Although hyenas bear some physical resemblance to canids, they make up a separate biological family that is most closely related to Herpestidae (the family of mongooses and meerkats). With the exception of the insectivorous Aardwolf, hyenas have among the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom and an adult of the species has only the big cats (Lions) to fear.
All species have a distinctly bear-like gait due to their front legs being longer than their back legs. The Aardwolf, striped hyena and brown hyena have luxurious, striped pelts and manes lining the top of their necks which erect when frightened. The spotted hyena's fur is considerably shorter and is spotted rather than striped. Unlike other species, its mane is reversed forwards.
Hyenas are highly intelligent animals, and some scientists claim they are of equal intelligence to certain apes. One indication of hyena intelligence is that they will move their kills closer to each other to protect them from scavengers; another indication is their strategic hunting methods.
The majority of hyena species show little sexual dimorphism, usually with males being only slightly larger than the females. The spotted hyena is an exception to this as females are larger than the males and dominate them. One unusual feature of the spotted hyena is that females have an enlarged clitoris called a pseudo-penis or demi-penis. Female hyenas give birth, copulate, and urinate through their protruding genitalia, which stretches to allow the male penis to enter for copulation, and it also stretches during birth. The anatomical position of the genitalia gives females total sexual control over who is allowed to mate with them. Researchers originally thought that one of the things that causes this characteristic of the genitals is androgens that are expressed to the fetus very early on in its development. However, it was discovered that when the androgens are held back from the fetus, the development of the female genitalia was not altered.
All species excrete an oily, yellow substance from their anal glands onto objects to mark their territories. When scent marking, the anal pouch is turned inside out, or everted. Hyenas also do this as a submissive posture to more dominant hyenas. Genitals, the anal area, and the anal glands are sniffed during greeting ceremonies in which each hyena lifts its leg and allows the other to sniff its anal sacks and genitals. All four species maintain latrines far from the main denning area where dung is deposited. Scent marking is also done by scraping the ground with the paws, which deposits scent from glands on the bottoms of the feet.
The hyaenids have no fossil record before the mid-Miocene period, about 10 million years ago, thus making them the most recent addition to the carnivora. It is believed that the family began in Africa and spread through Europe and Asia. The hyena's peak was during the Pleistocene, with 4 genera and 9 species of hyena. Extinct hyena genera included civet-like tree dwellers and speedy species designed for running down prey, along with even more powerfully developed bone crushing species similar to modern hyena. Fossil examples include the genera Protictitherium, Ictitherium, Chasmaporthetes, Adcrocuta, Pachycrocuta and Percrocuta (of which P. gigantea was the largest Hyena which ever lived). Their success was largely due to the fact that the sabre-toothed cat's which they coexisted with, were unable to make full use of their prey due to the nature of their dentition. The hyena's powerful jaws and digestive systems allowed them to consume otherwise undigestible parts.  As the sabre-toothed cats began to die out and be replaced by short fanged felids which were more efficient eaters, some hyenas began to hunt for themselves and began evolving into new species, the modern spotted hyena being among them.
Most lines of hyena died out towards the end of the Miocene, possibly due to competition from early canids. The running hyena Chasmaporthetes survived until the first ice ages, and the Eurasian Cave Hyena survived until the end of the last ice age, when they died out along with much of the Eurasian megafauna.
With the exception of the striped hyena which has been seen in the jungles of India, all modern hyena species generally reside in arid environments like african savannahs and deserts.
With the exception of the Aardwolf, all hyena species are efficient scavengers. They have extremely strong jaws in relation to their body size and have a very powerful digestive system with highly acidic fluids, making them capable of eating and digesting their entire prey, including skin, teeth, horns, bones and even hooves. Since they eat carrion, their digestive system deals very well with bacteria.
The spotted hyena is primarily a predator, unlike its cousins. Spotted hyenas are successful pack hunters of small to large sized ungulates and are the most abundant carnivore on the African continent.
The Aardwolf is a specialised feeder of termites, thus lacking the size and physical power of its cousins.
Negative associations have generally stemmed from their tendency to scavenge graves for food (being one of the few creatures naturally suited for this due to their ability to devour and digest every part of a carcass, including bone). As such, many associate hyenas with gluttony, uncleanliness, and cowardice.
Their haunting laughter-like calls inspired the idea in local cultures that they could imitate human voices and call its victims by name. Hyenas are also associated with divination and sometimes thought of as tools of demons and witches. In African folklore, witches and sorcerers are thought to ride hyenas, or even turn into them.
Christian legend reports that a hyena once brought a blind boy to Macarius the Egyptian who restored his sight to him. Isaiah says of Babylon that "hyenas will howl in their citadels" adding their voices to the sounds of desolation to be heard in this once beautiful city (Isaiah 13:22). The hyena was also a symbol of wisdom and cleverness, however, because of its constant laughter, its knowledge was seen to be that of the debased, profane, earthly, or initiatory kind. The wise hyena was a fool compared to the all-knowing God and symbolized the foolishness of man's wisdom as opposed to that of the Father (I Cor 1:25). 
African attitudes toward hyenas are little better than those held in the Western world. The majority of African tribes view hyenas as inedible and greedy hermaphrodites. The Bouda is a mythical tribe reputed to house members able to transform into hyenas. Belief in "Werehyenas" is so entrenched within the traditional lore of the Bornu people of north-eastern Nigeria, that their language even contains a special word bultungin which translates as "I change myself into a hyena".
Early naturalists thought hyenas were hermaphrodites or commonly practiced homosexuality, largely due to the female spotted hyena's unique urogenital system. According to early writings such as Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Physiologus, the hyena continually changed its sex and nature from male to female and back again. In Paedogogus, Clement of Alexandria noted that the hyena (along with the hare) was "quite obsessed with sexual intercourse." Many Europeans associated the hyena with sexual deformity, prostitution, and deviant sexual behavior.
Hyenas have been used in animated movies many times, as well as having been rendered in live action films via CGI.
African Wild Dog
|African Wild Dog|
African Wild Dog, Melbourne Zoo
African Wild Dog range
The African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus also known as the African Hunting Dog, Cape Hunting Dog, or Painted Wolf, is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae family. The Afrikaans name for the African Wild dog is Wildehond, and in Swahili, Mbwa mwitu. It is the only species in the monotypic genus, Lycaon. They are, as their name indicates, found only in Africa, especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded areas.
The wild dog's Greek name means painted wolf and it is characteristic of the species that no two individuals have the same pattern of coat. Individuals can easily be recognized on the basis of their differing coat patterns. The pelage is an irregular pattern of black, yellow, and white. The wild dog is unusual among canids, due to the fact that they are the only species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs. Adults typically weigh between 17-36 kilograms (37-79 pounds).  A tall, lean animal, they stand about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging about 40 inches (100cm) and a tail of between 12 and 18 inches (30-45cm) Animals in southern Africa are generally larger than those in the east or west of the continent. There is little sexual dimorphism, though judging by skeletal dimensions, males are usually 3-7% larger. They have a dental formula of (i= 3/3; c=1/1; p=4/4; m=2/3) x2, for a total of 42 teeth. The premolars of this species are relatively large compared to other canids, allowing them to consume a large quantity of bone, much like hyenas. 
Indeed, according to the comparative bite force test of carnivores conducted by Wroe et al (http://intern.forskning.no/dokumenter/wroe.pdf) the African Wild dog, with a BFQ (Bite Force Quotient) of 142 (essentially the strength of bite as measured against the animal's mass) is the highest of any extant carnivorous mammal.
Wild dogs will reproduce any time of year, with a peak between March and June during the second half of the rainy season. 2-19 pups can be born per litter, though 10 is the most usual number. The time between births is usually 12-14 months, though it can also be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die. Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals such as aardvarks. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8-11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until about 12-14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual maturity at the age of 12-18 months. Females will disperse from their birth pack at 14-30 months of age and join other packs that lack sexually mature females. Males typically do not leave the pack they were born to.
African Wild Dogs are pack hunters. Their main prey varies among populations, but always focuses on medium sized ungulates such as impala. Like most members of the dog family, they are cursorial hunters, meaning that they pursue their prey in a long, open chase, rather than relying on stealth as most members of the cat family. During pursuit, they may reach speeds of up to 45 mph. Typically, about 85% of these attacks result in a kill. Members of a pack vocalize to help coordinate their movements. Their voice is characterized by an unusual chirping or squeaking sound, similar to a bird. After a successful hunt, dogs regurgitate meat for those that remained at the den during the hunt, such as the dominant female and the pups. Occasionally, they will also feed other pack members such as very old dogs that cannot keep up.
Wild dogs are endangered, primarily because they use very large territories (and consequently can persist only in large wildlife protected areas) and they are strongly affected by competition with larger carnivores that rely on the same prey base, particularly lions and spotted hyenas. The dogs are also killed by livestock herders and game hunters, though they are typically no more (perhaps less) persecuted than other carnivores that pose more threat to livestock. Like other carnivores, wild dogs are sometimes affected by outbreaks of viral diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Although these diseases are not more pathogenic or virulent for wild dogs, the small size of most wild dog populations makes them vulnerable to local extinction due to diseases or other problems.
The current estimate for remaining wild dogs in the wild is approximately 3,000. Of these, the majority live in the two remaining large populations associated with the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania and the population centered in northern Botswana and eastern Namibia. Smaller but apparently secure populations of several hundred individuals are found in Zimbabwe, South Africa (Kruger National Park) and in the Ruaha/Rungwa/Kisigo complex of Tanzania. Isolated populations persist in Zambia, Kenya and Mozambique.
The African Wild Dog is primarily found in the eastern and southern portions of Africa. This area is covered by the Sahara Desert and can also be forested. They were once found in 39 and an estimated 500,000 dogs lived there now of the 39 countries only 25 remain with an estimated population of 3,000 dogs. It was not uncommon to find packs of 100 or more but now they are listed as the second most endangered carnivore in Africa. They are listed as a critical risk by the San Diego Zoo.
Habitat loss and hunting are the main reasons for their endangerment. Along with human expansion comes more farming and ranching needs. Most of Africas National Parks are not large enough for even one pack of African Wild Dogs so they have to expand to the unprotected regions of the continent which tends to be ranching or farming land, this makes Ranchers and Farmers uneasy so in order to defend their crop or herd they kill the Wild Dogs significantly contributing to the high percentage of death.
The people of Africa are realizing the problem and the near extinction of the African Wild Dog and have established a conservation effort called Painted Dog Conservation or PDC. It is based in Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe. The group works with local communities to create new strategies for conserving the wild dog and its habitat