Hyenas are carnivores that look like dogs. Their skulls are very large and, besides this feature, they also have a sagittal crest for a better attachment of jaws. They also have around 34 teeth, rugged enough to crack bones.
There is no difference between male and female hyenas, as their genitals are very alike. However, they aren’t hermaphrodites, meaning that they don’t act both as males and females simultaneously. As for pregnancy, only the females give birth and look after their cubs.
The gestation period lasts around 100 days, a female hyena giving birth to no more than four cubs at once. She is the only one taking care of them in a special den, called a natal den, which is made only for females with cubs. Here, she takes care of them for almost a month.
In order to determine the dominance and get a better feeding position, cubs are fighting each other, although this king of fight doesn’t always have a happy ending.
Female hyenas feed their cubs for around one, even one and a half year, even though babies start eating meat at around 5 months. That’s a long time for carnivores to be suckling.
If they live in the wild, hyenas may live up to 12 years, while, in captivity, their lifespan is about 25 years.
Taking care of the babies
Unlike other species, hyena babies are born with their eyes open. Around the age of 5 months, cubs are starting to eat meat, coming from kills. Unlike other animals, hyenas kill far from their lair and don’t regurgitate food for their babies. Around the age of 12 months, baby hyenas begin to go with their mothers to learn hunting skills. The smaller ones are left at the den, with an adult hyena taking care of them.
Did you know that hyenas…?
We know only 3 species of hyenas, namely the brown one, the spotted one (or the laughing one) and the striped one. The brown one is also called Paralnyaena brunnea, the spotted hyena is called Crocuta crocuta, while the striped one (and, maybe, the biggest) is named Hyaena hyaena.
As for their behavior, spotted hyenas are territorials and they live in groups, named also as clans, each individual having the task to defend their own territory. As expected, the lair is the center of their lives and that’s the reason why, within the clan, the activities take place around the den. Here, the hyena babies are being raised and the individuals have the chance to meet each other.
Being placed in the center of the territory, the den has entrances which are connected to several hidden tunnels.
As to their social skills, hyenas are known for their way of communicating with each other through different signals and postures. This way, they manage to make their intentions understood by the other members of the pack and even by the outsiders.
One example of a sign is when the hyena carries its tail straight up, this one meaning it’s going to attack.