What type of animal are Hyaenas?
The hyaena is a fairly large carnivore, heavily built and hairy, with large powerful jaws and sloping hind quarters. Although somewhat dog-like in appearance, the hyaenas are placed in a family of their own and are more closely related to cats than dogs.
The Family Hyaenidae consists of three 'true' hyaenas and one closely related species known as the aardwolf (earth wolf). The aardwolf is a small and insect-eating member of the hyaena family and it is found on the plains of southern Africa.
The three other species are the spotted hyaena, brown hyaena and striped hyaena. The striped hyaena has a wider distribution than the other species as it is found in northern Africa, southern Asia and India.
The hyaena is almost wolf-like in appearance, but with longer front legs than hind legs, giving them their distinctive downward sloping backs. Most species have a mane of hairs running all down their back. They have four digits on each paw, with short, blunt, non retractable claws.
The well known 'laugh' belongs to the spotted hyaena, although it also has a number of other calls including a particularly blood curdling howl. All hyaenas are fairly noisy animals with a range of sounds varying from grunts to screams.
Photo: Geoff Gallice
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