Are Hyenas Dogs or Cats?

Hyenas are strange creatures. They look like dogs, and in some ways they act like dogs, but they also act like cats at times. These unique animals have captured the imaginations of people all of the world for years, but many dont know anything about them. So, are Hyenas dogs or cats or neither? In this article well find out!

Unlike their spotted cousins, striped hyenas prefer to live alone or in pairs, and dont like large groups. They are capable of killing their own prey, but they rarely do so and only the largest hyenas of the Middle Eastern and Asian parts of the range have been known to hunt.

While it often feeds on the carcasses from wolf kills and competes with them directly, it also occasionally lives alongside them, sharing their dens. These hyenas are aggressive scavengers who will frequently chase cheetahs, leopards, and jackals away from their kills. Much like wolves, brown hyenas usually live in packs consisting of a mated pair and their offspring.

This means it lacks the incredible bite force and bone-crushing teeth that make other hyenas such effective scavengers, and they tend to hunt their own prey.

Are hyenas canine or feline?

No dogs here! Hyenas are not members of the dog or cat families. Instead, they are so unique that they have a family all their own, Hyaenidae. There are four members of the Hyaenidae family: the striped hyena, the “giggly” spotted hyena, the brown hyena, and the aardwolf (it’s a hyena, not a wolf).

What is a hyena classified as?

Though many people compare hyenas to dogs, they are actually much more like cats. In fact, they are members of the suborder Feliformia, which is a classification for cat-like carnivores, according to Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). There are four species in the hyena family, and they vary in size.

Can a hyena breed with a dog?

Nott (1856, p. 495) states that the dog produces hybrids with the hyena, “but to what extent has not yet been determined.” However, he provides no citation, and this cross does not appear to be substantiated by any reliable report, although it is mentioned by various early writers (e.g., Julius Caesar Scaliger 1612, p.

What are hyenas closest relatives?

Spotted hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs, despite their dog-like appearance. Their closest relatives are actually mongooses and civets. Unlike all other carnivores, spotted hyenas have a complex social system where animals live in female-dominated clans of up to 90 individuals.

|The four living species of hyena, clockwise from upper left: spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea), aardwolf (Proteles cristata) and striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena)|

Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, nonretractable claws are adapted for running and making sharp turns. In some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children.

Hyenas originated in the jungles of Miocene Eurasia 22 million years ago, when most early feliform species were still largely arboreal . The first ancestral hyenas were likely similar to the modern African civet ; one of the earliest hyena species described, Plioviverrops , was a lithe, civet-like animal that inhabited Eurasia 2022 million years ago, and is identifiable as a hyaenid by the structure of the middle ear and dentition. The lineage of Plioviverrops prospered, and gave rise to descendants with longer legs and more pointed jaws, a direction similar to that taken by canids in North America .

Although the dog-like hyenas thrived 15 million years ago (with one taxon having colonised North America), they became extinct after a change in climate, along with the arrival of canids into Eurasia. The decline of the dog-like hyenas began 57 million years ago during a period of climate change, exacerbated by canids crossing the Bering land bridge to Eurasia. One species, Chasmaporthetes ossifragus , managed to cross the land bridge into North America, being the only hyena to do so.

Chasmaporthetes managed to survive for some time in North America by deviating from the endurance-running and bone-crushing niches monopolized by canids, and developing into a cheetah -like sprinter. By 5 million years ago, the bone-crushing hyenas had become the dominant scavengers of Eurasia, primarily feeding on large herbivore carcasses felled by sabre-toothed cats . [7] With the decline of large herbivores by the late ice age, Pachycrocuta was replaced by the smaller Crocuta .

Its success is partly attributed to its insectivorous diet, for which it faced no competition from canids crossing from North America. The European form was similar in appearance to modern populations, but was larger, being comparable in size to the brown hyena . [10] Ancestral spotted hyenas probably developed social behaviours in response to increased pressure from rivals on carcasses, thus forcing them to operate in teams.

Spotted hyenas evolved sharp carnassials behind their crushing premolars, therefore they did not need to wait for their prey to die, and thus became pack hunters as well as scavengers. [7] Spotted hyenas spread from their original homeland during the Middle Pleistocene , and quickly colonised a very wide area from Europe, to southern Africa and China . [10] With the decline of grasslands 12,500 years ago, Europe experienced a massive loss of lowland habitats favoured by spotted hyenas, and a corresponding increase in mixed woodlands.

Spotted hyenas, under these circumstances, would have been outcompeted by wolves and humans , who were as much at home in forests as in open landsand in highlands as in lowlands. [13] The percrocutids are, in contrast to McKenna and Bell’s classification, not included as a subfamily into the Hyaenidae, but as the separate family Percrocutidae (though they are generally grouped as sister-taxa to hyenas [14] ). The following cladogram illustrates the phylogenetic relationships between extant and extinct hyaenids based on the morphological analysis by Werdelin & Solounias (1991), [21] as updated by Turner et al. (2008).

(bonecracking hyenas)
Phylogenic relationships based on morphological characteristics, after Werdelin & Solounias (1991) and Turner et al (2008). A more recent molecular analysis agrees on the phylogenetic relationship between the four extant hyaenidae species (Koepfli et al , 2006 [23] ). Note the disproportionately large carnassials and premolars adapted for bone consumptionAardwolf skull.

Note the greatly reduced molars and carnassials, rendered redundant from insectivoryHyenas have relatively short torsos and are fairly massive and wolf-like in build, but have lower hind quarters, high withers and their backs slope noticeably downward towards their rumps. Their skulls superficially resemble those of large canids, but are much larger and heavier, with shorter facial portions. The carnassials , especially the upper, are very powerful and are shifted far back to the point of exertion of peak pressure on the jaws.

The other teeth, save for the underdeveloped upper molars , are powerful, with broad bases and cutting edges. [30] The strength of their jaws is such that both striped and spotted hyenas have been recorded to kill dogs with a single bite to the neck without breaking the skin. [31][32] The spotted hyena is renowned for its strong bite proportional to its size, but a number of other animals (including the Tasmanian devil ) are proportionately stronger.

Although hyenas lack perineal scent glands, they have a large pouch of naked skin located at the anal opening. The odor of this secretion is very strong, smelling of boiling cheap soap or burning, and can be detected by humans several meters downwind. Spotted hyena cubs at their denBrown hyena cub standing on a path of stonesHyenas groom themselves often like felids and viverrids , and their way of licking their genitals is very cat-like (sitting on the lower back, legs spread with one leg pointing vertically upward).

Instead, hyenas mark their territories using their anal glands, a trait found also in viverrids and mustelids , but not canids and felids . [32] The spotted hyena is very vocal, producing a number of different sounds consisting of whoops, grunts, groans, lows, giggles, yells, growls, laughs and whines. [41] The striped hyena is comparatively silent, its vocalizations being limited to a chattering laugh and howling.

[38] Spotted hyena cubs are born almost fully developed, with their eyes open and erupting incisors and canines, though lacking adult markings. [43] In contrast, striped hyena cubs are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. The striped hyena is primarily a scavenger, though it will also attack and kill any animals it can overcome, [39] and will supplement its diet with fruit.

[46] The spotted hyena, though it also scavenges occasionally, is an active pack hunter of medium to large sized ungulates , which it catches by wearing them down in long chases and dismembering them in a canid-like manner. The aardwolf is primarily an insectivore, specialised for feeding on termites of the genus Trinervitermes and Hodotermes , which it consumes by licking them up with its long, broad tongue. [39] Generally, hyenas are known to drive off larger predators, like lions, from their kills, despite having a reputation in popular culture for being cowardly.

Despite this perceived unique disease resistance, little is known about the immune system of spotted hyenas, [50][51][52][53] and even less is known about other Hyaenidae species. Spotted hyenas vary in their folkloric and mythological depictions, depending on the ethnic group from which the tales originate. In western African tales, spotted hyenas are sometimes depicted as bad Muslims who challenge the local animism that exists among the Beng in Cte dIvoire .

[ citation needed ] In East Africa, Tabwa mythology portrays the spotted hyena as a solar animal that first brought the sun to warm the cold earth, while West African folklore generally shows the hyena as symbolizing immorality, dirty habits, the reversal of normal activities, and other negative traits. [54] In the Mtwara Region of Tanzania, it is believed that a child born at night while a hyena is crying will be likely to grow up to be a thief. [55] The Kaguru of Tanzania and the Kujamaat of Southern Senegal view hyenas as inedible and greedy hermaphrodites.

A mythical African tribe called the Bouda is reputed to house members able to transform into hyenas. Striped hyenas are often referred to in Middle Eastern literature and folklore, typically as symbols of treachery and stupidity. [57] In the Near and Middle East, striped hyenas are generally regarded as physical incarnations of jinns .

In his book Ajib Al-Makhlqt he wrote that should one of this tribe be in a group of 1000 people, a hyena could pick him out and eat him. [54] al-Damr in his writings in awayn al-Kubr (1406) wrote that striped hyenas were vampiric creatures that attacked people at night and sucked the blood from their necks. [57] In a similar vein to al-Damr, the Greeks , until the end of the 19th century, believed that the bodies of werewolves, if not destroyed, would haunt battlefields as vampiric hyenas that drank the blood of dying soldiers.

Though the Authorized King James Version of the Bible interprets the term “`ayit tsavua`” (which appears in Jeremiah 12:9) as “speckled bird”, Henry Baker Tristram argued that it was most likely a hyena being mentioned. The vocalization of the spotted hyena resembling hysterical human laughter has been alluded to in numerous works of literature: “to laugh like a hyna” was a common simile , and is featured in The Cobbler’s Prophecy (1594), Webster’s Duchess of Malfy (1623) and Shakespeares As You Like It , Act IV. Illustration from Fraser’s magazine showing an artist’s impression of a “stag-hound” biting a spotted hyena attacking its masterIn ordinary circumstances, striped hyenas are extremely timid around humans, though they may show bold behaviors towards people at night.

[64] Hyenas habituated to scavenging on human corpses may develop bold behaviors towards living people: hyena attacks on people in southern Sudan increased during the Second Sudanese Civil War , when human corpses were readily available to them. [67] A 1903 report describes spotted hyenas in the Mzimba district of Angoniland waiting at dawn outside people’s huts to attack them when they opened their doors. [68] Victims of spotted hyenas tend to be women, children and sick or infirm men: Theodore Roosevelt wrote in 19081909 in Uganda that spotted hyenas regularly killed sufferers of African sleeping sickness as they slept outside in camps.

Attacks occurred most commonly in September, when people slept outdoors and bush fires made the hunting of wild game difficult for the hyenas. [66][68] A 2004 news report stated that 35 people were killed by spotted hyenas in a 12-month period in Mozambique along a 20-km stretch of road near the Tanzanian border. [71] A survey of wild animal attacks during a five-year period in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh reported that hyenas had attacked three people, causing fewer deaths than wolves , gaur , boar , elephants , tigers , leopards and sloth bears .

[74] This practice dates back to the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans , who believed that different parts of the hyena’s body were effective means to ward off evil and to ensure love and fertility. 6972 ^ “Comparative ecology and taphonomy of spotted hyenas, humans, and wolves in Pleistocene Italy” (PDF) . Malcolm C. McKenna, Susan K. Bell: Classification of Mammals: Above the Species Level , Columbia University Press, New York 1997, 631 Seiten, ISBN 0-231-11013-8 ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005).

“A new species of Tungurictis Colbert, 1939 (Carnivora, Hyaenidae) from the middle Miocene of Junggar Basin, northwestern China and the early divergence of basal hyaenids in East Asia” . “Mosaic functionality in a transitional ecomorphology: skull biomechanics in stem Hyaeninae compared to modern South African carnivorans” . CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list ( link ) ^ Turner, Alan; Antn, Mauricio; Werdelin, Lars (2008).

45 ^ Holl, William & Wood, Neville The Analyst: a quarterly journal of science, literature, natural history, and the fine arts, Volume 10 , p. 59, Simpkin & Marshall, 1840 ^ Mills & Hofer 1998 , p. 21 ^ Kruuk 1972 , pp. “Mandibular force profiles of extant carnivorans and implications for the feeding behavior of extinct predators”. 3133 ^ Hyaena Specialist Group – Spotted Hyena: Diet and Foraging Archived 2011-02-04 at the Wayback Machine .

“Regular exposure to rabies virus and lack of symptomatic disease in Serengeti spotted hyenas” . “Markedly Elevated Antibody Responses in Wild versus Captive Spotted Hyenas Show that Environmental and Ecological Factors Are Important Modulators of Immunity” . ^ a b c d e Frembgen, Jrgen W. The Magicality of the Hyena: Beliefs and Practices in West and South Asia , Asian Folklore Studies, Volume 57, 1998: 331344 ^ a b Mills & Hofer 1998 , p. 97 ^ “The spotted hyena from Aristotle to the Lion King: reputation is everything – In the Company of Animals” .

^ a b c Mounir R. Abi-Said (2006) Reviled as a grave robber: The ecology and conservation of striped hyaenas in the human dominated landscapes of Lebanon Ph.D. thesis, University of Kent (Biodiversity management) ^ Woodward, Ian (1979). Sharpe, page 6, ISBN 1-56324-300-8 ^ a b c Begg, Colleen, Begg, Keith & Muemedi, Oscar (2007) Preliminary data on human – carnivore conflict in Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique, particularly fatalities due to lion, spotted hyaena and crocodile Archived 2011-12-26 at the Wayback Machine , SGDRN (Sociedade para a Gesto e Desenvolvimento da Reserva do Niassa Moambique) ^ Kruuk, Hans (2002) Hunter and hunted: relationships between carnivores and people Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-89109-4 ^ a b Knight, John (2000). ^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1910) African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter, Naturalist , New York, C. Scribner’s sons ^ , p. 46 ^ Mills & Hofer 1998 , p. 25 ^ “The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans” (PDF) .

Funk, Holdger (2010) Hyaena: On the Naming and Localisation of an Enigmatic Animal , GRIN Verlag, ISBN 3-640-69784-7 Lawick, Hugo & Goodall, Jane (1971) Innocent Killers , Houghton Mifflin Company Boston Mills, M. G. L. (2003) Kalahari Hyenas: Comparative Behavioral Ecology of Two Species , The Blackburn Press

Hyenas in the Fossil Record

The Hyena has been around for a long time. At one time, they ranged over much of the Earth and there were two distinct types of hyena, dog-like hyenas and bone-crushing hyenas. Each type had many different species and filled different ecological niches.Hyenas are older than canines, but when the first species of canid began to spread they quickly started to outcompete the dog-like hyenas. All but one of the modern hyenas are bone-crushing hyenas. At one time, though dog-like hyenas were incredibly common, with some species outnumbering all other carnivores in their habitat. In addition to the arrival of canid species, severe climate change drove the extinction of most of the dog like hyena species.

Spotted Hyena

This is the animal you think of when you think of hyenas, and most people probably aren’t aware of any other hyena species. Spotted hyenas get all the attention because they’re the largest hyena species, and because of their often dramatic encounters with African lions. They are a species of bone-crushing hyena, but they’re unique in their ability to hunt and kill their own prey- other bone-crushing hyenas are pure scavengers.Spotted hyenas will scavenge for food, but they’re far more likely to do their own hunting. It’s commonly believed that hyenas are scavengers who routinely steal food from lions, but in fact spotted hyenas prefer to hunt their own food, and lions frequently steal kills from hyenas.At one time, they lived throughout Europe as well as Africa, but went extinct in Europe thousands of years ago as climate change altered the landscape. Now, they’re restricted to the plains of Africa.These are the most social of hyenas, and probably the most social of any carnivore. They live in enormous family groups and have extremely complex social behaviors. In fact, the only other animals whose social behaviors are this complex are primates, which suggests that spotted hyenas are very intelligent.

Striped Hyena

Striped hyenas have the largest range of the modern hyenas, living everywhere from Morocco to India and in a large portion of sub-Saharan Africa. Even with such a large range, they’re very rare, with less then 10,000 animals remaining in the wild.Unlike their spotted cousins, striped hyenas prefer to live alone or in pairs, and don’t like large groups. They’re also scavengers, like most of the bone-crushing hyenas of the distant past. They are capable of killing their own prey, but they rarely do so and only the largest hyenas of the Middle Eastern and Asian parts of the range have been known to hunt. African striped hyenas have never been documented killing their own prey, and are exclusively scavengers.In the Asian parts of its range, it has a strange relationship with the grey wolf. While it often feeds on the carcasses from wolf kills and competes with them directly, it also occasionally lives alongside them, sharing their dens. Striped hyenas have even been recorded traveling with wolf packs on rare occasions.

Brown Hyena

This extremely rare hyena lives in the stark deserts of southern Africa. They have a long, shaggy brown coat, and large, muscular heads. These hyenas are aggressive scavengers who will frequently chase cheetahs, leopards, and jackals away from their kills. Brown hyenas are the dominant predator in most of their range, as lions, African wild dogs, and spotted hyenas generally aren’t present in the same habitat.Much like wolves, brown hyenas usually live in packs consisting of a mated pair and their offspring. Males typically leave and join other hyena families as they reach maturity while females tend to remain with the family they were born into.Brown hyenas are persecuted by farmers who believe they are a threat to livestock. This belief is mistaken, since brown hyenas almost never kill their own prey. In the rare cases when they do make their own kills, the animals they kill are quite small.

Aardwolf

The smallest of the hyenas, the aardwolf is also the only surviving species of dog-like hyenas. This means it lacks the incredible bite force and bone-crushing teeth that make other hyenas such effective scavengers, and they tend to hunt their own prey.Aardwolves are insectivores, meaning they eat mostly insects. This diet is likely why they survived when the other dog-like hyenas didn’t: they weren’t competing directly against the canids that were driving the other dog-like hyenas to extinction.They look like a smaller, slender version of striped hyenas. Aardwolves are shy nocturnal animals that spend the daylight hours safely hidden in their burrows. They have a long, sticky tongue that they use to sweep up ants and especially termites, which are their favorite food.Aardwolves live in southern and eastern Africa, and live in monogamous mated pairs. While they’re not commonly seen, aardwolves have a robust population and aren’t in danger of extinction.

Hyena

Although phylogenetically closer to felines and viverrids, as part of suborder Feliformia, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canids in several elements due to convergent evolution; both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, nonretractable claws are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, hyenas‘ grooming, scent marking, defecation habits, mating and parental behavior are consistent with the behavior of other feliforms.Hyenas feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures that live alongside them. Hyenas are commonly viewed as frightening and worthy of contempt. In some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children.

Origins[edit]

Hyenas originated in the jungles of Miocene Eurasia 22 million years ago, when most early feliform species were still largely arboreal. The first ancestral hyenas were likely similar to the modern African civet; one of the earliest hyena species described,

Bone-crushing hyenas[edit]

By 10–14 million years ago, the hyena family had split into two distinct groups: dog-like hyenas and bone-crushing hyenas. The arrival of the ancestral bone-crushing hyenas coincided with the decline of the similarly built family Percrocutidae. The bone-crushing hyenas survived the changes in climate and the arrival of canids, which wiped out the dog-like hyenas, though they never crossed into North America, as their niche there had already been taken by the dog subfamily Borophaginae. By 5 million years ago, the bone-crushing hyenas had become the dominant scavengers of Eurasia, primarily feeding on large herbivore carcasses felled by sabre-toothed cats. One genus,

Rise of modern hyenas[edit]

The four extant species are the striped hyena (The aardwolf can trace its lineage directly back toThe striped hyena may have evolved fromThe spotted hyena (

Build[edit]

Hyenas have relatively short torsos and are fairly massive and wolf-like in build, but have lower hind quarters, high withers and their backs slope noticeably downward towards their rumps. The forelegs are high, while the hind legs are very short and their necks are thick and short. Their skulls superficially resemble those of large canids, but are much larger and heavier, with shorter facial portions. Hyenas are digitigrade, with the fore and hind paws having four digits each and sporting bulging pawpads.Their dentition is similar to that of the canid, but is more specialised for consuming coarse food and crushing bones. The carnassials, especially the upper, are very powerful and are shifted far back to the point of exertion of peak pressure on the jaws. The other teeth, save for the underdeveloped upper molars, are powerful, with broad bases and cutting edges. The canines are short, but thick and robust.Although hyenas lack perineal scent glands, they have a large pouch of naked skin located at the anal opening. Large anal glands above the anus open into this pouch. Several sebaceous glands are present between the openings of the anal glands and above them.

Behavior[edit]

Hyenas groom themselves often like felids and viverrids, and their way of licking their genitals is very cat-like (sitting on the lower back, legs spread with one leg pointing vertically upward). However, unlike other feliforms, they do not “wash” their faces. They defecate in the same manner as other Carnivora, though they never raise their legs as canids do when urinating, as urination serves no territorial function for them. Instead, hyenas mark their territories using their anal glands, a trait found also in viverrids and mustelids, but not canids and felids.Mating between hyenas involves a number of short copulations with brief intervals, unlike canids, who generally engage in a single, drawn out copulation.The striped hyena is primarily a scavenger, though it will also attack and kill any animals it can overcome,

Folklore, mythology and literature[edit]

Spotted hyenas vary in their folkloric and mythological depictions, depending on the ethnic group from which the tales originate. It is often difficult to know whether spotted hyenas are the specific hyena species featured in such stories, particularly in West Africa, as both spotted and striped hyenas are often given the same names. In western African tales, spotted hyenas are sometimes depicted as bad Muslims who challenge the local animism that exists among the Beng in Côte d’Ivoire. In East Africa, Tabwa mythology portrays the spotted hyena as a solar animal that first brought the sun to warm the cold earth, while West African folklore generally shows the hyena as symbolizing immorality, dirty habits, the reversal of normal activities, and other negative traits. In Tanzania, there is a belief that witches use spotted hyenas as mounts.Striped hyenas are often referred to in Middle Eastern literature and folklore, typically as symbols of treachery and stupidity.The striped hyena is mentioned in the Bible. The Arab word for the hyena,The vocalization of the spotted hyena resembling hysterical human laughter has been alluded to in numerous works of literature: “to laugh like a hyæna” was a common simile, and is featured inBud and Lou, from the DC Comics, are also hyenas and are pets of Harley Quinn.

Attacks on humans[edit]

In ordinary circumstances, striped hyenas are extremely timid around humans, though they may show bold behaviors towards people at night.Among hyenas, only the spotted and striped hyenas have been known to become man-eaters. Hyenas are known to have preyed on humans in prehistory: Human hair has been found in fossilized hyena dung dating back 195,000 to 257,000 years.Although spotted hyenas have been known to prey on humans in modern times, such incidents are rare. However, attacks on humans by spotted hyenas are likely to be underreported.In the 1880s, a hyena was reported to have attacked humans, especially sleeping children, over a three-year period in the Iğdır Province of Turkey, with 25 children and 3 adults being wounded in one year. The attacks provoked local authorities into announcing a reward of 100 rubles for every hyena killed. Further attacks were reported later in some parts of Transcaucasia, particularly in 1908. Instances are known in Azerbaijan of striped hyenas killing children sleeping in courtyards during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1942, a sleeping guard was mauled in his hut by a hyena in Qalıncaq (Golyndzhakh). Cases of children being taken by hyenas by night are known in southeast Turkmenia’s Bathyz Nature Reserve. A further attack on a child was reported around Serakhs in 1948.

Hyenas as food and medicine[edit]

Hyenas are used for food and medicinal purposes in Somalia