Hyenas are terrifying creatures. I remember during South Africa’s 23 year long bush war I found myself as a conscript doing my National Service as an Ops Medic in the Eastern Caprivi. We did many bush patrols looking for traces of the enemy’s presence, spoor tracks, any sign and so on… As a general rule we were out in the bush for 3 days at a time with a platoon of 15 guys (if I remember correctly) and we would set up a temporary base (TB) mid afternoon and ready ourselves for the night. This was the first time that I had encountered African Wildlife other than at Cape Town Zoo. We would sleep in a circle partnered up with a buddy who would be “standing” watch with you. I say that in quotes because in reality you would be lying down on your belly because the TB would be setup under a thorn bush with vicious thorns of the “haak-en-steek” (hook-and-prick) type. Once hooked it is not easy to get out of it’s clutches without tearing clothes and skin.
During the night there would be very little sleep due to the sound of Hyenas howling and yip yipping, Elephants knocking over trees and trumpeting. In the morning you would never-the-less kind of wake up and notice spoor of Hyenas and other animals around your encampment at times coming very close to one’s head. There were tales, bush myths (as opposed to urban legends) of hyenas taking a bite out of a soldier’s head while he slept.
It may be just a tale, but make no mistake, a Hyena is not one’s cute and cuddly lap dog. These animals you do not want to hand feed, you might feed him your hand.
Hyenas consider it a challenge to bite the tyres of stationary tourists vehicles with the occupants distracted and viewing other game at a distance: Being of the rather large toothed type of animal with arguably the strongest jaw (in PSI being applied in a bite) they will naturally chew on anything. Including tyres.
There are 2 main Hyena types in Southern Africa. The brown Hyena & the Spotted Hyena. the brown hyena is found more on the Botswana and Kalagadi side whereas the spotted hyenas are found more or less all over the northern South African border, in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia. Of course in Kruger National park there are plenty of the spotted variety. As menacing and dangerous as these animals are, though, they do have the sweetest looking little pups. Here I have a video clip that I call “Hyena Nursery”.