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Although dog-like in appearance, the hyena is more closely related to cats, civets, and genets. The famous chatter they produce actually sounds like a human laughing hysterically. This “laugh” is used during times of nervous excitement or submission to a dominant hyena. Learn more.

The Hyena is the second largest carnivore in Africa, after the Lion. (Well, maybe not this little guy.) They are not related to dogs (or cats, as some think), but rather, to the group of animals that includes the meerkat and mongoose. They are very capable of hunting alone and are formidable when in a pack. Interestingly, females produce higher levels of testosterone, making them not only more aggressive, but larger than males. The genitalia of hyenas looks very similar and at one time zoologists considered them to be hermaphrodites. The alpha female is the largest and best fed pup in the clan. (A group of hyenas is also sometimes called a cackle.) Do they really laugh? The nickname “laughing hyena” comes from the “giggling” sound they sometimes make-often when fighting with other hyenas. I have spent many a night in a tent listening to their more common “oooooh-WHUP” sound, which generally signals good news with a kill. That sound travels very well in the night…right into your bones!!