How fast can a hyena run? Well, hyenas may not be the fastest African animals, but they’re certainly no slouches. Spotted hyenas can reach at least 60 km/h (37 mph), and their relatives aren’t far behind.
Top speed isn’t the full story. Hyenas boast impressive endurance and can keep a fast pace for several kilometres without tiring.
Hyenas’ speed is just one factor that helps make them some of the most versatile predators on the continent.
How Fast Can a Spotted Hyena Run?
If there were a hyena Olympics, the spotted hyena would take gold in the track events.
That’s to be expected. Despite their reputation as scavengers, they hunt much more often than other hyena species.
You might be lucky enough to ‘spot’ a hyena clan whizzing past on safari, hot on the heels of their prey. But there’s no need to bring your stopwatch; we’ve got you covered.
Spotted hyena top speed
It’s hard to find conclusive evidence of a spotted hyena’s top speed. Several sources give a figure of 60 km/h. Others go as high as 65 km/h. Without thorough scientific testing, upper estimates are just that – estimates. We know they’re fast, though – how else would they keep up with their prey?
They’re well below speedsters like the cheetah, which can reach 120 km/h. But the ‘laughing hyena’ often gets the last laugh. Sprinting is taxing, and hyenas sometimes steal the cat’s kill while it’s recovering.
How long can spotted hyenas run for?
Their hunting tactics differ from their fellow African predators. While stealthy leopards or lions like to ambush prey, spotted hyenas are pursuit predators. Running for a kilometre may be enough for prey to outlast a lion, but hyenas don’t give up that easily.
Hunts will often last 3-5 km. The clan will continue pursuit until their prey succumbs to exhaustion. From there, it’s a gruesome end – hyenas will start eating their prey alive.
Larger prey like zebras require several members of the clan. Spotted hyenas often hunt smaller prey, such as antelope, alone.
Built for endurance
Spotted hyenas are big-hearted mammals. That doesn’t mean they’re sentimental. (Quite the opposite!) What it does mean, is that they’re the cardio kings of the savanna.
Spotted hyenas’ hearts make up around 1% of their body weight. Lions’ hearts are only about half as large, proportionally.
With such a strong heart pumping blood around the body, spotted hyenas can keep up a good pace for longer. (That could be why their hunting success rate is so good!)
How Fast Can a Striped Hyena Run?
So, how fast is a striped hyena? While its spotted relative is an active hunter, this species prefers to let others do the hard work.
That doesn’t mean it can’t shift when it needs to. Data on the striped hyena’s top speed is hard to come by, but a couple of sources give a figure of 50 km/h, or 31 mph.
Given its scavenging lifestyle, the striped hyena doesn’t often chase prey. (Carrion isn’t running away very fast!)
They’re not often preyed upon, either, so sprinting is rare. The striped hyena’s usual speed is only around 2-4 km/h, though they can trot at about 8 km/h. Why waste energy going any faster?
Thanks to their strong stomachs, striped hyenas can eat food other carnivores wouldn’t go near. Strong acid breaks down rotten flesh, while their powerful jaws can crush bones. The high levels of calcium in their diet turns their feces white!
How Fast Can a Brown Hyena Run?
The shaggy ‘strandwolf’ is another scavenger, and it’s not known for its sprinting ability.
With its unkempt appearance and dietary choices, it’s not the most glamourous animal. It still plays an important role in southern African ecosystems.
How fast is a brown hyena? Again, conclusive data is hard to find. Some sources suggest a top speed of 50 km/h.
Not impressed? That’s still faster than Usain Bolt ever managed!
Brown hyenas cover a lot of ground, but it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.
As a (mostly) nocturnal species, they avoid the day’s extreme heat, preferring to find dinner in the dark. They don’t mind travelling for it, either – they can cover an average of 32 km per night. Sometimes, they cover over 50 km.
Like the striped hyena, brown hyenas’ speed doesn’t usually get out of first gear. They scavenge most of their meals, but they’ll hunt small mammals and insects occasionally.
As opportunists, they’re always on the lookout for a meal. Rare footage even shows one sprinting after an aardvark during the day.
Fight or flight? Fight!
Many animals avoid predators, but brown hyenas actually seek them out. Why? Because it means a potential meal.
Brown hyenas have a serious attitude and will steal kills from jackals, cheetahs, and even leopards. (The latter sometimes climb up a tree to avoid this feisty customer.)
Because of their aggressive temperament, brown hyenas can be the dominant mammalian carnivores in areas like the Kalahari. (Where their range overlaps with lions, they don’t dominate so much!)
How Fast Can a Hyena Run? As Fast As it Needs to!
How fast is a hyena? As you now know, hyena speed depends on species. Spotted hyenas are the fastest in the family, but they’re far from the best sprinters in the savanna.
For a hyena, speed isn’t everything. They don’t need to be the fastest when they’re perfectly adapted for their various niches.
Spotted hyenas wear out prey with their superior stamina. Brown and striped hyenas scavenge meals others can’t digest, or sneakily steal a meal.
Hyenas have learned to play to their strengths. While they sometimes get a bad reputation, they play a vital role in their native ecosystems.
Spotting a wild hyena can be a magical experience. Plan your dream safari and you could get a glimpse of these amazing animals.