Hyenas, the dog-like creatures with a knack for scavenging, are well-known carnivores. They are notably found in Africa and the Asian continent.
They have powerful bodies and acute senses that aid them while on the hunt for food.
This species is broken down into 4 types. They are quite similar in nature except for the patterns on their coats:
But, what do hyenas eat?
What Do Hyenas Eat?
Owing to their hunting prowess, hyenas prefer to hunt mammals exceeding the weight of 40 pounds. These include goat, horse, zebra, and antelope. But, they aren’t fussy eaters and will even prey on birds, reptiles, mice, and insects. Hyenas will also consume carrion left behind by other animals.
Hyena Prey on Large Animals
I find hyenas to be fascinating creatures due to the way they approach bigger prey. They are smart enough to know when the risk is too high.
They typically hunt mammals like antelope and gazelles in groups of 3 or more. Though they also can attack more dangerous animals like elephants.
They know they cannot take on an elephant herd (or other large animals).
So, they usually wait till it gets difficult to see and one of their prey is secluded. They also make sure to attack only females and babies.
Only two types of hyenas tend to form packs and attack larger prey – Spotted and Brown.
Striped hyenas prefer a more solitary existence and will only hunt smaller animals.
Hyena Prey on Small Animals
Hyenas attack small animals only when hunting alone or can’t find bigger prey. They will usually eat the whole animal, leaving nothing behind.
They usually look for land-based animals as they cannot climb trees.
Their smaller prey typically includes lizards, rabbits, fish, and eggs. They will attack snakes as well, but only when there is no other food around.
Which Animal Parts Hyenas Eat
Hyenas have powerful jaws that can crack through bone. This allows them to eat almost every part of their prey.
Their digestive systems are adept enough to consume even the bones.
Though they do have some preferences and won’t eat certain parts, these include fur, hooves, and horns.
How Much Hyenas Eat in One Day
To survive, a single hyena will need to eat 8 to 9 pounds of meat a day. This means that large packs will have to hunt extensively to cover their needs.
They usually tend to hunt at night to manage this load.
The spotted hyena can eat more than other types of hyena. In a single day, it can consume over 30 pounds of meat, which is the main reason it weighs more than the other hyena types.
When Do Hyenas Hunt and Consume Their Prey
On a normal day, hyenas will hunt only at night. Because of their heightened senses, they can hunt easily in the dark.
Hyenas can travel long distances to search for food sources while they are in hunting mode.
They also prefer this time because most of the other larger predators are asleep. This way, hyenas don’t run the risk of other animals stealing their kills.
Unique Characteristics that Help Hyenas Hunt Better
Though they are known as scavengers, a hyena’s diet is mostly made up of their own kills.
Hyenas have a very specific characteristic set that allows them to be proficient killers.
They are quite fast (around 35mph) and can run over 25 miles chasing after their prey. They tend to follow their prey until they are exhausted before pouncing on them.
Hyenas are also very intelligent. Certain studies have shown how a hyena can outperform apes in group problem-solving.
Their jaws have evolved to give them a bite with such force it can exert over 9000 newtons. The muscles surrounding their jaw enable them to crack through bone to reach the marrow inside.
Hyenas use their voices to communicate among themselves while hunting. They can hear these calls over very long distances (over 3 miles). This allows them to coordinate attacks and warn each other of danger.
How Hyenas Live in a Pack
Hyenas (mostly brown and spotted) are social animals. They typically live in large packs that can easily range between 6 to 100.
Unlike other animals, a hyena pack is usually dominated by females.
Studies have shown them to be amazing mothers. They can produce around 3 cubs at a time.
At a young age, mothers tend to their young most of their time. These cubs will not be able to survive or find food without the help of their mother.
What Cubs Eat
The milk produced by a hyena mother is nutrition-rich. Hyena cubs are only able to consume this milk as food in their first 300 days.
The mother will continue to tend to them like this for the first year of their life.
They learn how to hunt by watching the older hyenas. After their first year, they start hunting for their food.
Frequently Asked Questions about What Hyenas Eat
Are hyenas cannibals?
Hyenas do eat other hyenas and will consume every part of them. This is usually the case among young hyenas.
Will a hyena consume humans?
There is no shortage of cases where hyenas have preyed on humans when food is scant. They mostly target children and women but will attack a male when necessary.
Hyenas have gotten a bad rep but are mostly misunderstood animals.
They are quite adept at survival and have a longer lifespan (over 20 years).
Just remember, even if hyenas don’t always attack humans, they will do so when there is a shortage of food.