Hyenas (Hyaenidae) are found primarily in various habitats of Africa, as well as Arabia and India. They are one of the smaller Carnivora mammals, ranging from about 3 to 5 feet in length, and weighing 100 to 150 pounds.
There are 4 species of hyenas: spotted, striped, brown, and aardwolf. The spotted hyena has rounded ears, and the others have pointed ones.
They have short torsos, short and thick necks, short hind legs, and taller forelegs. This structure gives them a loping gait.
Hyenas have short coarse fur that is often tan-colored with stripes or spots. They have a long mane of hair that runs from the head to the shoulders. The brown hyena has longer hair and striped legs.
While hyenas are primarily scavengers, eating leftover prey from other animals’ kills, they will hunt as well. Spotted hyenas in particular will hunt in packs to take down antelopes, wildebeests, zebras, and other prey.
The aardwolf is insectivorous, primarily eating termites, using its long sticky tongue to eat as many as 250,000 termites daily.
Hyenas are nocturnally active but can be seen during the day. They live in clans with up to 80 members. They are commonly known for their laugh-like sound used to alert other members of their clan about food. They also howl, chitter, grunt, whoop, whine, and yell.
Read on to learn about 12 other fascinating animals that are like hyenas.
1. African Painted Dog
Scientific Name: Lycaon pictus
Quick Summary: The African painted dog is often confused with hyenas since it looks and hunts in similar ways, overlapping in shared habitats.
Also known as African wild dogs, this animal looks much like the hyena with its ear shape and patterned fur. It lives in African savannas, grasslands, and other open areas.
These wild dogs are in a different taxonomic family, Canidae, with a body shape like domestic dogs that is more squared-off.
They successfully hunt in packs at dawn and dusk. These dogs show greater skill than other predators, catching prey such as gazelles, impalas, and antelope.
These unique dogs can have large litters of up to 20 pups at a time, whereas hyenas only have 2 or 3 cubs at a time.
2. African Civet
Scientific Name: Civettictis civetta
Quick Summary: African civets are like hyenas because they have similar body shapes, are nocturnally active, and have manes.
African civets have a similar overall body shape and a short mane of hair along their backs like hyenas. They are found in central and southern Africa typically in savannas and forests or along river systems.
These animals are nocturnal and solitary creatures. They consume an omnivorous diet of fruits, rodents, insects, carrion, eggs, and so on.
They are flexible with the ability to climb, swim, and dig.
Scientific Name: Canis lupus dingo
Quick Summary: Dingoes are like hyenas in that they have a similar ear shape and long tails and they hunt in packs.
Dingoes and hyenas alike have similar ear shapes and long tails.
Wild dingoes however are found in Australia and Chile. These dog-like carnivores hunt in packs, capable of taking down an adult kangaroo and livestock.
Dingoes use complex vocalizations that include howls, snorts, shrill calls, and purrs.
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Quick Summary: With similar ear shapes and long tails, coyotes also live in social groups like hyenas.
Coyotes are found throughout North America in all habitats, including suburbs and cities. They have an omnivore diet but consume a lot of meat, preying on livestock, small mammals, pets, and insects.
Like hyenas these candids live in social groups, generally of 5 to 20 members. Interestingly, coyotes can mate with domestic dogs and gray wolves.
Similar to other dog-family species wolves have pointed ears and long tails. These are similar to hyenas regardless of the different taxonomic classifications.
Scientific Name: Canis lupus
Quick Summary: Wolves and hyenas both live in packs and scavenge for food.
Wolves are like hyenas in that they both eat a carnivorous diet of scavenged and hunted food. They eat deer, elk, moose, rabbits, and more as well as leftover prey from other animals.
Wolves can run over 35 miles per hour with strong forelimbs that allow them to go fast over short distances.
They live in North America, North Africa, Europe, and Asia in various habitats. Their pack size ranges from 4 to 15 members but can be as large as 30.
Scientific Name: Canis aureus
Quick Summary: Jackals are similar to hyenas with their ear shape, long tails, and pack behavior.
Jackals are related to wolves and coyotes, and therefore like them. They are similar to hyenas with their pointed ears, long tails, and social-pack behavior.
They are found in Africa and Eurasia in savannas, deserts, grasslands, and woodlands. While some jackals live alone, they are often found in packs of about 6 members.
Jackals are small, about 35 inches long, and 20 pounds. They eat an opportunistic omnivore diet of carrion, reptiles, insects, fruits, berries, and more. They hunt cooperatively in packs to catch prey such as small antelopes.
Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Quick Summary: Foxes are similar to hyenas in that they are active at night and produce a variety of vocalizations.
Like hyenas, foxes are primarily active at night, showing nocturnal behavior.
They eat a diverse diet, using their excellent hunting skills to catch rabbits, birds, frogs, and rodents. They also opportunistically eat berries, carrion, and more.
Foxes are found all over the world, except Antarctica, and in a variety of terrains.
Foxes commonly produce a bark or screaming howl. They might sound like a screaming woman to warn competing mates. They also produce high-pitched “yip” sounds, similar to those of a dog.
Scientific Name: Herpestidae
Quick Summary: The mongoose is like the hyena because they belong to the same taxonomic suborder Feliformia and also live in the same regions.
The Carnivora order is split into cat-like and dog-like animals. Mongooses and hyenas belong to the cat-like group of Feliformia.
Like hyenas, mongooses are found throughout Africa and parts of Asia and Iberia. Some species of mongooses are terrestrial, and others are semi-aquatic or tree-dwelling.
They are opportunistic hunters and scavengers. They eat birds, reptiles, small mammals, insects, and vegetation.
9. Wild (& Domestic) Cats
Scientific Name: Felis silvestris
Quick Summary: Cats and hyenas belong to the same suborder of Feliformia, and they are most active at night.
As mentioned above, cats are part of the group of Feliformia along with hyenas.
Domestic cats are descendants of the wild cat Felis silvestris lybica, the African wildcat. So, domestic cats are also related to hyenas.
Big cats are also included in this group, such as leopards (Panthera pardus), lions (Panthera leo), and cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus).
Small wild and domestic cats are carnivores that prey on small animals such as birds, rodents, and reptiles. Big cats eat wildebeests, warthogs, buffalo, deer, and giraffes.
Cats are crepuscular, hunting at dawn and dusk, but are also more active at night, like hyenas.
Scientific Name: Genetta
Quick Summary: Genets are in the same taxonomic suborder as hyenas and they also are active at night.
This cat-like creature is not a cat but is in the Feliformia suborder along with hyenas. They belong to the family of Viverridae, along with civets.
The genet is omnivorous, eating fruits and small prey. They hunt at night for prey such as birds.
They have flexible bodies with short legs, long tails, pointed noses, and large rounded ears. Their fur is spotted with a spinal black stripe and ringed tail.
11. Tasmanian Devil
Scientific Name: Sarcophilus harrisii
Quick Summary: The Tasmanian devil is a nocturnal carnivorous mammal that has teeth and jaws much like the hyenas.
Tasmanian devils are nocturnal (or crepuscular) marsupial carnivores. They eat prey such as wombats, sheep, rabbits, and wallabies as well as carrion. They even crack through and eat the bones just like hyenas do.
They often scream and growl when feeding at night.
Tasmanian devils are cat- or small dog-sized, with a stocky bear-like build and thick dark fur with a white breast stripe.
They are primarily found in the state of Tasmania, Australia, in habitats of coastal woodlands and dry sclerophyll (Australian) forests.
Scientific Name: Orycteropus afer
Quick Summary: The aardvark is like the aardwolf hyena because they are both nocturnal insectivores, eating a diet of termites.
Aardvarks consume up to 50,000 termites and ants each day using their long sticky tongue. The aardwolf also has a long sticky tongue, eating over 250,000 termites daily.
Aardvarks live in sub-Saharan Africa in savannas, grasslands, rainforests, and woodlands. They walk on their toes and are good swimmers.
To learn more about hyenas check out this video:
Surprisingly, hyenas are more closely related to cats, despite their dog-like appearance. They belong to the suborder of Feliformia with mongooses, genets, and wild, domestic, and big cats.
Hyenas share a strong physical likeness to the African painted dog and African civets, who often roam in the same areas.
They have powerful jaws and teeth like the Tasmanian devil, capable of biting through and eating bones.
While several of the above animals live in different areas, many of them overlap. Many also exhibit similar nocturnal behaviors when foraging or hunting for food.