Hyena family, left to right, Spotted hyenaa, Aardwolf and Striped-hyena

Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena)

The striped hyena is among the relatively small family of hyenas (Hyaenidae) which members like the spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta, brown hyena Hyena Para brunnea and aardwolf Protelus cristata. The striped hyena is within this family in size an average.


The main features of the striped hyena are descending body, the front legs are significantly longer than the hind legs, a long neck and a big, broad head with strikingly large, pointed ears, a blunt muzzle and big eyes.

Een ander belangrijk kenmerk is de typische hyena strut.

Striped hyenas have a long, shaggy coat with gray mane on the back which can be set at threat. The coat is yellowish gray with vertical black stripes on the body and horizontal stripes on the legs which the species gave its name. An adult striped hyena has a snout-vent length of 98-119cm, the tail measuring 26-47cm. The shoulder height varies from 60-74cm. The body weight of an adult male ranges from 26-41kg, of an adult female of 23-34kg (Hunter, 2011). Of the three bone-cracking hyenas is the striped hyena, although the smallest but they do have the typical well-developed head, neck and shoulders, strong teeth and very well-developed jaw muscles.


The striped hyena has a large distribution and is currently the only hyena species who also occurs even outside Africa. The global distribution of the striped hyena ranges from North West and East Africa, the Middle East, central Asia to India.

North Africa
About the distribution in North Africa is still much uncertainty. Countries where the species certain occurs are Morocco and Algeria. Kowalski and Rzebik-Kowalski (1991) report that the species occurs in Algeria in the northern part of the coast to the Saharan Atlas and the northern part of the desert. His range would reach from the south of Beni Abbes in the western part of the country to Bordj El Abiod and possibly even further east to El Golea. The species is absent in the real Sahara (Kowalski and Rzebik-Kowalski, 1991).

Geographical variation

Some experts distinguish five sub-species of the striped hyena, based on differences in size and coat. Hyaena hyaena hyaena in India, Hyaena hyaena barbara in NW Africa, Hyaena hyaena dubbah in NE Africa, Hyaena hyaena sultana in the Arabian Peninsula and Hyaena hyaena Siriaca in Syria, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Other experts argue against the subspecies because it would be based on morphological criteria who are too similar (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). As for the supposed subspecies should be kept in mind that only Hyaena hyaena Sirica in Israel and Hyaena hyaena dubbah in Kenya are extensively investigated on morphological characteristics. Demonstrated by these two are no significant differences (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009).


The preferred habitat of the striped hyena are open semi-arid areas with coverage. Mainly dry savannah woodland, dry acacia forests and bush areas, dry steppes, savannas, semi deserts and open mountain areas up to 3300 m (Hunter, 2011; (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009) Striped hyenas regularly drink if water is present. But also in dry areas with little or no water available, they succeed to survive. (Mittermeier & Wilson, 2009). In North Africa, they prefer open woodlands and mountain areas with the presence of scattered trees. The striped hyena can survive in areas with frosts of 80 to 120 days a year, where temperatures in winter drop to minus -20 ° C. (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009).

Food and hunting technique

In principle, the striped hyena is a scavenger of wild ungulates and livestock. The diet is dependent on the supply in the part of its comprehensive range. For his diet the striped hyenas is dependent of remnants of killed prey by large carnivores (Hunter, 2011; Wilson & Mittermeier, 2009), Especially species like spotted hyena, leopard, lion, cheetah and tiger herein are important (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). Only Cheetah and Leopard of these species occur still in North Africa nowadays and not even always in the distribution range of the striped hyena. Striped hyenas are often following herds of domesticated animals in search of killed animals (Hunter, 2011). The species is often suspected of killing livestock and hunting large herbivores. However, there is little evidence for these assumptions (Hunter, 2011). Research on bone fragments, hairs and faeces in central Kenya has shown that striped hyenas also eat small mammals and birds, it is not likely that these species have been found as bait but are hunted by the animals themselves (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). With their powerful jaws, they are able to crack the shells of tortoises (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009; Hunter 2011).

Droppings of Striped hyena are white colored by the chalk of digested bones.

Thanks to strong teeth and well-developed jaw muscles, hyenas are quite capable of also breaking and grinding bones. The diet is supplemented by vegetables, fruits and invertebrates. Fruit and vegetables can make up a significant percentage of their diet (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009; Hunter, 2011). The animals can survive successfully with very little water, even salt water is drunk. Fruits, such as melons and cucumbers, are regularly eaten as replacements of water.
There is hardly anything known about the hunting method of striped hyenas. The occasional observations showed that this usually consists of a simple chase followed by grasping the prey (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). Under Influence of seasons followed striped hyenas in Turkmenistan herds of migrating wild and domesticated ungulates, suggesting that they can travel long distances. Out of Egypt has been known that they used to follow the routes of caravans, because in those locations the chance to find dead camels is relatively good. Under normal circumstances the animals walk at a speed of 8 km per hour with a maximum speed of 50 km per hour. Striped hyenas are strictly solitary eaters, even with a large supply of food, such as the remains of a large carcass multiple animals are rarely seen together. Even animals that are genetically linked together are not eating together (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). Foraging activities are both in Kenya and in Tanzania observed only in the night hours, an exception was exceptional days with cloudy weather or during a rainy period (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009).


The sexual behavior of the striped hyena in the wild has not been observed in detail, so far. Females are polyoestrous (more times fertile), which means they come into oestrous several times a year. The oestrous period is set at one day (Hunter, 2011; Wilson & Mittermeier, 2009). The litter size of the striped hyena in the wild varies from one to four young, with an average of three. The gestation period is 90-91 days. The pups are born in a den, sometimes dugged by the female self. (Hunter, 2011; Wilson & Mittermeier, 2009). The pups are blind at birth and weight about 700gr. (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). After five to nine days, ears and eyes open up. When the pups are about one month old, they switch to solid foods, but they are still suckled for 6 to 12 months (Hunter, 2011). Females are sexually active after 1 year and can get their first litter on the age of 15-18 months. But usually the first litter is born at 24 to 27 months of age.(Hunter, 2011). Only the females provide care for the pups, males are usually not seen in the den. Two dens in the Karakum desert have been measured. The width of the openings were 67 cm and 72 cm respectively. The dens decreased 3 m. and 2.5 m. under the ground and were 4.15 m. and 5 m. deep and consisted of only a single space. The simple structures contrast sharply with the much more extensive den systems found in Israel and which may be up to 27 m. deep (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009).


Little is known about the mortality of striped hyenas. 47% of adult animals were older than three years after they were identified for the first time. In captivity they can reach an age of 23-24 years (Hunter, 2011)

Day and night rhythm

It is generally assumed that the striped hyena is primarily nocturnal (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009; Hunter, 2011). However, during an expedition of the NABCS in April 2012 were a camera-trap registered several shots at different times of a striped hyena captured in broad daylight. It should be noted here that the area where the recordings were made is inaccessible to the public. This could possibly explain the odd behavior of the species usually more nocturnal way of life.

Social system

In Central Asia, the species lives monogamous in pairs with mature pups from the previous year, assisting in the care of new born pups, as is also known in canine (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009; Hunter, 2011). In Central Kenya is a social organization observed in which a male has several females, up to a maximum of three, which may or may not be related to each other (Hunter, 2011). In Israel hyenas live mostly solitary.
There is no evidence that striped hyenas defend their territory using physical force. But it has been observed that the territories are marked with fragrances from the anal glands and delimited (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). In places where striped hyenas lives in groups the social structure is organized so that males are dominant over females (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009), as opposed to the more familiar spotted hyena where the female is dominant Due to the limited research that has been carried out on striped hyenas, there is little known about the social behavior of the species.

Relationship with humans

The striped hyena is like other hyena species not beloved by people, mainly caused by their scavenging lifestyle. In addition, the species is suspected in several parts of its range and through many centuries, of digging up human bones and dragging. Also, eating and destroying fruit and vegetable plantations, in some parts of Israel a serious problem, does not add to its popularity. (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009).

Status and threats

Despite the wide occupied range of the striped hyena, natural densities are low and the remaining distribution highly fragmented and divided into many isolated populations. Many animals are persecuted because they are held responsible for killing livestock and digging up human skeletons in cemeteries (Wilson and Mittermeier, 2009). In addition, the species is often illegal killed because they are traded for supposed medicinal powers, resulting in high prices paid on the black markets. In North Africa, Morocco is best known for the illegal killing of striped hyenas for black market demands.(pers. Med. K de Smet, 2013) The striped hyena is on the endangered species list of the IUCN (2008).

What has NABCS concerning this specie in mind?

Knowledge of specific ecological aspects of the striped hyena is very limited. Even the accurate distribution of the species in North Africa is poorly understand. The NABCS aims to extend and encourage awareness of the presence and distribution of the striped hyena. The foundation also aims to promote ecological research of the species. An important part of this research will be: What is the staple food of striped hyenas in North Africa. In large parts of its range, striped hyena has a close relationship with large carnivores. These kill large ungulates, remnants of their prey, serve hyena as food. In North Africa these large predators lack almost entirely. Only leopard and cheetah reach inito North Africa and then also highly fragmented in very small numbers. And possible, leopard and cheetah lack completely in areas where the striped hyena’s are still living. Research question: How does the striped hyena in North Africa make their living? What food items are important and does he behave as a hunter or scavenger? An unknown field here waiting for thorough research!


Hunter, L. 2011. Carnivores of the world. New Holland Publischers. United Kingdom Ltd.
Kowalski, K. en B. Rzebik-Kowalskii. 1991. Mammals of Algeria. Ossolineum. Wroclaw.
Wilson, D.E. & R.A. Mittermeier, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 1. Carnovores. Lynx Editions. Barcelona.

Uneven, slightly twisted foot pads are typical of a hyena track