Species of the week

Meet Crocuta crocuta, the carnivore that takes advantage of the carcasses of animals left by other carnivores.

Common name: Spotted Hyaena

Species: Crocuta crocuta

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Hyaenidae

Genus: Crocutta

Conservation status: Least Concern (LC)

Lenght: can reach 180 cm in length and 85 cm in height and can weigh 80 kg as an adult.

Longevity: can live more than 16 years in the jungle and 25 years in captivity.

Population Trend: Decrease

Crocuta crocuta is a nocturnal carnivore and represents the largest species of the family Hyaenidae. It has short hairs compared to other species with a coloration ranging from gray to yellowish brown and dark brown spots scattered on the dorsal and lateral parts of the animal. Does not have spots on the head, lower limbs and throat. Its front paws are larger in relation to the hind legs and have a very short tail. It has big head with proeminent and vertical ears, small eyes and black snout.


This species is found in several habitats, including savannas, open and closed dry forests, marshes, semi-desert environments and mountainous habitats up to 4000 m altitude. Their presence is mainly dictated by the presence of water and prey, but they do not have affinities with low altitude forests.

Geographic Range

Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe


They usually live in social groups or clans led by a single female. Groups range from 3/4 individuals to 15 or more individuals, sharing the same area and dens. They defend the territory against other clans, marking it with anal gland secretions, urine and white color excrements deposited in latrine sites. Nocturnal, but frequently seen by day.


It is a carnivorous species, known for feeding on carcasses of animals left by other carnivores. However, their diet ranges from insects to large mammals such as zebras, wildebeest and giraffes.


This species has a gestation time of 110 days. Usually born between 1 to 2 cubs with about 1.5kg, with dark brown coloration on the body and lighter head. Two or more females can keep their cubs in the same burrow for several months, however, each breastfeeds only their own cubs.


The burrows used by hyenas may be the usual holes in the ground, but also a complex system of rock outcrops associated with caves. The burrows are mainly used when there are cubs.

An easy way to find hyenas in the field is to look for their droppings, they are the only ones that have a white coloration.


Bohm, T. & Höner, O.R. 2015. Crocuta crocuta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T5674A45194782. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T5674A45194782.en.

Henschel, J.R., Skinner, J.D. 1991. Territorial Behaviour by a Clan of Spotted Hyaenas Crocuta crocuta, Ethology 88, 223-235.