The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Spotted Hyena

Afrikaans name: Gevlekte Hiena

A female Spotted Hyena feeds her young pup

A Spotted Hyena with one of her cubs

Photo © Steven Herbert

Crocuta crocuta

Interesting facts about Hyenas

Apparently these are called Tiger Wolf by some people? Next time you are swopping stories in one of the camps in Kruger National Park try telling someone that you saw a Tiger Wolf and see what reaction you get! Also known as Laughing Hyena.

It is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa.

Spotted Hyenas have a complex social structure. They live in clans which may number many individuals. Females are larger than males and dominate the clans. There is a definite hierarchy within the clan and dominant individuals get better access to kills and more mating opportunities.

After a gestation period of around 110 days a female Hyena will give birth to cubs which may number up to 4. It is usually only the matriarch who breeds but the rest of the clan will assist in raising the cubs. When the clan go hunting one of the adults will remain behind to protect the cubs.

People generally regard Spotted Hyenas as scavengers but they are also accomplished hunters. They hunt a wide variety of species and will chase them for kilometres if necessary. As scavengers they are quite fearless and will risk harm by trying to take food from Lions and other predators. Lions and Hyenas are definite enemies of each other.

In game parks you may find Spotted Hyenas relaxing near a road. This is normally because they have a den in a culvert under the road. Some individuals unfortunately learn the bad habit of begging for food from tourists. Under no circumstances should this be encouraged.

A baby Spotted Hyena pup sticks its head out of the culvert under the road in Kruger National Park

Photo © Steven Herbert

A Spotted Hyena carrying the remains of an Impala carcass

Photo © Steven Herbert

Above - A large Spotted Hyena struggles to carry the remains of an Impala. By the looks of it the Hyena has already eaten its fill.

A Spotted Hyena with a growth on his face spotted in Kruger National Park

Photo © Steven Herbert

Above and below - In June 2012 I was driving near Letaba Camp, in Kruger National Park, when I saw this Spotted Hyena with a growth on its nose. It didn't appear to be worried about it but I think it must make feeding awkward. I saw the same animal again a few days and about 5 km from the original spot. It would be interesting to know if anyone else has photos of this same hyena? If you do then let me know here.

Close-up of a Spotted Hyena with a growth on his face

Photo © Steven Herbert

References and further reading

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Published: 2011 - Page: 208

Wild Issue 21 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 76

Wild Issue 39 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 42

Wild Ways - 2nd Edition - Author: Peter Apps - Published: 2000 - Page: 61

Tracks and Tracking in Southern Africa - Author: Louis Liebenberg - Published: 2000 - Page: 77

The Living Deserts of Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Darry Lovegrove - Published: 2021 - Page: 103

The Mammal Guide of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Burger Cillie - Published: 2011 - Page: 124

Southern African Wildlife - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1989 - Page: 65

South African Animals in the Wild - Author: Anthony Bannister - Published: 1985 - Page: 88

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of Southe - Author: Editor - Alan Duggan - Published: 1991 - Page: 417

Signs of the Wild - 3rd Edition - Author: Clive Walker - Published: 1986 - Page: 91

Signs of the Wild - 5th Edition - Author: Clive Walker - Published: 1996 - Page: 86

Questions and Answers - Endangered Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: John Comrie-Greig - Published: 1992 - Page: 7

Questions and Answers - Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Published: 1990 - Page: 5

Mammals of the Kruger and other National Parks - Author: The National Parks Board - Published: 1980 - Page: 32

Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Burger Cillie - Published: 1987 - Page: 45

Kruger National Park, Visitors Map 1996 - Author: - Published: 1996 - Page: 5

Land Mammals of Southern Africa - A field guide - Author: Reay HN Smithers - Published: 1986 - Page: 95

Kruger National Park Questions and Answers - Author: P.F. Fourie - Published: 1987 - Page: 267

First Field Guide to Animal Tracks of Southern Africa - Author: Louis Liebenberg - Published: 2003 - Page: 34

Game Ranger in your Backpack - Author: Megan Emmett and Sean Pattrick - Published: 2013 - Page: 102

Field Guide to the Mammals of the Kruger National Park - Author: U. de V. Pienaar et al. - Published: 1987 - Page: 87

Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 2001 - Page: 148

Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1997 - Page: 266

Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind - Author: B. Hilton-Barber & Prof. L. R. Berger - Published: 2004 - Page: 148

Chris and Tilde Stuarts Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa - 1st Edit - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1988 - Page: 148

Animals of the Kruger National Park - Author: G. de Graaff - Published: 1987 - Page: 28

An Introduction to the Larger Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Joanna Dalton - Published: 1987 - Page: 98

Africas Big Cats and Other Carnivores - Author: Nigel Dennis - Published: 2001 - Page: 70

A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern and East African Wildlife - 3rd - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 2000 - Page: 33

African Wildlife - A photographic safari - Author: Nigel and Wendy Dennis - Published: 1999 - Page: 38


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List of South African Mammals

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