The cave hyena was more compact and significantly heavier than the present-day spotted hyena, and it had shorter legs as an adjustment to a cold climate. The female cave hyena is thought to have been bigger than the male, as is the case with the present-day hyenas.

It is presumed that the cave hyenas hunted in groups just like the present-day hyenas, but it is not known with certainty. The skull and teeth on the cave hyena could additionally crush very sturdy bones.

Classification – Family

Hyenas are closer related to cats than dogs. Researchers discuss if the cave hyena is the same species as the spotted hyena or it should be thought of as a subspecies of the spotted hyena.

The cave hyena originated from Africa. It was closely related to the spotted hyena – maybe it was the same species? The hyena presumably spread north to follow the prey. The further into the cold north it came the better it adapted to the cold. The body became more impact with shorter limbs and short ears to reduce heat loss.


Scientific name: Crocuta crocuta spelaea

Length: 1,5 m.

Height:Shoulder-height approx. 1 m.

Weight: 105 kg.

Food source: Wild horses, Alpine ibex, steppe bison, woolly rhino, reindeer, red deer, and the European ass. Bones from cave lion and cave bear with distinct gnaw-marks from the cave hyena have been found. It is not known whether the cave lions and cave bears were killed by the cave hyenas or eaten as carrions.

Distribution: Found in Europe and Asia. From the British Isles to the Northern China.

Status: Became extinct approximately 11,000 years ago. Not found in Denmark.