Any of three species of coarse-furred, doglike carnivores (family Hyaenidae) found in Asia and Africa. Actually more closely related to cats than to dogs, they have four toes on each foot, long forelegs, nonretractile claws, and enormously strong jaws and teeth. They live alone or in packs and may be active by night or day. Hyenas are noted for scavenging but will also attack live prey. The spotted, or laughing, hyena, whose calls alternately resemble wailing and maniacal laughter, ranges through much of sub-Saharan Africa. Yellowish or grayish with dark spots, it is about 6.5 ft (1.8 m) long, including the 12-in. (30-cm) tail, and weighs up to 175 lbs (80 kg). It has been known to attack people and even carry off young children.
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Hyaena is a genus of two living species of hyenas: The striped hyena from western Asia and northern Africa and the brown hyena from southern Africa. It has been argued that the brown hyena should be placed in the genus Parahyeana or even Pachycrocuta, but recently it has been placed back in the genus Hyaena.