Striped Hyena

Striped Hyena

name = Striped Hyena
fossil_range = Pliocene - Recent
status = LR/nt | status_system = IUCN2.3
trend = unknown

regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Carnivora
familia = Hyaenidae
genus = "Hyaena"
species = "H. hyaena"
binomial = "Hyaena hyaena"
binomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1758)

range_map_width = 220px
range_map_caption = Striped Hyena range

The Striped Hyena ("Hyaena hyaena") Al Dabea' الضبع Taras तरस is an omnivorous mammal of the family Hyaenidae. It lives in Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and western India. It is extinct in Europe, but can occasionally be spotted in Anatolia, Turkey. Striped Hyenas are largely scavengers, but will also eat small animals, fruit and insects. Larger subspecies are known to hunt animals as large as wild boar. They are nomadic, moving from water hole to water hole, but never straying more than 6 miles from one. Striped hyenas hunt in solitude but do congregate in small family groups. Like many other animals of hot climates, their ears radiate heat.

The striped hyena is generally considered solitary, but has some social organization. It forages individually and is rarely seen in groups. It does, however, associate in small family groups at the den. The striped hyena live in the tropical savanna, grasslands, Semi-desert, scrub forest, and woodland.


Physical description

The striped hyena is the second largest hyena species, being intermediate in size to the spotted hyena and the brown hyena. Its skull is not as large as that of the brown hyena, and its dentition less robust, indicating more generalised dietary adaptations.cite book | author = V.G Heptner & A.A. Sludskii | title = Mammals of the Soviet Union, Volume II, Part 2 | year = | pages = | id = ISBN 9004088768] It is a medium sized animal with a downward sloping back and a roundish head with a pointed muzzle and pointed ears. It is generally pale grey or beige in colour with a black patch on the throat. It sports 5-9 distinct vertical stripes on the flanks, with clearer black transverse and horizontal stripes on the legs. The mid-dorsal line has a mane which can be held erect, making it appear 38% bigger, which it does when it feels threatened. The mane serves as a signalling device during social interactions. It has a long, bushy tail which is black and white in colour, with long, coarse hair. Four toes with short, blunt, non-retractable claws are present on the feet. Males weigh between 26-41 kilograms (57-90 pounds), while females weigh 26-34 kg (57-75 lbs). Excluding the tail, total body length varies between 1.0 and 1.15m. Shoulder height is between 0.66-0.75m.cite web | url = | title = Striped Hyaena "Hyaena (Hyaena) hyaena" (Linnaeus, 1758) | publisher = IUCN Species Survival Commission Hyaenidae Specialist Group | accessdate = 2008-05-21 | month = May | year = ]


Litter sizes in the wild vary from 1-4 throughout the year with an average of 3. In captivity, average litter size is 1-5. Intensive digging behaviour by the female precedes parturition, and is often followed by a day of postnatal oestrus three weeks later. The cubs are born blind, with closed ear canals. Fur colour at this stage ranges from white to grey with clear black stripes. The cubs open their eyes after 7-8 days, while the teeth will erupt after 3 weeks. Solid food is ingested after a month. Weaning ages vary from eight weeks to 12 months. Both the male and female partake in feeding the cubs. The age of sexual maturity has been reported to be inconsistent. In Tashkent zoo, a female was four years old when she gave birth to her first litter, while 15 month old wild individuals in Israel were reported to bare three large embryos.

Caves are the striped hyena's preferred dens sites. Den entrances are fairly narrow and may be hidden by large boulders. A width of 0.67 m and 0.72 m for the entrance was reported from measurements of two dens in the Karakum desert. The Karakum dens lead 3m and 2.5m downward, while extending over a distance of 4.15 m and 5 m. There were no lateral extensions or special chambers, contrasting greatly with more elaborate designs discovered in Israel exceeding 27 m in length.


ocial behaviour

Striped hyenas are more solitary than spotted and brown hyenas, having smaller home ranges. In all subspecies, typical group sizes are 1-2, although groups of seven have been reported in Libya. Hyenas in Israel are generally solitary, though they may occasionally be seen congregating at carcasses. Central Asian striped hyenas are reported to be monogamous. Unlike the spotted hyena, there is little evidence of territorial behaviour. In the Serengeti, the home range sizes of two individuals were 44km2 and 72km2 respectively, while a home-range size for a single female in the Negev desert was reported to be approximately 61km2.

Striped hyenas investigate and lick the mid-back region where the mid-dorsal crest is situated during meetings. Striped hyenas greet conspecifics by sniffing each others noses and extruded anal pouches, and repeated pawing of each other's throats. During aggressive interactions, the black patch near the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae is erected. When fighting, striped hyenas bite at the throat and legs, though they will avoid the mane. The striped hyena marks its territory through scent marks from secretions from the anal pouch. Grass stalks, stones, tree trunks and other objects are the most commonly marked. The striped hyaena has a lower range of vocalizations than the spotted hyena.

Dietary habits

Unlike the spotted hyena, the striped hyena is primarily a scavenger, and will readily consume carrion and the remains of kills of other predators, using its powerful jaws to gnaw and crush bones. It does occasionally feed on live prey, though it has been suggested that only individuals from the three larger subspecies present in Northwest Africa, the Middle East and India kill large prey animals. There is no evidence that the smaller subspecies present in east Africa and the Arabian peninsula attack large herbivores. Striped hyenas in Turkmenistan have been recorded to feed on large numbers of tortoises, though they have also been observed hunting wild boar, kulan and porcupine. In the Caucuses, grasshoppers are their primary food source.

Striped hyenas will supplement their carnivorous diet with vegetation. Seasonal abundance of oil willow fruits is an important contribution to their diet in Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan. In Israel hyenas feed on fruits, particularly dates and melons. Striped hyena are able to drink varying qualities of water, from fresh water, soda and salt water. A diet of melons may also fulfil its liquid requirements. Striped hyenas have been observed feeding at landfills.

Interspecific predatory relationships

The striped hyenas habit of feasting on the kills of other predators inevitably results in some form of confrontation, ranging from threatening posturing to downright violence. In Africa the striped hyena is invariably dominated in feeding disputes against the larger apex carnivores such as lions and spotted hyena (though hyena biologist Hans Kruuk has stated that there does appear to be some form of 'attraction' between the two hyenid species). Disputes against lone predators such as leopards and cheetahs are more difficult to predict, the outcome usually depending on who intimidates who first.In India and the Middle East, the striped hyena will sometimes enter into conflict with wolves. Though individually stronger, the hyena's solitary nature puts it at a disadvantage against the more social wolf. Striped hyenas in India may dominate very young tigers, but generally wait until an adult is gone to scavenge from their kills. Hyena remains have been found in the stomachs of mugger crocodiles.cite book | author = Guggisberg, C.A.W. |url = | title = Crocodiles: Their Natural History, Folklore, and Conservation| year = 1972 | pages = pp.195 | id = ISBN 0715352725]


5 subspecies, differentiated by pelage and morphometric differences have been identified.cite book | author= Mounir R. Abi-Said | title=Reviled as a grave robber: The ecology and conservation of striped hyaenas in the human dominated landscapes of Lebanon | year=2006 | pages= | ]

* "Hyaena hyaena syriaca"; Middle East
* "Hyaena hyaena sultana"; Arabian Peninsula
* "Hyaena hyaena dubbah"; Northeast Africa
* "Hyaena hyaena barbara" (de Blainville, 1844); Northwest Africa
* "Hyaena hyaena hyaena" (Linnaeus, 1758); India

Relationship with humans

In folklore and superstition

Striped hyenas are frequently referenced in Middle Eastern literature and folklore, typically as symbols of treachery and stupidity. In the Near and Middle East, striped hyenas are generally regarded as physical incarnations of jinns. Arab writer Al-Quazweeni (1204-1283) spoke of a tribe of people called "Al-Dabeyoun" meaning "hyena people". In his book "Aajeb Al-Makhlouqat" he wrote that should one of this tribe be in a group of 1000 people, a hyena could pick him out and eat him. A Persian medical treatise written in 1376 tells how to cure cannibalistic people known as "kaftar", who are said to “half-man, half-hyena”. Al-Doumairy in his writings in "Hawayan Al-Koubra" (1406) wrote that striped hyenas were vampiric creatures that attacked people at night and sucked the blood from their necks. He also wrote that hyenas only attacked brave people. Arab folklore tells of how hyenas can mesmerise victims with their eyes or sometimes with their pheromones. In a similar vein to Al-Doumairy, the Greeks, until the end of the 19th century, believed that the bodies of werewolves, if not destroyed, would haunt battlefields as vampiric hyenas which drank the blood of dying soldiers.cite book | author= Woodward, Ian | url = | title=The Werewolf Delusion | year=1979 | pages= pp.256 | id= ISBN 0448231700 ] The image of striped hyenas in Afghanistan, India and Palestine is more varied. Though feared, striped hyenas were also symbolic for love and fertility, leading to numerous varieties of love medicine derived from hyena body parts. Among the Baluch and in northern India, witches or magicians are said to ride striped hyenas at night.

Cultural perspectives

The Arab word for striped hyenas, "dhubba", is alluded in a valley in Palestine known as Shaqq-ud-Diba (meaning "cleft of the hyenas") and Wadi-Abu-Diba (meaning "valley of the hyenas"). Both places have been interpreted by some scholars as being the Biblical Valley of Zeboim mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:18.

Striped hyenas are mentioned three times in the Bible;

Isaiah 13.22: "Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged."

Isaiah 34.14: "Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also repose and find for themselves places of rest."

Jeremiah 50.39:"So desert creatures and hyenas will live there, and there the owl will dwell. It will never again be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation."

The Hebrew language word for hyena is "tzebua" or "zevoa", which literally means "howling creature". Though the Authorized King James Version of the Bible interprets the word appearing in Jeremiah 12:9 as referring to a "speckled bird", Henry Baker Tristram argued that it was most likely a hyena being mentioned.cite book | author= Bright, Michael | title=Beasts of the Field: The Revealing Natural History of Animals in the Bible | year=2006 | pages= p346 | id=ISBN 1861058314 ]

=Livestock and crop da

The effects striped hyenas have on livestock vary according to region. Lebanon reports very few attacks, with some accounts describing how hyenas crossed through pastures without even spooking the grazing herds, while reports from Turkmenistan indicate that striped hyenas are more serious livestock predators than wolves.cite web | url = | title = Native Alabai | publisher = turkmenalabai | accessdate = 18 | month = July | year = 2008 ] Surverys indicate that goats, sheep, dogs, and poultry are the most commonly recorded livestock killed by striped hyenas. There are records of hyenas eating larger animals, though it is unclear if said cases were truly kills or scavenging mistakenly identified as kills. The age and health of targeted individuals of larger livestock animals are unclear, though records suggest that attacks typically occur at low frequencies. Livestock damage reputedly occurs in greater frequencies in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, and possibly Morocco. Dogs are the most commonly targeted animals in Turkmenistan and India, whereas dogs, sheep and other small domestic animals are reportedly killed in the Caucasus region. Reports from the 1950s in Iraq indicate that horses and donkeys may be attacked. Dogs, sheep and goats are occasionally at risk in Africa.

Melon fields and date palm plantations in Israel and Egypt are occasionally raided by striped hyenas, while watermelon and honeydew plantations are often targeted in in Turkmenistan.


Striped hyaenas readily accept strychnine-poisoned bait, though in many cases the bait is laid out for other, more abundant carnivores such as wolves, leopards or jackals. In Algeria, a bounty system in the 1880s caused a decline in striped hyena populations; 196 individuals were killed in 1881 and 1882 alone. A similar campaign occurred at roughly the same time in the borders of Imperial Russia. The government paid a substantial bounty (100 rubles) for every hyena killed. The striped hyaena was unintentionally exterminated in Israel by strychnine poisoning during the British government's rabies eradication campaign against golden jackals. Further large-scale Israeli poisoning campaigns occurred between 1950 and 1970. Strychnine poisoning currently threatens striped hyaenas throughout Niger. Though rarely hunted for their fur save for within the Caucasus, they have on occasion been caught in traps set for other fur-bearing species. The striped hyaena was not considered a fur species in Russia, but was adverstised as "minor quality wolf and fox". A total of 200 hyena skins were bought by the Russian government in the 1930s within the borders of what are now the Commonwealth of Independent States. Less than 100 hyena skins were bought in the 1950s, and none have been bought since 1970. Between 1931-1937 up to 130 hyena skins were annually offered by trappers in Turkmenistan alone. Since 1948 this number has been reduced to a few dozen and since 1970 none have been offered. Some hunters in southern Punjab, Kandahar and Quetta, catch striped hyenas to use them in hyena-baiting. The hyenas are pitted against specially trained dogs, and are restrained with ropes in order to pull them away from the dogs if necessary. In Kandahar, hunters locally called "payloch" (naked foot) hunt striped hyenas by entering their dens naked with a noose in hand. When the hyena is cornered at the end of its lair, the hunter murmurs the magic formula “turn into dust, turn into stone,” which causes the animal to enter a hypnotic state of total submission, by which point the hunter can slip a noose over its forelegs and, finally, drag it out of the cave.

triped hyenas as food and medicine

The 6th dynasty mastabas of Mereruka and Kagemni at Saqqara depict two keepers struggling to hold a striped hyena down on its back whilst stuffing pieces of meat and poultry into its muzzle. The most ferocious specimens had to have their hind legs tied together first. Though it is generally thought by archeologists that this was done to fatten hyenas for food, some writers believe the intention was to train hyenas for taking part in hunts. [ [ Egypt: Ancient Egypt Stockbreeding and Hunting ] ] The Ancient Greeks and Romans used the blood, excrement, rectum, genitalia, eyes, tongue, hair, skin, and fat, as well as the ash of different parts of the striped hyenas body, as effective means to ward off evil and to ensure love and fertility. The Greeks and Romans believed that the genitalia of a hyena “would hold a couple peaceably together” and that a hyena anus worn as an amulet on the upper arm would make its male possessor irresistible to women. In the Muslim nations of Sistan, Kohat, Bannu, and Cholistan, striped hyena meat is considered "halal" and can therefore be consumed. This represents an exception to the rule that predatory animals are not to be eaten, due to their being "haraam". This stems from the fact that the striped hyena is an omnivore, rather than a purely carnivorous animal.cite web | url = | title = The Magicality of the Hyena: Beliefs and Practices in West and South Asia | publisher = Asian Folklore Studies, Volume 57, 1998: 331–344 | accessdate = 23 | month = June | year = 2008] Among the Bedouin of Arabia, the striped hyena is permitted for human consumption, though hyena meat is generally considered more as a medicine than as food. In West and South Asia, hyena body parts apparently play an important role in love magic and in the making of amulets. In Iranian folklore, it is mentioned that a stone found in the hyenas body can serve as a charm of protection for whoever wears it on his upper arm. In the Pakistani province of Sind hang, the local Muslims place the tooth of a striped hyena over churns in order not to loose the milks "baraka". In Iran, a dried striped hyena pelt is considered a potent charm which forces all to succumb to the possessors attraction. In Afghanistan and Pakistan striped hyena hair is used either in love magic or as a charm in sickness. Hyena blood has been held in high regard in northern India as potent medicine, and the eating of the tongue helps fight tumors. In the Khyber area, burned striped hyena fat is applied to a mans genitals or sometimes taken orally to ensure virility, while in India the fat serves as a cure for rheumatism. In Afghanistan, some Mullahs wear the vulva ("kus") of a female striped hyena wrapped in silk under their armpits for a week. If a man peers through the vulva at the woman of his desire, he will invariably get hold of her. This has led to the proverbial expression in Dari of "kus-e kaftar bay", as well as in Pashto of "kus-e kaftar" which literally mean "it happens as smoothly as if you would look through the vulva of a female striped hyena". In the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan, the Pakhtun keep the vulva in vermilion powder, itself having aphrodesic connotations. The rectum of a freshly killed striped hyena is likewise used by homosexuals and bisexuals to attract young men. This has lead to the expression “to possess the anus of a [striped] hyena” which denotes somebody who is attractive and has many lovers. A striped hyena’s penis kept in a small box filled withsandur can be used for the same reasons.

Attacks on humans

The striped hyaena was historically feared and held responsible for the disappearance of unattended small children in the Caucasus and in central Asia. In the district of Jerewan in the Caucasus in the 1880s, hyenas were thought to be responsible for the disappearance or injuring of 25 children and three adults who slept outdoors. Further incidents in that area of striped hyenas killing children were reported in the 1890s and 1900s, as well as in Azerbaidjan in the 1930s and 1940s. In British India, striped hyena attacks rarely caused much uproar, as they were not considered as dangerous as wolves, which were responsible for numerous deaths in the latter half of the 19th century.cite book | author = Knight, John | title = Wildlife in Asia: Cultural Perspectives | year = 2004 | pages = pp.280 | id = ISBN 978-0-7007-1332-5 ] In modern India however, killings of wolves and striped hyaenas are still organised by the government in areas where carnivores are suspected of child lifting, even in conservation areas. In 1962, nine children were thought to have been taken by hyenas in the town of Bhagalpur in the Bihar State in a six week period. In Karnataka, Bihar state, attacks on children have been reported as recently as 1974 when 19 children up to the age of four years were reported killed at night. On March 13th 2005, a hyena injured 70 persons in six villages of Sonsor tehsil, five of them critically. [ [ The Hindu : National : 70 injured in hyena attack ] ] The Kikuyu of Kenya generally do not fear striped hyenas as they do spotted hyenas. ["By the Evidence", L.S.B. Leakey, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974] A consensus on wild animal attacks during a five year period in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh showed that hyenas had only attacked 3 people, the lowest figure when compared to deaths caused by wolves, gaur, boar, elephants, tigers, leopards and sloth bears.cite web | url= | title= The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans | publisher= Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning | accessdate= 2008-06-26]

Though attacks on live humans are rare, striped hyenas will scavenge on human corpses. In Turkey, stones are placed on graves to stop hyenas digging the bodies out. In WWI, the Turks imposed conscription ("safar barlek") on mount Lebanon. People escaping from the conscription fled north, where many died and were subsequently eaten by hyenas.

Conservation Status

The striped hyena is listed as "near threatened". Although it seems to be rather compatible with human populations, the large predators whose kills it relies on for scavenging are not. It is often hunted or poisoned throughout its range, and although it has a fairly large population, it is scattered over a wide area and often isolated from other populations.

External links

* [ IUCN Hyaenidae Specialist Group Striped Hyena pages]



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