One of the characteristic predators of the African savanna the Spotted Hyena was long thought to be solely a scavenger, but it is now known that it is one of the most successful hunters. Its sloping features and ungainly walk, together with its eerie call have earned the Spotted Hyena a bad reputation. Long thought to be of the dog family the Hyena is now thought to have more cat-like features. The Spotted Hyena is well known for its macabre chuckle or "laugh", which is an indispensable sound of the African bush at night. The large head, sloping back and a keen sense of smell is unique to this species. Females dominate the social hierarchy and are larger than males.
Females are 850 mm tall at the shoulders and weigh 70 kg, whereas males weigh in at 60 kg. The spotted hyena is yellow with dark spots and round ears. Externally female genitalia superficially mimic the male reproductive organs, thus making gender identification difficult.