When it comes to big predators, typically we think about lions, tigers and bears (Oh My!) But throughout the world, there are plenty of other predators that dominate their respected habitats. One of these is the hyena, who inhabits the savannas and sub-deserts of Africa and Asia. There are four extant species of hyena, which include the spotted hyena, brown hyena, aardwolf and striped hyena. Hyenas share characteristics with both felines and canids (dog-like carnivores), making them exceptionally unique. While they use their teeth for hunting like their fellow canids, their grooming, scent marking, mating and parental behavior are similar to felines.
Throughout Africa, there's plenty of folklore surrounding hyenas. This lore differs greatly depending on the group. Parts of East Africa told stories of the spotted Hyena being a solar animal that brought warmth to the Earth, whereas in West Africa hyenas in folklore generally represent immorality and other negative traits.
In popular culture, we've seen hyenas frequently depicted throughout film, television, literature and comics. One of the most common examples comes from the 1994 Disney animated film, "The Lion King." In this film, actors Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings voice three spotted hyenas, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, who serve as allies to the antagonist Scar. In the 2019 computer-animated remake, we saw actors Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key and Eric André voicing their characters.
Another prominent example of hyenas in popular culture can be see through DC Comics. In the comics, supervillain Harley Quinn has two hyenas, named Bud and Lou, as pets. These hyenas have made appearances alongside Harley in many adaptations, such as the video game "Injustice 2," the animated series "Harley Quinn" and "Batman: The Animated Series." We even saw a hyena make it to the big screen in "Birds of Prey," as Harley adopts a hyena whom she names Bruce, after Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman), in the film.
In honor of the rich impact hyenas have on the world, take a peek at 75 epic tattoos of hyenas. Then let us know your favorite fictional hyena from popular culture in the comments section on social media.