Does the hyena have the strongest bite?

We recently had a family stay at Londolozi that had an amazing spotted hyena sighting, they happened upon a den and found pups that were only a few weeks old. This made me wonder about these misunderstood creatures and how often they are put in a very negative light, but for what reason? Personally I’m not the biggest hyena fan and I blame watching The Lion King as a child, but when this family explained the sighting with so much excitement I thought I should definitely give them another look. So I’ve dedicated this week’s blog to hyenas and what makes them special.


A spotted hyena – these are the ones you can find here at Londolozi.
Photographed by James Tyrrell.

One of the first questions that seems to come up with hyenas is about the strength of their bite, does a hyena really have the strongest bite? While I can’t say that it’s the strongest bite of all the animals, it’s definitely extremely strong! Hyena jaws and teeth are specially designed for crushing and breaking bones, they are one of the only animals that eat almost everything of its prey including the bones. Their teeth are especially strong in order to grind bone and their jaws have an extremely strong bite, so strong that they have been known to kill animals with only one bite.


A hyena pup and its mother outside the den.
Photographed by James Tyrrell.

Hyenas are often seen in a negative light and I think this is because they are scavengers and mostly steal their food from other predators, but they also play a very important role in the bush. Like vultures, hyenas clean the bush veld of all old rotting carcasses (the dead body of an animal), some predators will only eat fresh meat but hyenas are not fussy at all. So in fact we actually need hyenas to keep the bush veld clean and less smelly!

They are also not as mean or harsh as some may think, the spotted hyena can actually be very social. They often live in groups and all the females in the group help raise the pups in the safety of a den site. They are also very vocal animals communicating with various sounds like whoops, giggles, growls, laughs and whines.

Watch this video of spotted hyena pups playing at a den site, you can see just how caring they can be:

More facts about hyenas:

  • There are three different kinds of hyena, the spotted, striped and brown hyena. This blog was mostly on the spotted hyena as that is the kind we find here at Londolozi. 
  • A group of spotted hyenas is called a clan and is led by the females not the males.
  • Spotted hyena have very good eyesight at night and very sharp hearing!
  • The spotted hyena is the biggest of all three hyenas.
  • Although they are most commonly known as scavengers, hyenas can also hunt and have shown great skill in hunting. They are however extremely intelligent creatures and will always look for an easier way of finding food.

Two spotted hyena pups waiting for their mother to return to their den.
Photographed by Trevor McCall-Peat.

Hopefully this post has shown a little positive light on the hyena, I know that I definitely look at them differently now. Are there any animals that you think deserve a little bit more positive light shown in their direction? Let me know in the comment section below and I’ll get right on it!

Teacher Emma.

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7 comment on “Does the hyena have the strongest bite?”

    Peter Taylor says:

    The Hyena is one of my favourite animals, they are very family orientated and seldom do you see a dirty one. they are definitely very crafty as visitors to iMpila will testify.
    great looking at your pics and video

    Teacher Emma says:

    Hi Peter! Im glad you enjoyed the blog, they really are awesome animals and hopefully we can shed some more positive light on them. Have you seen a hyena before? :)

    Julian says:

    I love your blog! The video and pictures made my heart melt XD

    But to answer your question, hyana’s do have the second-strongest bite of all mallelian animals, with the Tasmanian Devil on the first place.

    And contractry to what most people believe, hyana’s do hunt more then they scavange. In fact, Lions steal more hyana kills then the other way around!

    But I agree. Hyana’s are awesome animals, that don’t deserve their bad reputation in the slightest.

    Teacher Emma says:

    HI Julian, glad you enjoyed the blog. You really know you’re stuff, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for your comment, keep it up! Emma

    Jimmy says:

    I learned something from a hyena specialist at the Denver Zoo that I think should be included in all writings on hyenas. This was also confirmed in a study by Stephen Wroe, Colin McHenry, and Jeffrey Thomason. The reason for Hyena’s extreme jaw strength is due to its osteophagy, or the eating of bones. Because it is primarily a scavenger, by the time the hyena gets to the carcass, there is usually little to nothing left… for most animals. However, for the hyena, there is an abundance of extremely nutrient-rich bone marrow. There are many animals that have developed ways of getting at the nutrients shielded by bone. Though I forget the names, I can think of a bird species and a monkey species in particular. The bird species will take the bone, fly up very high, dive at the rocky cliffs, and drop the bone. The speed of the dive, which is aided by the height, and the hard rocks, come together to crack the bone, allowing the bird access to the marrow. The monkey takes a far easier, and much more human approach, though to be fair, the bird lacks hands, arms, and strength to take the monkeys’ approach. The monkeys simply take a rock and smash the bone until it breaks, then scoop out the marrow with its fingers.

    Anyways, I just think any explanation of a hyena, ESPECIALLY if you are going to mention its incredible jaw strength, should include an explanation that touches on the osteophagy. Otherwise, good read. Thank you.

    Teacher Emma says:

    Hi Jimmy. Thank you so much for your comment, it’s great that you have taken such interest in the blog and hyenas. Thank you for the very interesting input, keep following the blog for more posts on hyenas and other interesting animals.

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