Hyenas are often mistakenly thought of as large dogs, but these animals come in four different species of shapes and sizes.
Spotted Hyenas are the biggest, and they weigh from 88 to 190 pounds. The second largest is the brown hyena, weighing 75-160 pounds. Striped hyenas weigh 27-90 pounds, and last but not least, Aardwolves weigh 17-30 pounds.
In this article, we’ll look at how big hyenas can get to give you a better picture of these fierce scavengers.
4 Hyena Species And Their Sizes
Hyenas are more like cats than dogs, even though many people associate them with dogs.
Based on the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), they technically belong to the suborder Feliformia, a category for carnivores resembling cats.
In the family of hyenas, four different species come in various sizes.
1. Spotted Hyena
The largest hyena species is the spotted hyena, which reaches lengths of 4 to 5.9 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) and heights of 2.5 to 2.6 feet (77 to 81 cm) from paw to shoulder.
They are between 88 and 190 pounds (40 to 86 kg). In contrast to other species, spotted females tend to be 10% larger than males.
The spotted hyena’s fur is sandy, yellowish, or grey. Most of its body is covered with dark brown or black blotches.
2. Brown Hyena
The second largest is the brown hyena which ranges from 51-63 inches or 130-160 cm in length.
These hyenas weigh 75-160 lb (34-72.6 kg). The scruffy long brownish-black hair on the body and shoulders makes these hyenas distinguishable from other species.
The neck hair can grow almost 12 inches or 30.5 cm, but the hair around the face, legs, and ears remains short. These hyenas have small but bushy tails.
The front legs are striped, have more strength, and are longer than the hind legs. This makes hyenas look like they’re constantly climbing a hill.
3. Striped Hyena
Striped hyenas are 26 to 30 inches (66 to 75 cm) high from foot to shoulders and 39 to 45 inches (100 to 115 cm) long.
They weigh between 57 to 90 pounds (26 to 41 kg), and their tails count for an extra 12 to 16 in (30 to 40 cm). Long, grey, to straw-colored hair, can be found on striped hyenas.
They have black snouts and black stripes on their legs, chest, and head.
The tiniest of the hyena family are aardwolves.
They range in size from 33 to 41 inches (85 to 105 cm) in length, with the tail accounting for roughly one-fourth of that measurement, and weigh between 17.6 and 30.8 pounds (8 and 14 kg).
Aardwolves have fur comparable in color and texture to that of striped hyenas.
The Physical Features Of a Hyena
1. Male Vs. Female Hyena
Both sexes seem similar; however, the female spotted hyena is far bigger than the male.
Due to the females’ larger size and greater aggression compared to the males, spotted hyenas are different from all other mammals.
In the Serengeti, older male spotted hyenas weigh 40.5–55.0 kg (89–121 lb), whereas females reach 44.5–63.9 kg (98–141 lb).
Female hyenas have an unusually high testosterone level, and they tend also to be the leaders of their packs.
2. Impressive Jaw Strength.
The spotted hyena has one of the strongest bites of all animals.
Their bite is 40% stronger than a leopard’s because of its massive jaw bone and unique vaulting that shields the skull from powerful forces.
3. Strong Legs And Paws
The spotted hyena can easily run over long distances because of its enormous heart, which makes up nearly 1% of its body mass.
Its slumped posture is caused by the length difference between its front and hind legs, each with four toes.
Hyena Vs. African Wild Dogs
The African wild dog is the biggest canine species in Africa, standing 60 to 75 cm high at the shoulders and weighing 18 to 36 kg.
However, spotted hyenas, which can grow up to 92 cm tall and weigh 86 kg, are significantly larger and more powerful than wild dogs because they have long front and short rear legs.
Let’s look at how hyenas and wild dogs compare regarding their bodily features and abilities.
Hyenas and wild dogs can be confused for one another; however, the hyena is a bigger animal. The hyena may weigh up to 190 pounds, is 5 feet long, and is 3 feet tall at the shoulder.
Wild dogs may grow slightly over 3 feet long, weigh just 80 pounds, and are around 2.5 feet tall.
2. Speed and Motion
Wild dogs and hyenas are noted for having incredibly high potential speeds to pursue prey and flee from predators.
In the wild, wild dogs have clocked speed rates of 44 mph, outpacing hyenas’ top speed of 37 mph.
The stride of the hyena differs from that of other animals because its front legs are longer than its hind legs. Both species have a gallop run.
Final Thoughts On Hyena Size
Hyenas may not be the favorite animal of many, but they greatly influence other animals, territories, and ecosystems.
Hyenas have survived millions of years which has caused their bodies to evolve in various shapes and sizes.
Dogs and wolves may look better, but hyenas have developed unique skill sets that set them apart and allow them to compete with lions (and sometimes even kill lions) at the top of the food chain.
Can Hyenas Defeat Wild Dogs?
Wild dogs may find hyenas difficult opponents due to their powerful jaws. A wild dog can be killed by a single hyena bite that lasts only a few seconds without needing to latch on.
Are Hyenas Larger Than Wolves?
In terms of size, the hyena and the wolf are similar. Hyenas can weigh up to 190 pounds, while wolves can weigh 150 pounds. Both have a maximum length of 5 feet and a shoulder height of 2 to 3 feet.
How Big Is a Baby Hyena?
Newborns barely weigh around two pounds or 1.5 kg. Unlike other predatory animals, spotted hyenas are born with open eyes and have incisors that are 4 mm long and canines that are 6-7 mm long.