The Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is a species of carnivorous mammal that lives in Africa. It lives on prairies and flat open plains, but is absent in jungles and deserts.
They weigh between 50 and 80 kg, with the females being larger than the males. They have slightly longer front legs than back legs. Their fur is short, between yellowish and red, with oval-shaped and irregular dark brown spots which are missing on their head, throat and thorax; short, bristling mane; its tail has a tuft of long black hair. It is the largest hyena species.
The female has peculiar genitals, due to the absence of a vulva and the presence of a very well-developed clitoris that looks like the penis of the male; it also has a species of swelling similar to a sac as a scrotum. In the mating season the uro-genital orifice engorges and the canal and surrounding tissues loosen and hypertrophy, in such a way that copulation and birth may take place.
They are very resistant, undertaking long journeys without tiring for long periods of time. Running, they can reach up to 50 km/h for more than 3 km. They are also good swimmers.
They emit a whole range of diverse howls, amongst which the most well-known are a type of characteristic sarcastic barking which sounds like human laughter.
They are of principally nocturnal and crepuscular habits. They take refuge in natural orifices amongst rocks, scrublands or in the abandoned burrows of other animals.
The gestation period is 110 days, after which the females give birth to two babies, exceptionally one or three. The babies are born with their eyes open and weigh on average 1,5 kilos. The males reach sexual maturity at two years of age and the females at three.
They hunt in groups of 10 to 30 individuals, led by a dominant female. Their powerful jaws and teeth are equipped for a meat-based diet, and can wolf down the bones, teeth and horns of their prey. Their diet ranges from insects to any type of mammal, feeding on both corpses and live prey, principally on sick and dying animals. They tend to hide their food in the mud for when they are hungry. They usually live in family groups led by a female. A large pack of spotted hyenas is capable of confronting a pack of lionesses, but they will usually back down against male lions. Hyenas are extremely intelligent.