Welcome to the final Edition of Wednesday Hyena, everyone! I know this one was short, but there are only four species of hyena, and I have another weekly series that will start next Wednesday. I hope you all enjoy it!
The Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is the smallest and most "primitive" species of hyena, which means that it still retains some viverrid characteristics that the larger hyenas lack. It can be found in north and east Africa, the Middle East, India and Central Asia. Striped Hyena body parts are considered to have magical properties in the Middle East and Asia, a belief that was shared by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. They are considered to be near threatened by the IUCN because of their overall population, which is less than 10,000 and faces persecution and decline due to loss of habitat.
Adult Striped Hyenas can grow up to 51 inches (130 cm) in body length, with a 16-inch (40 cm) tail. They can weigh up to 121 pounds (55 kg). There is little sexual dimorphism by size, but males have a large hairless pouch around their anus, which contains subcutaneous glands that emit a foul-smelling liquid when the anal pouch is everted (meaning turned inside out). Males will evert their anal pouches when they are attacked in order to discourage the attacker from continuing. Striped Hyenas have excellent eyesight, but their senses of smell and hearing are comparatively weak. They are primarily scavengers, but they have been known to hunt and make kills of their own, and they have been observed defending their kills from larger predators, such as Leopards.
There are currently no recognized subspecies of Striped Hyena, though the species does have geographic variation. For instance, hyenas on the Arabian Peninsula have dorsal manes that are solid black, with a gray or gray-white base coat. Israeli Striped Hyenas, however, have a mottled gray and black dorsal mane. The largest hyenas come from the Middle East and Asia, while the smallest come from Africa. They are strictly nocturnal, meaning that they only venture from their dens when the sun has set completely, and return before the sun rises. Dens are dug by the Striped Hyenas themselves, or had been previously dug by other animals or abandoned. Caves and rocky crevices also serve as found dens, and much of the family group life revolves around this space.
Striped Hyenas are not very territorial, and family group ranges can overlap without too much conflict. However, when Striped Hyenas do show aggression, they raise their dorsal manes, though it's not quite as impressive as their cousins the Brown Hyenas. Striped Hyenas are monogamous, with both the male and female participating in raising their cubs. Mating season varies depending on geographic location. After a 90-day gestation period, female Striped Hyenas will give birth to a litter of one to four cubs, although the most common litter size is three. Females are extremely protective of their cubs, and even though her mate will scavenge for her and bring her food while the cubs are still small enough to be kept to the den, she will chase him off if she thinks he's getting too close.
Unfortunately, Striped Hyenas share some perceptions in common with the Spotted Hyena in local folklore. In Middle Eastern mythology, for example, Striped Hyenas appear as symbols of treachery and stupidity. In Arabian and Islamic mythology, they are sometimes seen as the physical appearance of djinn, which are supernatural creatures that share those characteristics as well. Sometimes they are also seen as vampiric beings who prey on the brave, feeding on their blood. The Greeks believed that the bodies of werewolves, left intact, would turn into hyenas that would haunt battlefields and feed on the dead. It's possible this belief came from the fact that Striped Hyenas have been known to dig up and scavenge human remains. In India, Afghanistan and Palestine, however, Striped Hyenas are seen as symbols of attraction, fertility and love. This is why the body parts of Striped Hyenas are used in rituals that are supposed to attract a spouse or sexual partner, or increase fertility in both men and women.