Female Hyena: 10 Extraordinary Facts

Hyenas have living and behavioral patterns very different from other animal species. All hyena species live in matriarchal societies where female hyenas have a more prominent role than males.

Female hyenas are called bitches. They dominate the clan and rank higher than males. Bitches are naturally more aggressive than males, which makes them better hunters. Once they conceive after mating, female hyenas go through a three-month gestation period to give birth to cubs. They are known to be excellent mothers. 

Female hyenas are the pack’s leaders and do most of the hunting. In this article, we’ll look at ten facts about female hyenas that have nothing to do with the Lion King.

A female hyena and her 2 cubs

1. Female Hyenas are Amazing Mothers

When we talk about mothers in the wild, our attention usually goes to gorillas and their babies or cats nesting their kittens. You may never have thought about a hyena. 

Surprisingly, female hyenas are known to be amongst the best mothers in the wild. They invest far more energy in raising their cubs than other terrestrial carnivores.

Female hyenas develop a great social bond with their offspring during nursing. 

Mother and Hyena Cub | Adorable Interaction at their Den in the Wilderness of the Greater Kruger

2. They have Unusual Genitals

Female hyenas are known for their unusual genitals that look similar to males.

They have a pseudoscrotum and a pseudopenis, which led people to believe they were hermaphrodites

The female pseudopenis is the clitoris that resembles the male anatomy. The urological track runs through it. 

Hyenas urinate, give birth, and have intercourse through it as well. 

Why female genitals are like males is still uncertain. Yet, theory suggests females mimicked males because they were stronger and more aggressive. 

3. Female Hyenas are Called “Bitches”

Hyenas, although not dogs, do share some similarities. Most people aren’t aware that female hyenas have a specific name. 

A female hyena is known as a “bitch”. That’s the same as the name for a female wolf or dog. 

4. Female Hyenas Get Higher Testosterone Levels During Pregnancy

Interestingly, female hyenas have relatively high testosterone levels. As a result, they’re large, muscular, and aggressive too. 

These characteristics make them better suited for being the leader of the pack. Besides, their testosterone levels also let them dominate, challenge, and surpass their male counterparts. 

Their testosterone levels increase during pregnancy and shape the fetus’s life. 

5. They Only Have Two Teats

Since female hyenas have only two teats, the cubs have serious competition.

When a hyena has more than two cubs, the strongest wins the fight to drink from the teat. 

That leads the weakest ones to die of hunger. This explains why the mortality rate of hyena babies in the first year is almost 60%. 

A female hyena nursing her cub

6. Hyenas Gestation Period Lasts Three Months 

Gestation periods for hyenas vary according to the breed. Some hyena breeds have gestation periods of three months. For others, this period is longer. 

For the striped hyena, the gestation period is 90 to 91 days. 

For brown hyenas, this period lasts for 97 days. 

The spotted hyena has a 110-day gestation period. 

7. Female Hyenas Go Through a Tough Birthing Process

Due to their pseudopenis, female hyenas have a callous birthing process. 

After egg fertilization, the offspring gestate for the standard time in the uterus. When giving birth, she has to push out the two-pound cub through a small opening, the birth canal. This canal is almost an inch wide. 

The process becomes more complicated because hyena cubs are one of the largest offspring compared to the weight of the hyena. 

Female hyenas undergo severe tearing, which is almost impossible to recover from. So, the death rates are very high for both the cub and the mother. 

8. Bitches Take Over the Hunting Job for the Clan

In a hyena pack, the females are always the hunters. That’s because of their aggressive nature, large bodies, and dominating traits. 

Most females will leave the group to hunt for food and use sounds to coordinate with their pack. They will make laughing sounds to express joy when they catch prey.

9. Female Hyenas Decide Whether to Add a Male Hyena to Their Pack

Since females dominate the pack, they decide who they want to add to their group. Males rank at the lowest level. 

In fact, after mating, male hyenas are left to search for other clans. Again, the family leader, a female, gets to decide whether she wants the male in her pack. 

10. Alpha Female and Offspring Eat from the Hunt First 

The dominating characteristics of female hyenas give them an advantage in almost every area. 

When they get a kill, the females and offspring eat first. The males must eat last. So, males only get enough to eat when they’re lucky.

Clan of female hyena eating

Final Thoughts On Female Hyenas

Though they are commonly referred to as bitches, female hyenas are fascinating and powerful animals.

They have many unique characteristics, such as their unusual genitals and high testosterone levels, that make them different from other species. Female hyenas are also amazing mothers, able to provide for their young despite a tough birthing process.

Though they may be feared by some, female hyenas play an important role in their clan and are worthy of respect.

FAQs

Are Female Hyenas The Alpha In A Pack? 

Hyena clans have a matriarchal role, with the alpha female ruling them. Dominance passes from the female to her cubs. Adult male hyenas rank the very last. They need to beg for food, acceptance, and reproduction.

Are Female Hyenas Stronger Than Males?

Usually, female hyenas are stronger, bigger, and heavier than their male counterparts. They are also more aggressive and dominating. As a result, they lead the clan and rank higher than males.

How Are Female Hyenas Unique?

Female hyenas have elongated clitorises (almost half-foot long) that seem like penises. Their labia are folded up and combined, making them seem like testicles. Female hyenas also get erections.