Do hyenas and canines hunt in packs because of their size, the size of their prey and terrain limitations? Also, how different are the hu…

Answer by Rory Young:

This is a really good question but also difficult because of the three species of hyaenas only the Spotted Hyena is gregarious and hunts in groups. Also, Hyaenas are more closely related to cats than canines. The behaviour differs to both cats and canines. I will refer only to the Spotted Hyaena as I believe this is what the question refers to.

With Spotted Hyaenas hunting usually initiated by one animal and a few others will then join in but more likely to be successful with larger game. Hyaenas do not use coordinated teamwork to bring down prey.  In other words the group activity is more a case of opportunism on the part of the others joining the hunt than a team effort per se.

They do not hunt in groups because of their size, the size of their prey and terrain limitations and this is evident from the wide variety of the size and type of prey. They are simply opportunistic/versatile and will hunt in whatever manner is more likely to be successful and in the case of larger game this will more likely be successful for a group of hyaenas and in the case of smaller game will often be more successful hunting singly.

African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) are cursorial hunters, running down their prey in coordinated groups. They rarely hunt singly and there is much “ritual” or group “psyching up” prior to hunting, reinforcing the group bonds and “oneness”. They work as a a team and this extends to everything they do. They allow the youngest to eat first rather than the most dominant, which I believe is unique.

Wild Dogs will put all their efforts into raising one litter which is produced by the alpha male and alpha female. This includes dogs regurgitating food for the litter, mother and any other animals that have stayed behind. They also look after sick animals by regurgitating food for them and allowing them to remain at the den when the others hunt. There is a male and a female hierarchy and only the alpha male and alpha female mate with all the efforts of the entire pack going into raising the one litter.

Spotted Hyaenas are a matriarchal society and all females are dominant over all males. There is one alpha female and although there will be a dominant male among the males there is no alpha pair. The females are larger and have a pseudo-penis, mounting other females and males to assert dominance. Mating takes place through the pseudo genitalia with the male sliding under the female  ( Sexual behavior of spotted hyenas).

Spotted Hyaena clans are closely knit but nowhere near as closely as Wild Dog packs and overall the behaviour is different in a number of significant ways.

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