How Do Hyenas Establish Social Order?


Hyena Social Structure

Hyenas are fascinating creatures that live in complex social groups known as clans. Within these clans, there is a strict social hierarchy that determines the roles and status of each member. The social order is crucial for maintaining harmony within the group and ensuring cooperation during hunting and other activities. It is fascinating to observe how hyenas form intricate relationships within their clans, displaying a level of social organization that is both fascinating and essential for their survival in the wild.

Dominance and Submission

One of the main ways hyenas establish social order is through dominance and submission behaviors. Dominant individuals assert their authority through vocalizations, body language, and physical aggression if necessary. Subordinate hyenas show deference to the dominant members by displaying submissive postures and behaviors. These dominance and submission behaviors play a crucial role in maintaining the hierarchy within the clan, as each member understands their place and role within the social structure.

Ranking within the Clan

Each hyena clan has a ranking system that determines the social status of its members. The highest-ranking individuals, usually females, have priority access to food, mating opportunities, and other resources. Lower-ranking hyenas must wait their turn and show respect to those above them in the hierarchy. This ranking system ensures the efficient distribution of resources within the clan and helps minimize conflicts by establishing clear boundaries and expectations for each member.

Challenges to the Social Order

Challenges to the social order can arise when new individuals join the clan, when there is a shift in leadership, or during times of scarcity. These challenges can lead to conflicts and power struggles within the group as hyenas compete for status and resources. It is during these challenging times that the true dynamics of the social structure are tested, and the resilience of the clan is put to the ultimate test. Understanding how hyenas navigate these challenges provides valuable insights into their social behavior and adaptation strategies.


-Hofer, H. (1992). Cooperative breeding in spotted hyenas: Nonkin care Givers. In T.H. Clutton-Brock (Ed.), Reproductive success (pp. 90-118). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

-Holekamp, K. E., & Dloniak, S. M. (2010). Hyenas: Neither friends nor foes. Animal Behavior, 79(2), e173-e174.