How Fast Does a Hyena Run?

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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.

Other Hyenas

  • 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.

References

  • Photo Credit jonmccormackphoto/iStock/Getty Images
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