The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), also known as the laughing hyena or tiger wolf, is a species of hyena native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN on account of its widespread range and large numbers estimated between 27,000 and 47,000 individuals. The species is however experiencing declines outside of protected areas due to habitat loss and poaching. The species may have originated in Asia, and once ranged throughout Europe for at least one million years until the end of the Late Pleistocene. The spotted hyena is the largest member of the Hyaenidae, and is further physically distinguished from other species by its vaguely bear-like build, its rounded ears, its less prominent mane, its spotted pelt, its more dual purposed dentition, its fewer nipples and the presence of a pseudo-penis in the female. It is the only mammalian species to lack an external vaginal opening.
The spotted hyena is the most social of the Carnivora in that it has the largest group sizes and most complex social behaviours. Its social organisation is unlike that of any other Carnivore, bearing closer resemblance to that of cercopithecine primates (baboons and macaques) with respect to group-size, hierarchical structure, and frequency of social interaction among both kin and unrelated group-mates. However, the social system of the spotted hyena is openly competitive rather than cooperative, with access to kills, mating opportunities and the time of dispersal for males depending on the ability to dominate other clan-members. Females provide only for their own cubs rather than assist each other, and males display no paternal care. Spotted hyena society is matriarchal; females are larger than males, and dominate them.
Hyenas or Hyaenas (from Greek "ὕαινα" - hýaina) are the animals of the family Hyaenidae (pron.: //) of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora (consisting of four species), and one of the smallest in the mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components to most African and some Asian ecosystems.
Although phylogenetically close to felines and viverrids, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several aspects (see Convergent evolution); both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, non-retractable nails are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms. Although long reputed to be cowardly scavengers, hyenas, especially spotted hyenas, kill as much as 95% of the food they eat, and have been known to drive off leopards or lionesses from their kills. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but may venture from their lairs in the early morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.