Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hyenas, by the numbers

Let's face it: we all love fun facts. With these, you can impress your friends and family, or at least procrastinate for a few minutes...

The oldest hyena we’ve studied is K-Butt, who lived for nearly 17.5 years.

The lovable Bailey holds the record for our heaviest hyena, weighing in at a whopping 179 lbs. She was just under 3 feet tall at the shoulder.

Hyenas can run at 40 miles per hour for about 2 miles. For comparison, the fastest human clocked in at just over 27 miles per hour, and that was only for 100 meters. Wimp.

In the longest hyena hunt ever recorded, a hyena chased an eland for nearly 15 miles.

While the average hunting group size is 1.8 hyenas, successful zebra hunts require 10 or more hyenas. The reason? Hyenas need to call in reinforcements against male zebras, who protect their ladies fiercely and have a deadly kick.

Here in the Mara, hyenas kill 95% of the food that they eat. I bet you scavenge a heck of a lot more than 5% of your food.

Their bone-crushing bite force has been estimated at about 9000 newtons (2000 pounds), which roughly equals the force of a big NFL hit.

They have 11 distinctive vocalizations.

They can hear noises from over 6 miles away, and can probably identify odors from a distance of nearly 2 miles.

A mother hyena’s milk contains 15% protein, compared to less than 1% protein in human milk. No wonder hyenas grow up fast and become big bullies!

When erect, a female hyena's pseudopenis may be up to 7 inches long. Enough said.

**Remember, we're talking about spotted hyenas...the other hyena species are strange in their own ways. Most of the info here is from our observations. The rest is from the IUCN Hyaena Specialist Group website (http://www.hyaenidae.org/) and the book The Spotted Hyena by Hans Kruuk. Both are fantastic sources of information for you hyena-philes out there!


Anonymous said...

so how do you get a name like "K-Butt". Any relation to K-Fed?

Dan said...

I think I remember hearing that K-Butt was named for the shape of spots on her hind-quarters.

Kate said...

The story behind K-Butt's name is long and bizarre...something having to do with her flightiness and the Grateful Dead. Don't ask.

Interestingly, it turns out that K-Butt and her daughter, Bracket Shoulder, lived nearly equally long lives. Both were extremely high-ranking, which confers huge advantages in hyena society!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the "Legend of K-Butt" is a good story that will continue to grow larger over time. I can see it evolving into an independent documentary and a children's book. Is there a photo we can see to help put some perspective on this?

SpotWeld said...

Another good read would be Innocent Killers by Hugo and Jane Van Lawick-Goodall.

It has sections on the Spotted Hyena, the Golden Jackal and the Wild Dog. It's a good narrative with a little less focus on the solid raw data in the book by Kruuk.

Mollie T. said...

I read these facts yesterday and then had a dream I visited the camp. Maybe you guys should hook up with Earthwatch or GVI. Or come back to Lansing for a visit!

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