Hyenas or hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of the feliform suborder of the Carnivora. With only four extant species, it is the fifth-smallest biological family in the Carnivora, and one of the smallest in the class Mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components of most African ecosystems.
Although phylogenetically they are closer to felines and viverrids, hyenas are behaviorally and morphologically similar to canines in several aspects; both hyenas and canines are nonarboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. (In fact, cheetah have been known to climb trees to escape hyenas.) Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, nonretractable nails are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating, and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms.
Hyenas, especially spotted hyenas, are known for killing as much as 95% of the animals they eat, and for driving off leopards or lionesses from their kills, although they have long been regarded as being cowardly scavengers. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but sometimes venture from their lairs in the early-morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.
Although hyenas are used for food and medicinal purposes in some areas, including Muslim nations under the Shafiite school, where hyenas are considered halal because of their omnivorous diet, hyenas were not exported from Terra where they are found mainly in Africa Park.