( Originally Published 1936 )
This family includes but three species, which are found in the tropical regions of Asia and Africa. The muzzle is moderately long and pointed, and the teeth, though not so truly carnivorous in construction as those of the cats, are enormously powerful and are used to crush the bones of carcasses left by lions, tigers, and other beasts of prey. Hyaenas are large, ungainly animals, repulsive in appearance and habits. The front legs are somewhat longer than the hind ones, giving a backward slope to the animal, the body is clothed with coarse, bristly hair, the tail is comparatively short and bushy. The neck is very long and thick and bears a mane; the ears also as long, and the hearing is very acute. In lying down, the attitude of the Hyaena presents some very curious characters, unlike the dogs, to which at first glance it seems closely allied. The usual position of the dog in sitting, or lying down, is with the front paws extended straight out in front, while the hind legs are doubled under the body, the heels resting on the ground. In the Hyaenas, however, the front paws are bent backward sharply at the wrist, in an attitude sometimes taken by the house cat, while the hind legs, instead of being drawn up under the body are allowed to sprawl out behind, so that the animal really lies on its stomach.
A form that is not often seen in captivity is the Brown Hyaena (H. brunnea), found in Southern Africa, but aside from colour, this species resembles the two that are figured.
Closely allied to the Hyaenas, if not of the same family, is the Aard Wolf (Proteles lalandii), also a native of South Africa. It is about the size of a fox, and in general appearance is much like a small Striped Hyaena, but it does not possess the terrible jaws and teeth of its near relative. This animal lives in burrows in the ground, which it makes itself.
Remains of fossil Hyaenas have been found in caves in England, France, Germany, and in the Himalayas, and similar species have been found in this country, structurally differing but little from modern forms.
Striped Hyaena (Hyaena striata)
Widely distributed throughout the continent of Africa, the Striped Hyaena is also found in many parts of Asia, especially in India, frequenting rocky and hilly districts rather than forests. The colour is a brownish-grey, and over this on the sides are rather wide blackish stripes that are continued along the outer part of the limbs. See Plate 1o, Fig. 52. It is a night animal, lurking in caves and other hiding-places during the day, and going about at night in packs in search of bones and remnants of animals that have been left by beasts of prey. Although a very formidable creature, it is skulking and cowardly, and seldom attacks other living animals unless it can take them at a disadvantage.
Spotted (Hyoena crocuta)
The Spotted Hyaena has a more restricted range than the preceding species, being found only in Central and Southern Africa. Somewhat larger, measuring nearly six feet in length including the tail, it is a stronger, fiercer, and more dangerous animal. In colour it is yellowish-brown, covered with irregular black spots or blotches. The singular form adds greatly to its repulsive character, the neck being very long and thick, the head carried low, the mouth usually open and displaying the large and formidable teeth. The eyes are extremely dull in expression, and seem to be glazed by a kind of film over them. See Plate to, Fig. 53. When excited its antics are remarkable: the short, stiff tail, usually carried down and close to the body, is then stuck up straight in the air, and the animal gallops back and forth in its cage uttering the weird sounds that have given it the name of Laughing Hyena.. At such times it seems to be in a very wild and perturbed state rather than angered. Besides this disagreeable utterance known as a " laugh," it has a regular call which consists of three or four long-drawn growls ending in a kind of whoop, and when emitting them the head is placed close to the ground.