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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Hyaenidae
Gray, 1821
[[taxon|Subfamilies and Genera]]
© Photo: Katja N Koeppel
Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta).
© Photo: Brian F. Kuhn
brown hyaena on the beach, (Parahyaena brunnea)
© Photo: Brian F. Kuhn
Aardwolf at the Johannesburg Zoo, (Proteles cristatus).
© Photo: Brian F. Kuhn
Striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena).

The family Hyaenidae is made up of two sub families, the protelinae and the hyaeninae. The protelinae is made up of one species, the aardwolf (Proteles cristatus). The hyaeninae is comprised of three extant species, the striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), the brown hyaena (Parahyaena brunnea), and the spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta).

Keys to genera, Proteles, Crocuta and Hyaena (includes Parahyaena)

Aardwolf (Proteles) has five digits on the fore foot, whereas the hyaeninae have only four. Additionally, with the exception of the canines, the aardwolf teeth are very small and pin like. Spotted hyaenas (Crocuta) have short rounded ears, and short spotted coats. Spotted hyaenas (adults) lack the upper first molar. Sexual dimorphism favours the females. Striped hyaenas and brown hyaenas (Hyaena) have long pointed ears, stripes on the legs and manes that they can erect when excited. Upper first molar present. [1]

Geographical distribution of protelinae

Aardwolves are found in two distinct regions of Africa. In southern Africa they are found throughout South Africa and Botswana and through most of Namibia and Zimbabwe and in parts of Angola, Zambia and Mozambique. They also occur in eastern Africa in most of Tanzania, all of Kenya and Somalia, parts of Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Dijibouti, Sudan and Egypt. [2].

Geographical distribution of hyaeninae

© Image: Brian F. Kuhn
Range of hyaeninae.

The three extant species of Hyaeninae cover the majority of Africa, being absent from the far south and the Congo basin (see map). There is overlap between spotted hyaenas and brown hyaenas in the southern regions of the spotted hyaenas range in Botswana, Namibia and the northern areas of South Africa. Striped hyaenas and spotted hyaenas overlap at the northern range of spotted hyaenas, most notably Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and across West Africa just south of the Sahara desert. The range of striped hyaenas extends beyond Africa, covering the Middle East and parts of India, Kazakhstan and Turkey.


  1. J. Skinner and C. Chimimba (2005). The mammals of the southern african subregion=. Cambridge University Presspages=. 
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Skinner