Spotted hyenas are often called laughing hyenas because of the noise they make after catching prey.
Spotted hyenas are often called laughing hyenas because of the noise they make after catching prey.
Photograph by Costas Anton Dumitrescu, Shutterstock

Spotted Hyena

Though hyenas look like large dogs, they are actually more similar to cats like lions and tigers. Hyenas have very powerful jaws and strong teeth.

Common Name:
Spotted Hyena
Scientific Name:
Crocuta crocuta
Type:
Mammals
Diet:
Omnivore
Group Name:
Clan
Average Life Span In The Wild:
Up to 25 years
Size:
Head and body: 34 to 59 inches; tail: 10 to 14 inches
Weight:
110 to 190 pounds

Spotted hyenas live in large groups called clans, which can include up to 80 hyenas. They hunt in smaller groups and use various techniques to attack different types of animals. They are successful hunters in groups or alone and will even try to catch fish, birds, and bugs in lakes. After catching their prey, spotted hyenas celebrate by making a sound like a laugh. This giggle tells other hyenas that they have food to share, but it can also attract other animals, such as lions, to the feast. This can spark a game of tug-of-war.

The most common type is the spotted hyena. Baby spotted hyenas, called cubs, are born with black fur that grows out as lighter hair with spots. Spotted hyena clans, which are led by females, often meet at a large den in the middle of their territory. Hyenas have a complicated system of greeting and interacting with each other. Since they are in charge, females usually get first choice for the best mud baths and other favorite hyena activities.