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African Wild Dogs vs. Hyena

African Wild Dogs are commonly mistaken for Hyenas but in fact there are many differences, both physically and behaviorally.


Taxonomic Classification: Hyenas are NOT dogs!! Hyenas are closer related to mongooses and cats.

Care of young: Similar to African Wild Dogs, Hyenas give birth in a communal den, however there is no communal care for the pups. Not even the fathers take a role in caring for the pups. Liter sizes in Hyenas are very small, consisting of 1-4 pups, compared to that of the African Wild Dog with an average of 6-9 pups.

Paternal: African Wild Dog pups are born helpless where the Hyena pups are born with their eyes open and teeth!!

Reproduction: Hyenas reach sexual maturity later.

Distribution: Hyenas and dog were once found throughout the savannah regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Human population and habitat loss has shrunk the ranges of both species. African wild dogs are now found only in a few small areas in east and southern Africa. Hyenas are much more widespread.

Social Interaction: Live in groups and hunt cooperatively. Communicate vocally. We already know that African Wild Dogs live in packs of approximately 6-20 and are considered cooperative hunters. Hyenas live in clans. A clan, which is separated into packs, can contain up to 80 individuals!! Although Hyenas are also considered cooperative hunters, they are competitive in nature and unlike African Wild Dogs will fight within the clan for food or dominance.

Social Structure or Hierarchy: Female dominance within groups: The core of the clan is comprised of related females forming a hierarchy. In fact the instinctive desire for dominance is so strong in Hyenas that newborn pups will fight immediately after birth to gain dominance and right to food. It is estimated that 1 in 4 hyena pups die within the first month due to sibling fighting.

Ecological Interaction: Hyenas are significantly more aggressive than African Wild Dogs. Hyenas have even been known to confront lions: not for food, but to fight.