10 Hyena facts

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Despite their reputation of being cowardly animals, hyenas can be aggressive and dangerous, but its hard not to respect them. Throughout history, there are tales of hyenas being in close contact with humans. For instance, it is thought ancient Egyptians may have tried to capture and domesticate them to fatten and eventually feast on them!

1. Hyenas don’t just laugh for fun. Scientists say that the pitch and the tone can give an indication of age and social status.

2. Hyenas are smarter than chimps. A study done by Duke University showed that a captive pair of hyenas performed better at problem-solving and social cooperation than chimpanzees. During the study the hyenas solved all the problems in silence using only non-verbal signals for communication.

3. Despite what Simba would have you believe, spotted hyenas don’t just scavenge for lion leftovers. Spotted hyenas hunt and kill in packs.

4. However, striped hyenas are a different story. Striped hyenas live off carrion and are often hit by vehicles while eating road kill.

5. Female spotted hyenas are more muscular and more aggressive than their male counterparts. This is because the females have three times as much testosterone in their bodies. As a result, spotted hyena societies are matriarchal.

6. Female spotted hyenas have a pseudo-penis that is basically an elongated clitoris. Some pseudo-penises can grow up to seven inches long, totally besting the average length of the human penis…

7. The female spotted hyena uses her pseudo-penis for urination, copulation and birth, which can make the birthing process difficult – it’s estimated that 60% of hyena cubs die from suffocation.

8. Female hyenas have only two nipples, so litters of more than two have to fight to survive, leaving the weakest cubs to die of starvation.

9. In female-dominated spotted hyena clans, adult males are the lowest of the low. When the male hyena reaches sexual maturity at the age of two, he leaves home and goes to find a new group.

10. There are plenty of sordid myths and legends about hyenas. In Tanzania and India legends say that witches ride hyenas. An Ethiopian folk religion tells of people who possess the evil eye and can change themselves into hyenas. And in the Middle Ages, hyenas were believed to dig up and consume the bodies of the dead – they do nothing of the sort!

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