Singita Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park | July 2011

Most guides have a few things on their “bush bucket-list” that they would love to witness one day. Well, this was not one of mine at the time. I now count it as one of the more special sightings I have witnessed so far. Reproduction in the spotted hyena is not only unique but also wildly improbable. Because of the brief periods of estrous at intervals of roughly one year or a little more, their nocturnal habits and the lack of a definite breeding season copulation is rarely witnessed.

Female hyenas are naturally more aggressive than their male counterparts and therefore the act of courtship is a difficult task for any male. The beginning of courtship can take up to a month as the male builds up the confidence to mount a female. If a female’s response to a males approach is aggressive in any way the male immediately backs away in an extremely submissive manner. Courtship may take up to a week as males of successive higher rank replace one another. Copulation only begins once the most dominant male is in place.