Hyaena hyaenastriped hyena

Geographic Range

Northern and Eastern Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia extending north to the Caucasus and southern Siberia.


The striped hyena lives in arid, mountainous regions with scrub woodland. It dens in rocky hills, ravines, and crevices. It also inhabits open savannah areas with dense grassland in some regions. In Africa, it is outcompeted by the spotted hyena in open areas and is thus relegated to other habitats.

Physical Description

Height: 65-80 cm The average length of the striped hyena from head to tail is one meter. Males and females do not differ in average height or length, but males do tend to be slightly heavier. They are a long-haired hyena with large, pointed ears. The striped hyena can erect the long hair on its mane and appear 38% bigger, which it does when it feels threatened. They are gray to straw-colored with a black muzzle and black stripes on their head, torso, and legs.

  • Range mass
    25 to 45 kg
    55.07 to 99.12 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    31.954 W


Breeding is nonseasonal, beginning at two to three years. One to six cubs are born per litter, after a 88-92 day gestation. No detailed studies of sexual behavior in the striped hyena have been published. Based on observations in captivity, estrus lasts one day, with the female mating several times at 15-25 minute intervals throughout the day. The mother brings food to the den for her cubs after they are one month old, but continues to nurse for approximately 12 months.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    90 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    800 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    800 days



The striped hyena is generally considered solitary, but has some social organization. It forages individually and is rarely seen in groups. It does, however, associate in small family groups at the den. Immature family members will help feed younger siblings by bringing food back to the den. Vocal communication is not highly developed. It consists mainly of soft growls and other sounds used during intraspecific encounters. Territoriality is not a prominent feature in striped hyena behavior, but does exist to some extent. Dens are often used merely for short periods of time, and therefore rarely need to be defended. In some areas, however, anal-gland marks and latrines have been found near feeding sites and well-used pathways. Submissiveness in a social encounter is shown by presentation of the anal gland. First, the hyenas sniff noses, followed by anogenital sniffing. Immature young display submission to adults, and one adult will often display to another upon meeting, with the second adult reciprocating. Fighting consists of ritualized wrestling matches, each hyena attempting to grab the other around the cheek region while attempting to evade or break the other's cheek hold. The loser of the competition displays submission by the anal presentation. The striped hyena is not a favored prey species of any predator. They keep a safe distance, usually around 50 meters, from larger, carnivorous mammals like lions and tigers. They also have the ability to chase or keep leopards and cheetahs away from food sources. The striped hyena behaves submissively towards the larger spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, and will allow spotted hyenas to steal its food.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The striped hyena is predominantly a scavenger; its diet consisting mainly of carrion and human refuse. It scavenges large and medium-sized mammals, such as zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, and impalas, even eating bones from carcasses if the meat has been picked off. It supplements its diet with fruit, insects, and occasionally by killing small animals like hare, rodents, reptiles, and birds. The striped hyena forages principally at night, individually travelling throughout its home range searching for food in no apparent pattern. Travelling speeds average 2-4 km/h, occasionally increasing to 8 km/h when trotting. Wind direction is not used to determine direction of travel, but the striped hyena will respond quickly to the scent of carrion brought by the wind. It also visits established food sites, such as garbage dumps around human settlements, fruit trees, and temporary sites of large kills. Water is consumed every night if it is available, but the striped hyena can survive without water for long periods and live under desert conditions.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The striped hyena has some benefit in that it consumes unwanted human refuse. In some instances, villages in Africa leave their garbage outside at night for the striped hyenas to feed on. It is not hunted for food purposes nor for its pelt.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are not many negative benefits. They rarely attack livestock or people and are unaggressive, often allowing dogs to attack them without attempting to defend themselves.

Conservation Status

It seems to be rather compatible with human populations, and its habitat is readily available and not in danger of disappearing.


Craig Howard (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Estes, Richard Despard. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Fox, M.W. 1971. Ontogeny of a Social Display in Hyaena hyaena: Anal Protrusion. Journal of Mammalogy 52: 467-469.

Kruuk, Hans. 1976. Feeding and social behavior of the striped hyena (Hyaena vulgaris Desmarest). East African Wildlife Journal 14: 91-111.

van Aarde, R.J., J.D. Skinner, M.H. Knight, and D.C. Skinner. 1988. Range use by a striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) in the Negav Desert. Journal of Zoology 216: 575-577.

Walker, Ernest P. 1975. Mammals of the World, Third Edition, Volume II. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.