hyena

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hyena

(hī-ē`nə), carnivorous, chiefly nocturnal mammal of the Old World family Hyaenidae. Although doglike in appearance, hyenas are more closely related to civets (family Viverridae) and cats (family Felidae) than to dogs (family Canidae). The front legs of a hyena are longer than the hind ones, giving the back a sloping appearance. Despite their reputation as scavengers, hyenas are also skillful hunters; they can crush bones with their strong teeth and jaws. They sleep by day, in caves or burrows. Hyenas range over most of Africa and SW Asia. Three species are generally recognized. The spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, of Africa S of the Sahara, is the largest and boldest species; it stands 2 1-2 ft (76 cm) high at the shoulder and has a gray coat with irregular patches. It is also known as the laughing hyena, because of its cry, which resembles maniacal laughter. Often abroad in the day as well as at night, it pursues game in packs and even invades camps and villages in search of food. The females are dominant and more aggressive, outranking the males in the pack. The smaller striped hyena, Hyaena hyaena, of Asia and N Africa and the brown hyena, or strand wolf, H. brunnea, of S Africa are shyer and more nocturnal and solitary in their habits. The former is grayish brown with darker stripes; the latter is dark brown over most of the body. The aardwolfaardwolf
, carnivore of the hyena family. The aardwolf, Proteles cristatus, resembles the true hyena but is smaller and more delicate. It has less powerful teeth and jaws and five instead of four toes on its forepaws.
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 is the fourth member of the hyena family. Hyenas are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Hyaenidae.

Bibliography

See H. Kruuk, The Spotted Hyena (1972); J. L. Gittleman, ed., Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution (1989).

Hyena

 

(Hyaenidae), a family of predatory mammals. In external appearance hyenas somewhat resemble dogs. Their trunks are short, higher at the front than at the back; their necks are thick and their heads are very large, with long, erect ears, up to 13 cm. They have large teeth and paws with four toes. The tail is short and bushy, and the body is covered with coarse, bristly fur that in some species forms a hanging mane, up to 20 cm long, along the backbone. Overall, hyenas have a gray or brown coloring with dark stripes or spots.

Hyenas are widespread in almost all of Africa and in Middle and Southwest Asia, as far east as the Bay of Bengal. In the USSR they are found in Transcaucasia and in Middle Asia. Usually they inhabit semidesert and desert regions, but, less often, they may be found in steppes with a covering of shrub thickets and in savannas or woods growing in river valleys in desert and semidesert regions. In Middle Asia they prefer uninhabited areas, but in Africa they attach themselves to settlements. They lead a nocturnal life and feed mainly on large carrion, gnawing bones inaccessible to other predators. Much less often hyenas attack wild ungulates and domestic livestock. Instances are known of their attacking humans (children). They are solitary, joining in groups only near carrion. Hyenas are in heat during the rainy season in tropical Africa and at the end of winter and beginning of spring in North Africa and Asia. The female bears between two and five offspring, lighter in color than adult hyenas and covered with short fur.

The hyena family consists of three genera, divided into four species. The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is the most widespread and may be found in almost all of Africa, in Southwest Asia as far east as the Bay of Bengal, and in the USSR in Transcaucasia and Middle Asia. They have bodies about 1 m in length and are gray with dark lateral stripes. The brown hyena (H. brunnea) may be found in southern Africa. It is dark brown and has lateral stripes on its legs. Its fur is coarse and long and hangs from its sides. The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) inhabits southern and eastern Africa. It is the largest of the hyena family (body 130 cm long and height at the shoulders about 80 cm) and has small dark spots on its sides. The earth wolf (Proteles cristatus) inhabits southern and eastern Africa. It is the smallest of the hyena family and lives on ants and termites. The hyena population is falling sharply because of the decreasing number of wild ungulates.

REFERENCES

Ognev, S. I. Zveri Vostochnoi Evropy i Severnoi Azii, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Vinogradov, B. S., E. N. Pavlovskii, and K. K. Flerov. Zveri Tadzhikistana, ikh zhizn’ i znachenie dlia cheloveka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.

I. I. SOKOLOV

hyena

[hī′ē·nə]
(vertebrate zoology)
An African carnivore represented by three species of the family Hyaenidae that resemble dogs but are more closely related to cats.

hyena

rapacious scavenger, known for its maniacal laughter. [Zoology: Misc.]

hyena

, hyaena
any of several long-legged carnivorous doglike mammals of the genera Hyaena and Crocuta, such as C. crocuta (spotted or laughing hyena), of Africa and S Asia: family Hyaenidae, order Carnivora (carnivores)