striped Hyena Diet
Striped Hyenas are nocturnal omnivores and will feed upon small animals, insects, fruits (oil willow fruits), melons and dates. They regularly scavenge carrion and the remains of another animals kill. They use their powerful jaws to gnaw and crush bones.
Hyenas are capable of digesting parts of prey other animals cannot. Parts such as hooves, horns, hair and ligaments are regurgitated into pellets. They often cache their food such as bones, pieces of flesh, or meat, in shallow holes dug with their snouts. They will also carry any surplus meat found at a scavenger site.
Striped Hyenas can drink various types of water such as salt water, fresh water and soda. Water is consumed every night if it is available, however, the Striped Hyena can survive for long periods of time without water as it is adapted to live in desert conditions. Striped Hyenas forage alone or in pairs.
Striped Hyena Behaviour
Striped Hyenas are nomadic and will move from water hole to water hole, however, they never move more than 6 miles from a water source. They are solitary hunters but sometimes gather into small family groups, called ‘clans’ to scavenge carrion (dead animal carcasses). They have smaller home ranges than the Spotted or Brown Hyena.
Striped Hyenas mark the territories with their scent gland secretions from their anal pouch. Like Brown Hyenas, Striped Hyenas are thought to be less vocal then their spotted cousins although they all have elaborate greeting rituals.
Striped Hyena Reproduction
There is no specific breeding season for the Striped Hyena. After a gestation period of 90 – 92 days a litter of 2 – 4 helpless cubs are born in nesting dens. Hyena cubs are born blind and their ear canals are closed. Their coats are white to grey with clear black stripes. After 7 – 8 days, the cubs are able to open their eyes and their teeth develop after 3 weeks.
Cubs can eat solid food after a month, however, weaning can vary from 8 weeks to 12 months while learning foraging skills from their mother. Both male and female provide parental care. Female Striped Hyenas have 6 teats whereas the Brown Hyena only has 4. The life span of the Striped Hyena is 24 years in captivity.
Striped Hyena Conservation Status
The Striped Hyena is classed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN. Although it is extinct in Europe, it can, on rare occasions be observed in Anatolia, Turkey. It is often hunted or poisoned throughout its range, and although it has a fairly large population, it is scattered over a wide area and often isolated from other populations. Habitat destruction may also be a major concern.