Hyenas or Hyaenas (from Greek "ὕαινα" - hýaina) are the animals of the family Hyaenidae ( /hɪˈɛnɨdɛ/) of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora (consisting of four species), and one of the smallest in the mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components to most African and some Asian ecosystems.

Although phylogenetically close to felines and viverrids, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several aspects (see Convergent evolution); both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, non-retractable nails are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms. Although long reputed to be cowardly scavengers, hyenas, especially spotted hyenas, kill as much as 95% of the food they eat, and have been known to drive off leopards or lionesses from their kills. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but may venture from their lairs in the early morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.

Hyenas first arose in Eurasia during the Miocene period from viverrid-like ancestors, and developed into two distinct branches; the lightly built dog-like hyenas and the robust bone-crushing hyenas. Although the dog-like hyenas thrived 15 million years ago (with one taxon having colonised North America), they died out after a change in climate along with the arrival of canids into Eurasia. Of the dog-like hyena lineage, only the insectivorous aardwolf survived, while the bone-crushing hyenas (whose extant members are the spotted, brown and striped hyena) became the undisputed top scavengers of Eurasia and Africa.

Hyenas feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures with which they are sympatric. Hyenas are mostly viewed with fear and contempt, as well as being associated with witchcraft, as their body parts are used as ingredients in traditional medicine. Among the beliefs held by some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children.

Read more about Hyena:  Genera of The Hyaenidae (extinct and Recent)

Other articles related to "hyena, hyenas":

Man-eater - Hyena
... Although hyena will readily feed upon human corpses, hyena as a whole are very wary of man and are much less dangerous than the big cats whose territory overlaps with theirs ... Nonetheless, both the spotted hyena and the smaller striped hyena are powerful predators quite capable of killing an adult human, and are known to attack people when food is scarce ... Like most predators, hyena attacks tend to target women, children, and infirm men - though both species can and do attack healthy adult males on occasion ...
Relationships With Humans - Hyenas As Food and Medicine
... Hyenas are used for food and medicinal purposes in some areas, including Muslim nations under the Shafiite school, where hyenas are considered halal because of their omnivorous diet ... back to the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed that different parts of the a hyena's body were effective means to ward off evil and to ensure love and fertility ...
... Hyena-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of hyenas ... The striped hyena has historically been the most frequently used species ... Hyenas can be challenging opponents for dogs, as their jaws are exceedingly powerful ...
Cyber-Cat - H - Hyena
... Further reading Hyena at the Comic Book DB Hyena is the name of two fictional supervillains published by DC Comics ... The first Hyena debuted in Firestorm #4 (September 1978), and was created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom ... The second Hyena debuted in Fury of Firestorm #10 (March 1983), and was created by Gerry Conway and Pat Broderick ...
Changing Breed - Source Material - Ajaba
... These "were-hyenas" could do the same job as the Garou, but were more cat-like so that they could work with the Bastet ... the Simba attempted to completely exterminate the hyenas ... Ajaba are often considered extinct or nearing extinction because of these wars, but the hyena people are very much alive and kicking ...

Famous quotes containing the word hyena:

    There’s always the hyena of morality at the garden gate, and the real wolf at the end of the street.
    —D.H. (David Herbert)