Hyenas (Family Hyaenidae) are long-legged, long-necked scavengers and carnivores with large eyes and ears, blunt snouts, high shoulders and low hindquarters, shaggy coats, and short tails. They probably originated in the Late Oligocene, 25 million years ago, from relatives of the Civets in Africa or Eurasia, parallel to the development of Dogs in North America. They were a diverse group that ranged from Europe to Africa and Indonesia, and one species (Pachycro-cuta brevirostris) grew as large as lions and ultimately specialized in the ability to crush, swallow, and digest large mammal bones and teeth.
The only hyaenid in North America was the extinct genus Chasmaporthetes, also known from
Eurasia and Africa. It lived from the Pliocene to the Pleistocene, 2 million-10,000 years ago, and was not a bone-cracker; its teeth were more adapted to slicing flesh.
There are only four extant species, all found in Africa. The largest is the Spotted hyena (Cro-cuta crocuta), which grows to a body length of 5 feet 9 inches. The others are the Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), also found in Arabia and India; the Brown hyena (H. brunnea); and the more distantly related Aardwolf (Proteles crista-tus), which feeds on about 250,000 termites in a single night.
Of the eight hyaenids in this section, three could be explained by the striped hyena, three could be surviving Chasmaporthetes, one could be a surviving Pachycrocuta, and one seems to be an unknown variety.
Beast of Gévaudan; Booaa; Chut; Cuit lamiztli; Nandi Bear; alSaiaawa; Set; Shunka WArak'in
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