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The Bionomics of the Spotted Hyæna, Crocuta crocuta Erxl


  • L. Harrison Matthews M.A., F.Z.S.


  • 1 The Spotted Hyæna occurs in large numbers in many varied habitats in East Africa.
  • 2 The senses of smell, sight, and hearing all play an important part in the normal foraging of the animal.
  • 3 The hyæna's unhurried lope gives a speed of about eight to ten miles an hour, but a speed of about thirty miles an hour can be attained if pressed.
  • 4 The fæcal masses, which rapidly turn from green to white in colour on drying and consist almost entirely of mineral matter derived from bones, are deposited in regular latrine areas often of large extent.
  • 5 The Spotted Hyæna is primarily a scavenger, but often pulls down game on its own account. Several individuals often combine in hunting.
  • 6 Breeding occurs at all times of the year on the Masai Steppe. The growth of the young is slow.
  • 7 Spotted Hyænas lie up in thick cover or in burrows during the day. The young are always born in underground dens, either natural cavities among rocks or burrows excavated in the soil. A description is given of an extensive warren of such burrows.
  • 8 The Spotted Hyæna shows little sign of any organized pattern of social behaviour.
  • 9 There are three distinct cries; a foraging call, a chuckling noise made when settling to feed, and loud laughing and screaming cries probably associated with mating.
  • 10 The commonest external parasite is a Hippoboscid fly: several species of ticks also occur. Two species of Cestode infest a high proportion of the animals: nematodes and encysted larval cestodes are less frequent. Very small cysticerci are abundant in the liver.
  • 11 About 30 per cent, of the animals suffer from splenitis apostematosa, a diseased condition of the spleen which is filled with large pyæmic abscesses. Alveolar abscesses, broken, decayed, and heavily worn teeth occur commonly in the older animals from which one or more teeth are often missing. Abscesses appear to be frequently caused by fragments of bone becoming impacted between the teeth. Repaired fractures of the bones are recorded.
  • 12 The Spotted Hyæna has few natural enemies. In seeking food its movements are largely determined by the wanderings of herds of game and of nomadic bands of Masai and their cattle.
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