It is the smallest of the true hyenas and retains many primitive viverrid characteristics lost in larger species, having a smaller and less specialised skull. Though primarily a scavenger, large specimens have been known to kill their own prey, and attacks on humans have occurred on rare instances. The striped hyena is a monogamous animal, with both males and females assisting one another in raising their cubs. A nocturnal animal, the striped hyena typically only emerges in complete darkness, and is quick to return to its lair before sunrise. Though it has a habit of feigning death when attacked, it has also been known to stand its ground against larger predators such as leopards in disputes over food.
The striped hyena features prominently in Middle Eastern and Asian folklore. In some areas, its body parts are considered magical, and are used as charmsor talismans. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, where it is referred to as tzebua or zevoa, though the species is absent in some Bible translations into English.
Physical Description Edit
The striped hyena has a fairly massive, but short torso set on long legs. The hind legs are significantly shorter than the forelimbs, thus causing the back to slope downwards. The legs are relatively thin and weak, with the forelegs being bent at the carpal region. The neck is thick, long and largely immobile, while the head is heavy and massive with a shortened facial region. The eyes are small, while the sharply pointed ears are very large, broad and set high on the head. Like all hyenas, the striped hyena has bulky pads on its paws, as well as blunt but powerful claws. The tail is short and the terminal hairs do not descend below the calcaneal tendon. The striped hyena lacks the enlarged clitoris and false scrotal sack noted in the female genitalia of the spotted hyena. The female has 3 pairs of teats. Adult weight can range from 22 to 55 kg (49 to 121 lb), averaging at about 35 kg (77 lb). Body length can range from 85 to 130 cm (33 to 51 in), not counting a tail of 25 to 40 cm (9.8 to 15.7 in), and shoulder height is between 60–80 cm (24–31 in). The male has a large pouch of naked skin located at the anal opening. Large anal glands open into it from above the anus. Several sebaceous glands are present between the openings of the anal glands and above them. The anus can be everted up to a length of 5 cm, and is everted during social interaction and mating. When attacked, the striped hyena everts its rectum and sprays a pungent smelling liquid from its anal glands. Its eyesight is acute, though its senses of smell and hearing are weak.
The skull is entirely typical of the genus, having a very high sagittal crest, a shortened facial region and an inflated frontal bone. The skull of the striped hyena differs from that of the brown and spotted hyena by its smaller size and slightly less massive build. It is nonetheless still powerfully structured and well adapted to anchoring exceptionally strong jaw muscles which give it enough bite-force to splinter a camel's thigh bone. Although the dentition is overall smaller than that of the spotted hyena, the upper molar of the striped hyena is far larger.
Social and Territorial Behaviors Edit
The striped hyena is a primarily nocturnal animal, which typically only leaves its den at the onset of total darkness, returning before sunrise. Striped hyenas typically live in groups of 1–2 animals, though groups of up to seven animals are known in Libya. They are generally not territorial animals, with home ranges of different groups often overlapping each other. Home ranges in the Serengheti have been recorded to be 44 km2 (17 sq mi)-72 km2(28 sq mi), while one in the Negev desert was calculated at 61 km2 (24 sq mi). When marking their territory, striped hyenas use the paste of their anal pouch (hyena butter) to scent mark grass, stalks, stones, tree trunks and other objects. In aggressive encounters, the black patch near the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae is erected. When fighting, striped hyenas will bite at the throat and legs, but avoid the mane, which serves as a signalling device. When greeting each other, they lick the mid-back region, sniff each other's noses, extrude their anal pouch or paw each other's throats. The species is not as vocal as the spotted hyena, its vocalisations being limited to a chattering laugh and howling.
Reproduction and Development Edit
The striped hyena is monogamous, with the male helping the female to establish a den, raise young and feed her when cubs are born. The mating seasonvaries according to location; in Transcaucasia, hyenas breed in January–February, while those in southeast Turkmenia breed in October–November. In captivity, breeding is non-seasonal. Mating can occur at any time of the day, during which the male grips the skin of the female's neck.
The gestation period lasts 90–91 days. Striped hyena cubs are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. This is in marked contrast to newborn spotted hyena cubs which are born almost fully developed, though with black, unmarked coats. Their eyes open after 7–8 days, and the cubs leave their dens after one month. Cubs are weaned at the age of 2 months, and are then fed by both parents. Despite the males' assistance, female hyenas are very protective of their cubs, and will chase their mates away from the cubs if they approach too closely. By autumn, the cubs are half the size of their parents. In the wild, striped hyenas can live for 12 years, while in captivity they have been known to reach 23.
Burrowing Behaviors Edit
The striped hyena may dig its own dens, but it also establishes its lairs in caves, rock fissures, erosion channels and burrows formerly occupied by porcupines, wolves, warthogs and aardvarks. Hyena dens can be identified by the presence of bones at their entrances. The striped hyena hides in caves, niches, pits, dense thickets, reeds and plume grass during the day to shelter from predators, heat or winter cold. The size and elaboration of striped hyena dens varies according to location ; dens in the Karakum have entrances 0.67–0.72 m wide and are extended over a distance of 4.15–5 m, with no lateral extensions or special chambers. In contrast, hyena dens in Israel are much more elaborate and large, exceeding 27 m in length.
The striped hyena is primarily a scavenger which feeds mainly on ungulate carcasses in different stages of decomposition, fresh bones, cartilages, ligaments and bone marrow. It crushes long bones into fine particles and swallows them, though sometimes entire bones are eaten whole. The striped hyena is not a fussy eater, though it has an aversion to vulture flesh. It will occasionally attack and kill any animal it can overcome. It hunts prey by running it down, grabbing its flanks or groin and inflicting mortal wounds by tearing out the viscera. In Turkmenistan, the species is recorded to feed on wild boar, kulan, porcupines and tortoises. A seasonal abundance of oil willow fruits is an important food source in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while in the Caucasus, it is grasshoppers. In Israel, the striped hyena feeds on garbage, carrion and fruits. In eastern Jordan, its main sources of food are feral horse and water buffalo carcasses and village refuse. It has been suggested that only the large hyenas of the Middle East, Asia minor, central Asia and the Indian subcontinent attack large prey, with no evidence of their smaller Arabian and east African cousins doing so. Because of its scavenging diet, the striped hyena requires more water to survive than most other carnivores. When eating, the striped hyena gorges itself until satisfied, though hyenas with cubs will transport food to their dens. Because of the high content of calcium in its diet, the faeces of the striped hyena becomes white very rapidly, and can be visible from long distances.
Relationships with other Predators Edit
The striped hyena competes with the gray wolf in the Middle East and central Asia. In the latter area, a great portion of the hyena's diet stems from wolf-killed carcasses. The striped hyena is dominant over the wolf on a one to one basis, though wolves in packs can displace single hyenas from carcasses. Both species have been known to share dens on occasion. Red foxes may compete with striped hyenas on large carcasses. Red foxes may give way to hyenas on unopened carcasses, as the latter's stronger jaws can easily tear open flesh which is too tough for foxes. Foxes may harass hyenas, using their smaller size and greater speed to avoid the hyena's attacks. Sometimes, foxes seem to deliberately torment hyenas even when there is no food at stake. Some foxes may mistime their attacks, and are killed.
The species frequently scavenges from the kills of felids such as tigers, leopards, cheetahs and caracals. A caracal can drive a subadult hyena from a carcass. The hyena usually wins in one-to-one disputes over carcasses with leopards, cheetahs and tiger cubs, but is dominated by adult tigers.
Range and Population Edit
The striped hyena's historical range encompasses Africa north of and including the Sahel zone, eastern Africa south into Tanzania, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East up to the Mediterranean shores, Turkey, Iraq, the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia), Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan(excluding the higher areas of Hindukush) and the Indian Subcontinent. Today the species' distribution is patchy in most ranges, thus indicating that it occurs in many isolated populations, particularly in most of west Africa, most of the Sahara, parts of the Middle East, the Caucasus and central Asia. It does however have a continuous distribution over large areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Its modern distribution in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan is unknown with some sizable large number in India in open areas of Deccan Peninsula.