In spite of its resemblance to canines in morphology and behaviour, Hyenas are closely related to the feline family of carnivora.
Both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters which catch their prey with their teeth rather than claws. Their calloused feet with large, blunt, non retractable claws are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecation habits, mating and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feline forms. Hyenas mark their territories using their anal glands, a trait found also in viverrids and mustelids, but not canids and felids.
There are three species of Hyenas- spotted hyena, striped hyena, and brown hyena.
The spotted hyena, the largest of the three, are seen mostly in African forests, deserts and plains. They are found in groups. The striped hyenas are seen in indian subcontinent. They are solitary animals. The brown hyenas are seen in African countries like Angola, Zimbabwe, etc.
In African continent, spotted Hyenas are considered the second strongest predator after lions and are on par with leopards. Their social interaction and coordination is considered the greatest among all predators. Like primates, researchers tell us, spotted hyenas use elaborate vocalizations to express themselves, live in complex societies, form coalitions, and learn to follow rules and respect complicated social hierarchies.
According to the apex predators hierarchy, the order is lion>hyena>leopard>cheetah. Thus the only challenge for hyenas are the lions. They can even defeat a tiger. We can find videos of hyenas preying on cubs.When scavenging a single hyena can displace cheetahs, brown hyenas and lone wild dogs with ease and have even been known to scare off leopards.
Hyenas and lions are natural enemies as they both fill a similar niche and have a large dietary overlap.
Hyenas can sprint at speeds of 60 km/h and can sustain speeds of 40–50 km/h over 5 kilometers which helps in long distance chases. To kill their prey hyenas will bite their victim while running, aiming to tear out chunks of flesh and damage major blood vessels.
Hyenas' biting force is around 1100 psi. Which indicates that it has more jaw strength than lions and tigers. According to some studies, they are even considered to have more intelligence than chimpanzees. But the authenticity is doubted. But of course, they are more intelligent than lions.
Hyena clans are matriarchies ruled by a single dominant female. Females are significantly larger than males, produce more testosterone, are more aggressive, and even develop “pseudo penises.”
Many believe that hyenas are the ones that steal from lions but it is actually usually the other way around!
Some prides of lions have even been known to survive for fairly long periods of time chiefly by scavenging off hyenas!
Despite their reputation as cowards and thieves, spotted hyenas are powerful predators that deserve our respect as much as wolves, wild dogs and other pack hunters!