From centuries-old legends of “were-hyenas” to the thuggish buffoon of Disney's "The Lion King," humankind often saddles the hyena with an unsavory reputation. In reality, however, these unique carnivores -- native to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia -- perform critical ecosystem services as predators and scavengers. And they're far from slow-moving skulkers: They can bolt at 60 kilometers (37 miles) per hour.
The Spotted Hyena
Biggest and most formidable of its kind, the spotted hyena of sub-Saharan Africa is often -- contrary to its popular image as a lion-shadowing scavenger -- an active hunter of large game. It can lope for long stretches at 50 kph (31 mph) and reach 60 kph (37 mph) at top speed.
Speed and Hunting
Spotted hyenas are an exceptional example of what biologists call a “cursorial” hunter: one that runs down its quarry over long distances. The hyena will approach a herd of wildebeest, zebra or other ungulates at an easy gallop, prompting the ungulates to flee. If it detects a hampered or slow-moving animal, the hyena will hone in and attempt to chase it until it's spent -- sometimes for 24 kilometers (15 miles). Flat-out, these hoofed mammals can outpace a hyena, but the carnivore has superior endurance.
Brown and striped hyenas aren’t proficient hunters of fleet-footed ungulates like their bigger cousin, but they can still cover some ground. Though they usually walk or trot at a modest pace, both can hasten to a 50-kph (31-mph) run.
- Photo Credit jonmccormackphoto/iStock/Getty Images
How Fast Does a Giraffe Run?
The tallest of all modern land animals, the giraffe is also one of the most striking in appearance, with a knobby, big-eyed...
How Fast Does a Cheetah Run?
The cheetah is a member of the cat family and by far the fastest land animal. One of the reasons that it...
What Does a Tapeworm Look Like?
Few things are as creepy as the thought of a parasite gaining entry to your body. Tapeworms are parasites that take up...
How Fast Can a Zebra Run?
Zebras are strong, beautiful creatures, and are fast runners. When it comes to hunting or surviving a predator, its running speed can...
How Far Can You Run the Dryer Vent Hose?
Dryer vent hoses are used to vent the exhaust from the dryer to the outside of the house. Lint can build up...
How to Make a Hyena Costume
Making costumes is both difficult and rewarding. You will certainly save a lot of money making your own. Take your time with...
Animals That Live in a Grassland
About a quarter of the earth’s landmass is covered in grasslands, which are areas with enough annual precipitation to support grasses but...
List of Savanna Animals
Savannas are dominated by grasslands, with trees scattered only sporadically across the land. A savanna has two main seasons, wet and dry....
What Are the Predators of African Wild Dogs?
The African wild dog is a pack animal that is roughly the same size as a domesticated dog. The African wild dog...
What Do Fleas Look Like?
Fleas are 1 to 10 millimeters long, are flattened side-to-side and have enlarged hind legs. Discover how to identify fleas by their...
How Fast Does a Dog Run?
A dog can run an average of 19 miles per hour, but the fastest dog breeds, such as a greyhound, can run...