Travelers Questions about the Hyena


The hyena is a herd animal. They live under a very special ranking, where it is quite clear to (notice) who is at the top of the range and who is at the bottom. Hundreds of hyenas can live together in the same cave. The herd is controlled by the dominant female. Below come other hyena females, after which newborn and young hyenas have their place in the ranking. At the bottom of the range are the males. Life in the hyena herd is relentless and an eternal struggle for dominance. Under the dominant hyena, the females have their own rank. The hyenas at the bottom of the range must prepare for beatings and a generally degrading life. It is “survival of the fittest”, and the strongest thus get a better position in the hierarchy.

The dominant female rules unilaterally, and no females take up the fight with the dominant hyena. They neither doubt nor challenge the dominant position of the dominant female. Only the dominant female is allowed to bring food into the common den. Likewise, she is the only one allowed to give birth in the clan’s cave. The kids thus get a better start in life than other kids. Because they can more easily access meat, they also suckle for a shorter time than other pups. Due to the rank of the hyena clan, it can change from 7-21 months before a youngster stops breastfeeding and instead starts hunting with the mother to find carrion or possible prey.


In appearance, the hyena is confusingly similar to a large dog. It is incorrectly assumed if one thinks that the hyena is thus related to the dog. 55 million years ago, in evolution, predators split into two groups. Of which dogs, bears, half bears and martens are in one group and cats, desmer animals and hyenas are in another group. The hyena and the cat began to evolve from each other 30 million years ago. The hyena is designed to fill a niche in nature that corresponds to the dog’s, which is why their features are similar. The hyena developed into a long-distance hunter, as well as scavenger hunter. It places demands on the hyena’s physique and physique, which makes it more like the dog than the cat.

Is the hyena selfish or social?

In relation to other animals in the food chain, the hyena shows a very special dominance and selfishness. They are extremely confident when they want to take over a scavenger from e.g. gribbe. In the right herd size, they can even steal food from lions. Among other hyenas, however, they are extremely social and cooperative. When they attack in droves, the cooperation is highly coordinated. They help each other and they like to teach each other new tricks for the hunt. Cooperation exercises have been made with the hyena, which shows that the hyena is extremely good at cooperating compared to e.g. chimpanzees that otherwise also have a reputation for being an cooperative animal.

The experiment involved two or more hyenas pulling a square at the same time to get a reward. The hyenas quickly solved the task. When new hyenas were added to the experiment, the hyenas taught the new hyena what to do to get the reward. The hyenas communicated via eye contact and sound, and collaborated to get the job done. Problems arise, however, when two dominant hyenas are put together. Here the dominance and egoism come to life, and two dominant hyenas rarely succeed in cooperating.

Can a hyena family rise in rank?

No, they can not.

The structure among hyenas is very entrenched and it is not possible to break with the social heritage. If pups are born to mothers of high rank, they will also automatically have a high rank among the other hyenas. The same is true in a reverse scenario. If a young is born into the lowest rank, he can expect beatings and disturbances from hyenas of higher rank. The young hyena’s young are grubby and extremely confident. They are not afraid to attack hyenas that are bigger and stronger than themselves, if only their rank is lower than their own. .

Do hyenas kill each other?

Yes, with hyenas, everything is a battle for dominance. The cubs are born as muscle bundles with fully grown canines. The first two days are thus a battle for life or death for the little hyena cub. The kids fight to the death over who should have the first right to the meals with the mother, and thus the best location. On these two days, it is also decided which rank in the herd the hyena cub should have for the rest of its life. It is a ruthless animal that has no sympathy for others. The hyena has developed a system that fits perfectly with life on the savannah. Only the strongest survive. From the time the baby is a fetus, the preparations for the most important fight of the hyena pups begin. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, the mother begins to feed the pups with the male hormone androgen. This makes the pups extremely aggressive at birth.

Although life as a hyena is brutal, the mother is still a very loving and attentive mother who helps her young the first year of life. If the baby is lost or on its way out of the cave, the mother carries the baby back in place.

Can hyenas laugh?

Yes and no.

It’s not a real laugh, though. Laughter is the hyenas’ way of communicating. It determines how high a rank the hyena has, but can also help to indicate the age of the hyena. The hyenas use both body language and ‘laugh’ to communicate with each other, and thus cooperate based on the rank they now have. Higher-ranking hyenas laugh more. For new hyenas in the herd – especially males – it can be very helpful to know what social status a hyena has. Thus, it can more easily decide who to catch up with in order to rise in rank.

The hyenas are scavengers