Underdogs of the Animal World: Spotted Hyena
If you’ve ever seen The Lion King, you know that hyenas are not the nicest of creatures. If you’ve never seen The Lion King, hello and welcome to our planet, the only things you need to not be ousted are Mean Girls quotes and a healthy obsession with Ryan Gosling. Get those down and you’ll be fiiiine.
So yes, Hyenas. Everyone knows that Hyenas = Evil and kinda dumb. Except for Shenzi, of course, because that’s Whoopi Goldberg and Whoopi wins the world at everything. But The Lion King did wrong, you guys. Hyenas are freaking awesome. The artists working on the movie actually got to check out the awesomeness of the spotted hyena before they made it. They promised to be nice, but were so not nice that one of the scientists who organised the visit sued them. He lost. But yay him for trying. He also called for people to boycott the movie, in order to protect the image of the spotted hyena. Everyone apart from aliens ignored him. But you go, Glen Coco.
Spotted hyenas were the inventors of girl power. The Spice Girls have nothing on them. Not only do hyenas have a female running the whole show at the head of the clan, (otherwise known as the matriarch or fluffy Beyoncé) but the male hyenas rank below every single one of the ladies. That’s probably because the females are bigger and badder, have a LOT of testosterone, and keep the men in line with their super sharp teeth. Although hyenas are the original feminists, they like a bit of a scrap and aren’t afraid to get feisty to claw their way up the pack. The only way to win the crown is to fight for it, and everyone likes a crown, right?
Even though they get to gloat, lady hyenas get one perk that isn’t that great. They have man bits. Ok, they’re not strictly man bits, since they’re adorning a lady, but they’re shaped like a gentleman’s *ahem* sausage. You can imagine that it wouldn’t be very pleasant to give birth out of, hardly a Zen water birth, which is why there are no hyena scientologists, and also why it’s common for hyenas to die during labour. Did I mention they have two to four cubs? Ouch. But think of how difficult it is for the hyenas to make the babies in the first place. Let’s just say it takes a lot of practice, and afterwards the male runs. Fast.
Speaking of running, hyenas are into it. Like, Sonic the Hedgehog ‘what was that spotty, giggling blur?’ into it. They can run at over 50kph, which seems quite impressive, especially when your idea of exercise is getting off the couch to stare into the depths of the fridge, (which totally counts by the way) but that’s not the most epic part. Hyenas can do this whilst chasing their prey for over 3km! If I were a hyena, I’d be all like ‘Oh look, that antelope looks yummy. Come here, antelope. My mouth is super comfy, just- Oh, it’s gone. Never mind, I have hummus.’ But they earn their fast food.
Spotted hyenas don’t just chow down on whatever’s fleeing the scene though, they’re not averse to scavenging. Whatever they can get their teeth on, it’s going down their necks. Their teeth are so tough and their jaws are so strong that they can crunch bones to dust. Plus their stomach acid can digest whatever they fancy, like delicious bones, teeth, skin and hair. Ick. And when hyenas eat, they like to go big or go home. They will wolf the food down as fast as they can, up to 18kgs a time, because they don’t know when their next meal will be, or if they’ll even get a fair go at this one.
There’s a bit of a fight for food, not only because hyena clans are big, with as many as fifty members, but because hyenas attract other predators. How? Their laugh. Yep, the famous hyena cackle is let loose when they find something yummy. It can be a sign of anger or fear, (rather than a sign that SNL is on the box) but when they get a sniff of something edible, they let their excitement get the better of them, bringing in the competition. Dumb? Maybe. But you try opening a tub of Ben & Jerry’s without cackling with maniacal glee. Can’t be done.
I’ll leave you with one fun fact: In ancient Egypt, hyenas were domesticated and kept as pets. Then the Egyptians ate them. As you do.