How Do Hyenas Reproduce?
Hyenas are mammals of the carnivore order, taxonomically classified in the suborder Feliformia. Although phylogenetically closer to the felids and viverrids, hyenas resemble canids in behavior and morphology. Hyenas are generally associated with scavengers, but can also hunt live prey. Hyenas have several distinctive characteristics that make them fascinating animals.
The following AnimalWised article explains, among other things, how hyenas reproduce, how they mate, and how they are born.
Reproductive system of hyenas
As mammals, hyenas generally exhibit the reproductive traits of their group. The genitalia of hyenas are sexually distinct, as is common in vertebrates, so we see differences between male and female hyenas. In general, the male is equipped with external organs such as the penis and testes, which is the case in all hyena species.
However, in females, we found a significant difference in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), namely:
- The external reproductive system has become masculinized: the clitoris is fused and enlarged, creating a kind of penis that even has an erection.
- They do not have the external vaginal opening of other females: instead, it has a pseudoscrotum consisting of a channel in the urogenital duct through which this hyena urinates, copulates and gives birth.
The exact reason for the change in the reproductive system of female hyenas is not known, since in the other hyena species the external organs retain their typical anatomy.
Hyena breeding season
The heat of hyenas varies according to the species. In this way, we can distinguish the breeding seasons of hyenas as follows:
- Aardwolf (Proteles cristata): it takes place between the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July, which coincides with the beginning of summer.
- The brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea): reproduction takes place in the dry season in Africa, that is, between May and August.
- The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta): usually does not have a fixed time for reproduction, but there are peaks in births during the rainy season.
- The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena): Since it reproduces according to location, there is actually no seasonal breeding season.
How do hyenas mate?
Hyena mating is another feature that varies from species to species. Below, we explain how each hyena species reproduces.
- Aardwolf: leave scent marks to attract potential mates, an act performed by both females and males. During the mating season, unmated male aardwolves search their own territory as well as other areas for a female with which to mate. Dominant males also mate opportunistically with females of less dominant neighboring aardwolves, which can lead to conflict between rival males.
- Brown hyena: Female brown hyenas are polyestructive and usually give birth to their first litter at two years of age. Males and females of the same clan do not usually mate with each other, but females mate with nomadic males. The males of the clan do not disapprove of this behavior and help the females raise their young.
- Striped Hyena: The striped hyena is monogamous, with the male building the den with the female and helping her raise and feed the young. In captivity, they mate several times a day, even with interruptions of about 15 to 25 minutes.
- Spotted hyena: is promiscuous, and no permanent pair bonds are formed. Members of both sexes may copulate with multiple partners over the course of several years. The female is the dominant animal and when she shows no interest, the male retreats shyly without seeking confrontation. In this species, mating is somewhat challenging because the male's penis enters and leaves the female's pseudo-penis rather than going directly through the vagina, which is blocked by the false scrotum and testes.
If you want to learn more about hyenas, do not miss this other article where we talk about what hyenas eat.
How are hyenas born?
Hyenas usually give birth in burrows or dens, which they use for this purpose. All species have an average gestation period of about 90 days, except the spotted hyena, which is slightly longer at about 110 days.
In spotted hyenas, parturition is less common because the penis-shaped clitoris must break open for the young to be born. After birth, a wound is left behind that heals over the course of a few weeks. However, the organ becomes flaccid and does not fully regain its original shape, but the female can continue to reproduce without problems.
The young hyenas are born depending on the mother's milk and weaning takes place after 3 to 4 months in the case of the aardwolf, between 3 and 14 months in the brown hyena and between 12 and 14 months in the spotted hyena. Hyenas do not regurgitate food for their young.
Spotted hyena cubs are born nearly fully developed, with open eyes and erupting incisors and canines, but without the adult markings. In contrast, striped hyena cubs are born with closed eyes, and small ears.
Male spotted hyenas play no role in rearing their young. Male striped hyenas, however, are very involved in raising their young.
Spotted hyenas mothers are extremely protective and do not tolerate other hyenas approaching their offspring. Coalitions form, especially between female mothers and daughters, trying to secure the latter's position when their mother is the alpha of the group.
In the other hyenas' species, the relationships are different, and different mothers of the clan might participate in the upbringing of the cubs.
If you want to know more about hyenas, then do not miss this other article where we explain where do hyenas live.
If you want to read similar articles to How Do Hyenas Reproduce?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
- Howard, C. (1999). " Hyaena hyaena ". Animal Diversity Web. Available at: Accessed May 28, 2022 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Hyaena_hyaena/
- Law, J. (2004). " crocuta crocuta ". Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Crocuta_crocuta/
- Schmidtke, M. (2011). " Hyaena brunnea ". Animal Diversity Web. Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Hyaena_brunnea/
- Stump, M. (2011). " Proteles cristata ". Animal Diversity Web. Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Proteles_cristata/