The Spotted Hyena

Amazing Animal

Just for kids

Yak's Corner

April 12, 1999|By Patricia Chargot | Patricia Chargot,Kay Holekamp, assistant zoology professor, MSU.

WHAT is it?

It's a mammal that looks like a cross between a dog and a bear, but it's more closely related to a cat. Hyenas played bad guys in the movie "The Lion King."

How BIG is it?

About the size of a German shepherd.

Why is it UNUSUAL?

The females are bigger and stronger than the males. In most mammal species, males are bigger and stronger than females.

WHAT can it do?

It can make a sound like wild laughter if it thinks another hyena is going to bite it. It can sprint as fast as 50 mph and can run all day at slower speeds.

Why is it misunderstood?

Many books say hyenas usually eat animals they find that are already dead. In fact, most of what hyenas eat they kill themselves. They're very good hunters.

What does it EAT?

Large hoofed animals such as zebras and gazelles. A hyena has the strongest jaws of any mammal. It can crunch a thigh bone as if it were a potato chip. It eats everything -- meat and bones, too.

Can you tell them APART?

Yes. Kay Holekamp, who teaches at Michigan State University, has been studying a group of 70 hyenas in Kenya since 1988. She can tell them apart by the patterns of their spots.

Where is its home?

Africa, southeast of the Sahara.

Pub Date: 04/12/99

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