Any of three species of coarse-furred, doglike carnivores (family Hyaenidae) found in Asia and Africa. Actually more closely related to cats than to dogs, they have four toes on each foot, long forelegs, nonretractile claws, and enormously strong jaws and teeth. They live alone or in packs and may be active by night or day. Hyenas are noted for scavenging but will also attack live prey. The spotted, or laughing, hyena, whose calls alternately resemble wailing and maniacal laughter, ranges through much of sub-Saharan Africa. Yellowish or grayish with dark spots, it is about 6.5 ft (1.8 m) long, including the 12-in. (30-cm) tail, and weighs up to 175 lbs (80 kg). It has been known to attack people and even carry off young children.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on hyena, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up hyena? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.