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15 Interesting Hyena Fun Facts

How much do you know about hyenas? Find out with this epic 15 fact hyena page! Learn all about how they hunt, what they eat and why they aren't as bad as they're made out to be!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:ย  August 5th 2022

Hyenas are famously giggly, scary scavengers! But how much of that is really true? We've put together 15 fun facts all about real hyenas so you can find out a bit more about these awesome animals and their lives! And if you enjoyed that, check out more animal facts here! Or how about these really cool rhino facts? You might want to check out these excellent elephant facts! Or perhaps you're after some sweet snake facts?

1. They Are Found In Africa and Asia

Hyenas are found all over the place, in lots of different countries throughout Africa and Asia. Spotted and brown Hyenas are found in African countries, stretching all across the continent, whilst striped hyenas are found in middle-eastern countries like Iran, Iraq and even as far as Nepal!

2. The Female Are In Charge

Hyenas live in clans of anywhere up to 130 animals, and they are mostly female dominated. That means that the females make decisions, lead hunts, and decide where the clan will go. They're generally stronger and larger than the males, so it makes sense!

3. They Are Closely Related To The Aardwolf

You might not have heard of the aardwolf, but its a type of animal very similar to a hyena, that lives in African arid territories. The aardwolf is stripy, and is sometimes known as the 'termite hyena' because of its diet of insects. How do they eat the termites? They use their sticky tongues to lap them up! Gross!

4. They Aren't Dogs

Hyenas may look a bit like dogs, but in actual fact they are more closely related to cats! Although both are carnivorous mammals, hyenas are not part of the dog family. They are part of their own family, Hyaenidae, but they are also cloesly related to animals like the mongoose and viverrids (which includes bearcats, genets, and civets!)

5. They Do Laugh (Sort of) But Not For The Reasons You Might Think

If you know one thing about hyenas, its that they make a weird giggling noise that sounds a bit like laughter! But they're not ACTUALLY laughing - what they're doing is actually feeling threatened! They only really make that noise when they feel under attack, so if you do hear a hyena laughing - best to run!

6. They Are Hunters

For some reason, many people think of hyenas as scavengers (animals who eat other animal's leftovers) but they are in fact very skilled hunters! Hyenas chase down their prey, exhausting them in the process, and have been known to take down really big animals like giraffes this way! In fact, far from being scavengers, it's often the lions who eat THEIR leftovers!

7. They Have Very Strong Jaws

As predators, hyenas need to have strong teeth and jaws to crunch throw bones and muscles (yikes!) Hyenas can exert huge force with their jaws to crack open bones, much stronger than a human, so its wise not to annoy one!

8. They Are Really Caring

Hyenas make really good mums! They look after their pups (who are all born black, without markings) for a long time, and put a lot of energy into raising each one. They also produce a lot of rich milk, making sure their young grow up to be as strong as possible! A hyena pup will stay with its mum for over a year after it's born, enabling a strong bond between them.

9. They Are Really Clever

Hyenas are really intelligent! As predators and hunters, they need to be able to make quick decisions in order to catch their prey, but they're also inquisitive and able to use thinking skills to get themselves out of tricky situations. Some hyenas have even been shown to be cleverer than chimps! They have also been shown to be able to count, making decisions about their clans depending on its size. Clever!

10. Birth Can Be Difficult

Although hyenas do make great mums, the birth itself can be a bit dangerous. This is because a female hyena's, um, private hyena parts, mimic the male hyenas! So the baby hyena has to be birthed through a space that isn't really the right shape for it! Sadly, up to 60% of hyena pups don't survive this birth! It's also a dangerous and painful experience for the mum too, so all round, not a fun time!

11. They Don't Make Very Good Pets

If you're reading this list and thinking how cool it would be to have a hyena of your own, think again! Unlike cats and dogs, hyenas aren't very easy to tame. They are territorial and natural predators, so it would be hard to train one to fetch your slippers! Plus, we don't imagine hearing that giggle in the middle of the night would be very comforting! And if you need anymore discouragement, its also illegal!

12. They Appear In Hieroglyphics

Hyenas have been around for millions of years, which means they were already here when we turned up! In fact, you can see evidence of them in ancient art like Egyptian murals! Hyenas were common in ancient Egypt, so it's no wonder they turn up in pictures! But any depiction of hyenas as tame pets in ancient Egypt is probably just bluff! As we already said, they don't make very fun pets!

13. There Are Lots of Myths About Hyenas

Hyenas symbolise lots of different things in different folklore and cultures, and they appear in lots of stories and art! Most of the depictions of hyenas are negative: in Tanzania, they are thought to be the pets of witches, and some people also believed they were vampires! The Werehyena was a common sight in medieval artwork, where it was believed that certain people would turn into hyenas at the full moon and attack others! Don't worry, in real life, hyenas are just hyenas!

14. Spotted Hyenas Sleep In The Bath!

The spotted hyena has an usual method for keeping cool while it's napping - they sleep in water! Spotted hyenas are native to one of the hottest places in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa, so it's no wonder they need a way to beat the heat! Would you fancy sleeping in the bath?

15. They Aren't All Bad

Hyenas have a pretty bad rep - they're often cast as villains, and there are lots of false stories about them robbing graves, eating people and just generally being nasty! But hyenas don't do any of that, and while they might try and steal your food, they aren't any more dangerous to humans than other mammals. So cut the hyena some slack, because they really are pretty cool creatures!