All Types of Hyena: Spotted, Brown, Striped & Aardwolf

When we think of hyenas, the first image that comes to mind might be the laughing scavengers of the African savanna. Hyenas belong to various groups of animals, each having different characteristics and behaviors that distinguish them from one another. This article will explore the 4 different types of hyenas, delving into their traits, habitats, and more.

All Types of Hyena: Spotted, Brown, Striped & Aardwolf

4 Different Types of Hyenas

1: Spotted Hyena

All Types of Hyena: Spotted, Brown, Striped & Aardwolf

The spotted hyena, scientifically known as Crocuta crocuta, is one of the most fascinating members of the hyena family. Often misunderstood and unfairly described as a scavenging opportunist, this incredible predator has remarkable traits that make it a formidable force in the African savanna.

Physical Characteristics

Spotted hyenas are the largest of all hyena species, & are 28 to 35 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 40 to 55 kg for males hyenas & 44.5 to 63.9 kg for female hyenas. Their body and strong jaws are equipped with powerful muscles which enable them to take on prey much larger than themselves.

As the name suggests, they are covered in unique spots, each hyena having a distinctive pattern, which helps to identify within their clan. Their fur varies in color, ranging from light yellowish-brown to a darker, almost reddish-brown, with black spots that cover their body and legs.

Social Structure and Behavior

Spotted hyenas live in highly structured social groups known as clans, which can consist of up to 80 individuals. The female hyenas are typically larger and more aggressive than the males, which ensures a strict hierarchy.

Their social interactions are complex, with various vocalizations and body language. The famous “laugh” of the spotted hyena is just one of the many sounds they use to communicate with each other, playing a crucial role in maintaining group cohesion and coordination during hunts.

Diet and Hunting

Contrary to popular belief, spotted hyenas are highly skilled hunters and can bring down a wide range of prey, including wildebeests, zebras, and even young elephants.

Additionally, spotted hyenas are also opportunistic scavengers and do not hesitate to scavenge from the kills of other predators or dine on carrion if the opportunity arises. This behavior allows them to survive in various environments, from grasslands to deserts.

Conservation Status

According to the (IUCN) International Union for Conservation of Nature, the spotted hyena is categorized as a species of “Least Concern. And they face some threats, such as habitat loss, conflict with humans, and hunting.

2: Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea)

All Types of Hyena: Spotted, Brown, Striped & Aardwolf

The brown hyena, scientifically known as Hyaena brunnea, is an elusive member of the hyena family. Unlike its more well-known spotted counterparts, the brown hyena has unique characteristics and behaviors that make it different from other hyena species.

Physical Characteristics

Brown hyenas have a distinct appearance, with a shaggy coat that ranges in color from light sandy brown to a darker, almost reddish hue. They have large, rounded ears & a height of about 70 to 80 cm tall at the shoulder & their tail is 25 to 35 cm long. And they weigh between 40 to 44 kg (88 to 97 Ibs) for male hyenas & 38 to 40 kg (83.7 to 88 Ibs) for females, making them smaller than spotted hyenas.


Brown hyenas primarily live in arid and semi-arid regions of southern Africa, including the deserts and coastal areas of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. They are highly adapted to survive in harsh environments with limited water and resources.

Social Structure and Behavior

Unlike spotted hyenas, brown hyenas are more solitary and often prefer to live alone or in small family groups. They are nocturnal creatures, being most active at night, which means they are elusive and challenging to research.

3: Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena)

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The striped hyena, scientifically known as Hyaena hyaena, is a mysterious member of the hyena family. With its distinctive appearance and nocturnal habits, the striped hyena has made a unique niche in the ecosystems of North and East Africa, as well as parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

Physical Characteristics

The striped hyena is instantly recognizable by its sandy or grayish coat, adorned with a series of vertical black stripes that on its back and across its sides. The striped hyena is around 60 to 80 cm (23 to 31 inches) tall at the shoulder and weighs between 22 to 55 kg (49 to 121 Ibs), making it smaller than the spotted and brown hyenas.

Habitat and Range

Striped hyenas live in various habitats, from savannas and grasslands to woodlands, scrublands, and deserts. They inhabit regions across North and East Africa, including countries like Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, as well as parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

Nocturnal Behavior

The striped hyena is primarily nocturnal, meaning it is most active at night. This behavior allows it to avoid competition with larger predators that are more active during the day. As a result, observing and studying striped hyenas can be challenging, as they prefer to keep a low presence during daylight hours.

4: Aardwolf Hyena (Proteles cristata)

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The aardwolf, scientifically known as Proteles cristata, is a unique member of the hyena family. Unlike its more formidable relatives, the aardwolf is an insect-eating specialist with various adaptations that set it apart from other hyena species.

Physical Characteristics of Aardwolf Hyena

The aardwolf is a medium-sized hyena with a height of 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in) tall at the shoulder and weighing between 7–10 kg (15–22 lb). It has a slender body, long legs, and a unique mane of long hairs along its neck and back. Its coat is sandy or yellowish, with vertical black stripes.


Aardwolves live in the grasslands and savannas of eastern and southern Africa. They prefer open landscapes with sandy soil, which makes it easier for them to dig their burrows.

Social Structure

Unlike the more social spotted hyenas, aardwolves are generally solitary animals. However, they may form monogamous pairs in the breeding and raise their young together. Both male & female aardwolves work together to maintain their territories and care for their cubs.



What is the biggest type of hyena?

The spotted hyena is the largest type of hyena. Spotted hyenas are top predators with strong jaws and powerful bodies, which makes them the most dominant and well-known hyena species in the African savanna.

What is the rarest hyena?

The brown hyena is considered the rarest of all hyena species. Some experts believe that there are only 10,000 brown hyenas left in the world.

What is the hyenas biggest enemy?

The biggest enemy of hyenas is often other apex predators, such as lions and, to some extent, large African wild dogs. These predators often compete for food and territory, and conflicts arise when they encounter each other near a kill or in overlapping hunting grounds.

Can hyenas be friendly to humans?

Hyenas are not domesticated and are generally dangerous to humans. So, remember that hyenas are wild animals and should be treated with respect and kept at a safe distance.

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