When you hear the word "hyena," you probably picture an animal cackling the day away in a seemingly frivolous, lighthearted and joyful mood. As far as "laughing" is concerned, striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena) are not exempt from the famed vocalization. But they're nowhere near as noisy as spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta).
About Striped Hyenas
Striped hyenas are predominantly solitary mammals. Their relatively broad geographic scope encompasses Asia, the Middle East and Africa. These hyenas share a casual resemblance to dogs, and they have sturdy physiques, straw or gray coats and prominent dark stripes over their legs, trunks and heads. The natural habitat for striped hyenas includes woodlands; thick grasslands; savannas; dry, rugged mountain areas and outskirts of forests. They generally weigh 55 to 99 pounds and are around 44 inches long.
Not Laughing Hyenas
The name "the laughing hyena" refers exclusively to spotted hyenas, a very vocal group of animals. Despite the fact that striped hyenas are not considered laughing hyenas, they do produce laughing sounds. The laugh of a striped hyena has a rapid and high-pitched "chattering" sound to it. "Laughing" is not usually a happy sound for any hyena. In striped hyenas, it usually signifies fear and anxiety.
Laugh of the Spotted Hyena
The legendary loud, clipped giggle of the spotted hyena isn't exactly an indication that all is well, either. Similarly to striped hyenas, spotted hyenas make laughing sounds during scary circumstances. Perhaps a spotted hyena is in the field of vision of a predator, such as a lion, and he isn't certain of his next step. "Giggling" is often a sign that a spotted hyena is feeling very vulnerable, exposed and terrified -- anything but amused. Giggling can also be a way for a spotted hyena to tell members of his group about newly discovered sustenance.
Howling in Striped Hyenas
Although striped hyenas are on the quiet side, laughter isn't their only vocalization. Occasionally they also make howling sounds.
- San Diego Zoo's Animal Bytes: Striped Hyena
- International Union for Conservation of Nature Hyaena Specialist Group: Striped Hyaena -- Social Behavior
- African Wildlife Foundation: Hyena
- PlanetWildlife: Striped Hyena
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Hyaena Hyaena
- ARKive: Striped Hyaena
- Zoological Wildlife Foundation: Striped Hyena
- The Telegraph Calcutta, India: Hyena's Cry
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Crocuta crocuta
- Anup Shah/Digital Vision/Getty Images