Hyena, a large, strong, flesh-eating mammal native to the Eastern Hemisphere. The striped hyena, which grows to a length of 3 1/2 feet (1 m) and weighs up to 75 pounds (34 kg), is found in India, the Middle East, and North Africa. The spotted hyena of central and southern Africa measures up to 5 1/2 feet (1.7 m) in length and weighs about 175 pounds (79 kg). The brown hyena of southern Africa is about the same size as the striped.
Coarse, short, bristly hair, brownish-gray in color, covers most of the hyena's body. A shaggy mane grows on the ridge of its neck. The animal appears to be humpbacked because its hind legs are shorter than its front legs. It has long, erect ears. Its powerful cheek muscles and teeth can crush the bones of an ox.
The hyena is both a scavenger and an aggressive hunter. Hyenas work together to fell their prey—zebras and wildebeests. They communicate through a series of yells and growls; their cries resemble human laughter. Hyenas have been known to attack livestock and humans. Male hyenas will sometimes eat cubs that have strayed from their den.
Both the brown hyena and a North African subspecies of the striped hyena are endangered animals. Many have been killed in the mistaken belief that they are a serious threat to livestock. The striped hyena has also declined in number because of loss of its natural habitat.
Hyenas belong to the family Hyaenidae. The striped hyena is Hyaena hyaena; the spotted, Crocuta crocuta; the brown, H. brunnea .