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Hyenas often have a bad reputation, likely from being the carrion-eating villains of The Lion King. However, spotted hyenas are actually very intelligent and full of surprises.
Find out why with these 5 unexpected facts :)

1. Spotted Hyenas are talented hunters

Contrary to the common belief that Hyenas are only scavengers, eating the leftovers of other predators, Spotted hyenas kill 66-90% of their food. 

They often hunt and kill in packs and can take down large animals such as wildebeest, antelope, zebras and young hippos. 

Photo: Shannon Wild

2. Females Hyenas are dominant

Females hyenas have three times more testosterone in their bodies than males. Therefore, they are larger, more muscular and aggressive. 

As a result, females are dominant in their clans and spotted hyena societies are matriarchal. 

When male hyenas reach sexual maturity, they are forced to leave their family and have to fight hard to join a new group and be accepted by the alpha female.


3. Spotted Hyenas use complex vocalizations to communicate

Hyenas are well known for their “laugh” but they actually have a very large vocal repertoire. 

The laugh is used to communicate social excitement or anxiety as well as can give an indication of their age and social status. They also have many other sounds and postures helping them to know each other's location or coordinate hunts.


4. Females Spotted Hyenas have a “pseudo-penis”

Females spotted hyenas have a complex penile-clitoris called a pseudo-penis and their external labia are fused together to form a pseudo scrotum, giving them a genital structure similar to male anatomy.

They use their pseudo-penis for urination, copulation and to give birth.

Photo: Shannon Wild

5. Spotted Hyenas are incredibly intelligent

Sarah Benson-Amram, zoologist and animal behavioral psychologist, created a carnivore intelligence test which consists of a metal puzzle box with a food reward inside, theorising that carnivores with a high level of social intelligence are able to solve the puzzle quicker.

Spotted hyenas experimented with different strategies to open the steel box, which they had never encountered before and managed to solve the puzzle quickly, demonstrating their abilities to solve social problems and showcasing cognitive skills that seem to be on par with some primates.

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