Postcards from Kruger: Hyenas

Hyenas are not my favourite wild animal. Not only are they not very attractive animals, but they scare me. Probably because they are best known for their bone-crushing jaws. All of the hyenas in this post are “Spotted Hyenas”.

A description from Wikipedia:

Although phylogenetically they are closer to felines and viverrids, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several aspects; 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, non-retractable nails are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas’ grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating, and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms.

Spotted hyenas may kill as many as 95% of the animals they eat, while striped hyenas are largely scavengers. Generally, hyenas are known to drive off larger predators, like lions, from their kills, despite having a reputation in popular culture for being cowardly. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but sometimes venture from their lairs in the early-morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.

I once had a frightening experience in the Kalahari, where a group of hyenas was sniffing and pawing at the tented structure I was in. Recently, in the Kruger National Park, a hyena got into a tent in one of the camps, and attacked a teenage boy sleeping inside. The boy survived the attack.


Even hyenas look cute with they are young. ©LB/


Below, a sighting of a solitary hyena.


Early morning, lying right next to the road. Obviously settling down for a nap. ©LB/



Fully aware of our presence. ©LB/

Another hyena on the prowl . . .


A hyena walking around in with its skulking gate. The way these animals lope around – often in small groups – makes them look like “skollies” (South African slang for “gangsters”) up to no good. ©WMB/




Hyena chewing on an old bone – exercising those bone crushing jaws. ©WMB/



Spotted Hyena in Kruger National Park. August, 2016. WMB/

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Nature/Environment, Photography


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


Subscribe to the Notes from Africa RSS and Twitter feeds to receive updates.

7 Comments on “Postcards from Kruger: Hyenas”

  1. September 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    Interesting that the spotted hyena and the striped hyena are so different in social and hunting behavior. They definitely look like a cross between a feline and a canid. 🙂

    • September 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

      Yes, I always knew that certain hyena species were more solitary than others, but didn’t relate that to their hunting/scavenging patterns. Makes sense though that they can hunt more easily in a small pack.

  2. September 27, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    Excellent photos of the hyenas, Lisa. I too have a healthy respect for those jaws.

    • Eha
      September 28, 2016 at 3:13 am #

      Not the most lovable of God’s creatures I agree! But THEY are there and the photos are great . . . shall repost since methinks we do not ‘quite’ have to wait till Oct 1 to learn and enjoy your wonderful photo journeys!!

      • September 28, 2016 at 10:17 am #

        Thanks Eha! Yes, they’re there and hyenas are fascinating to watch.

  3. September 29, 2016 at 1:07 am #

    They also are, I understand not as clearly “male” or “female” as most mammals. They are strange animals. No doubt an important part of that chain of life, but not one of the more attractive elements.

    • October 1, 2016 at 6:26 am #

      Yes, the female genitalia of the Spotted Hyena closely resembles that of the male. You can read more here. Not sure that this applies to the other hyena species though.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: