The striped hyena, Hyaena hyaena, is a solitary animal whose range spans from Africa to India. It hunts small prey but is often satisfied with feeding on the remains of carcasses left by larger predators.
Mammalia, Carnivora, Hyaenidae
20 to 25 years
70 cm at the shoulder, 30 to 40 kg at the most
90 days, 1 to 4 babies
plains, scrublands, mountainous areas
carrion, carcasses, small vertebrates, invertebrates, fruit
Africa - from Senegal to Tanzania (excluding the Sahara) - and the Middle East to India
Way of life
Although it is found in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the striped hyena remains the least well known and most solitary of the 4 species of hyena. Preferring to be active at night or dusk, during the day it takes refuge under a bush or in the den of a small animal. Although it sometimes hunts small prey, it prefers to feed on carcasses left by larger predators. Avoiding other scavengers who feed first, it is content with meagre amounts of food.
The striped hyena marks out its territory around its den with secretions from its anal glands, although it doesn’t seem to be very aggressive towards its fellow striped hyenas. It communicates with calls, although they are less varied than those of the spotted hyena, and by straightening the hairs of its mane in order to appear more impressive.
It gives birth to one to four cubs in a den, which is dug between rocks. Newborns open their eyes after one week and begin to eat meat at around one month old.
Smaller than the spotted hyena, the striped hyena has a light-coloured coat with black stripes which extend down to the paws and an erect mane extending from head to tail.
Its powerful teeth and jaw with very developed muscles help it to crush even the hardest bones and shells.
Even though it is a vital animal, hyenas, like all scavengers, have a bad reputation. Because it tends to deposit a lot of bones at the entrance to its den, it is thought to be a corpse stealer that frequents cemeteries! There is also a misconception that it attacks livestock, which explains why it is sometimes slaughtered by farmers. However, it is tolerated by inhabitants in some villages as it eats their rubbish. It thus serves as nature’s binman!
It is often found in African symbolism, depicted as being ridden by wizards on their way to some magical rendezvous. Meanwhile, in Eastern symbolism, it represents treason and stupidity. Its bad reputation means that it is persecuted and poisoned.