Crocuta crocuta has a sandy, yellowish or gray coat with black or dark brown spots on the over most of the body. The spots are darkest in younger animals and can be almost completely absent in very old animals. The coat is very coarse and wooly. The body length from head to tail is about 95 to 150 cm and the height at the shoulder is reported from about 75 cm to 85cm. The tail is about 30 to 36 cm long and ends in a bushy black tip. About two-thirds of the tail is composed of bone with the other one-third being solely hair. Crocuta crocuta is sexually dimorphic with females weighing around 6.6 kg more than males. Male weight ranges from about 45 to 60 kg whereas females weigh 55 to over 70 kg. Crocuta crocuta is strongly built, with a massive neck and large head topped by rounded ears, unlike the other hyaenas. The jaws are probably the strongest in relation to size of any mammal. The front legs are longer than the hind legs, which gives the back of C. crocuta a slightly odd, downward slope. The feet have four digits with short, non-retractable claws and broad toe pads.
C. crocuta females are extremely masculinated and the genitalia of females are almost indistinguishable from those of males. The clitoris is enlarged, looks like a penis, and is capable of erection. Females also have a pair of sacs in the genital region which are filled with fibrous tissue. These look much like a scrotum, but are covered with more hair than the male's scrotum. Thus, males and females look extremely similar. The female has no external vagina and must urinate, mate, and deliver young through the urogenital canal that exits through the pseudo-penis. High androgen levels were once thought to be a major cause of this masculinazation. One current hypothesis is that sexual mimicry is the driving force behind hyaena masculinization. Females that look like males may be protected from aggression from other females.
Range mass: 45 to 80 kg.
Range length: 95 to 150 cm.
Average length: 130 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; ornamentation
- Muller, M., R. Wrangham. 2002. Sexual mimicry in hyenas. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 77/1: 3-16.