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Hyena vs. Jackal: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on January 3, 2024
Hyenas are large, carnivorous mammals known for their powerful jaws and vocalizations, while jackals are smaller, omnivorous canids with a reputation for cunning and adaptability.

Key Differences

Hyenas, belonging to the family Hyaenidae, are known for their robust build and strong jaws, suited for scavenging and hunting. Jackals, on the other hand, are smaller members of the Canidae family and are more adaptable in terms of habitat and diet. Both hyenas and jackals play significant roles in their ecosystems as predators and scavengers.
The social structure of hyenas, particularly spotted hyenas, is complex and matriarchal, with females being larger and dominant. Jackals typically form monogamous pairs and are less socially structured. Both species are known for their intelligence and ability to survive in harsh environments.
Hyenas are often misrepresented as cowardly scavengers, but they are effective hunters. Jackals, with their opportunistic feeding habits, often feed on small mammals, birds, and even fruits. Both animals are integral to maintaining the ecological balance, controlling populations of various species.
In terms of vocalization, hyenas are famous for their laughs and whoops, which serve as communication within their clans. Jackals are known for their piercing howls, especially at dawn and dusk. These vocalizations in both hyenas and jackals play a vital role in territorial and social interactions.
Hyenas are found in parts of Africa and Asia and have a more limited range compared to jackals, which are widespread across Africa, Asia, and parts of southeastern Europe. Both hyenas and jackals have adapted to various environments, from savannas to woodlands, highlighting their resilience and adaptability.

Comparison Chart



Size and Build

Larger, more robust build
Smaller, slender build


Carnivorous, scavenging and hunting
Omnivorous, including small animals and fruits

Social Structure

Matriarchal, in clans
Often monogamous pairs

Habitat Range

Mainly Africa and parts of Asia
Africa, Asia, southeastern Europe

Hyena and Jackal Definitions


A carnivorous mammal known for its strong jaws and distinctive vocalizations.
The hyena's laugh echoed through the savanna.


A small to medium-sized omnivorous member of the canine family.
The jackal roamed the savanna in search of food.


An animal with a robust build and spotted or striped fur.
The spotted hyena is the most social of its species.


An animal that forms monogamous pairs and has a varied diet.
Jackals often hunt in pairs, coordinating their efforts.


An animal with a complex social structure, particularly in clans.
The hyena clan was led by a dominant female.


An adaptable canid known for its cunning and resourcefulness.
The jackal cleverly scavenged what the predators left behind.


A creature often misrepresented in folklore, but is a skilled hunter.
Contrary to popular belief, hyenas hunt more often than they scavenge.


A creature with a distinctive howl, often heard at dawn and dusk.
Their haunting howls at night revealed the presence of jackals.


A member of the Hyaenidae family, often associated with scavenging.
Hyenas are often seen cleaning up after lion kills.


A species with a wider habitat range, from Africa to Southeastern Europe.
Jackals have adapted to a range of environments, from deserts to woodlands.


Any of several carnivorous mammals of the family Hyaenidae of Africa and Asia, which feed as scavengers and have powerful jaws, relatively short hind limbs, and coarse hair.


Any of several mammals of the genus Canis of Africa, Asia, and southeast Europe, that are chiefly foragers feeding on plants, small animals, and occasionally carrion.


Any of the medium-sized to large feliform carnivores of the subfamily Hyaenidae, native to Africa and Asia and noted for the sound similar to laughter which they can make if excited.


One who seeks to gain advantage or profit from the difficulties of another.


(Sub-Saharan Africa) A man that performs ritualized sex acts with recently widowed women and menarchal girls.


One who performs menial tasks for another.


Any carnivorous mammal of the family Hyænidæ, doglike nocturnal mammals of Africa and southern Asia, of which three living species are known. They are large and strong, but cowardly. They feed chiefly on carrion, and are nocturnal in their habits.


Any of certain wild canids of the genus Canis, native to the tropical Old World and smaller than a wolf.


Doglike nocturnal mammal of Africa and southern Asia that feeds chiefly on carrion


A person who performs menial/routine tasks, a dogsbody.


(derogatory) A person who behaves in an opportunistic way; especially a base collaborator.


A jack (the playing card).


(rugby union) a player who steals the ball at the tackle


To perform menial or routine tasks


Any one of several species of carnivorous animals inhabiting Africa and Asia, related to the dog and wolf. They are cowardly, nocturnal, and gregarious. They feed largely on carrion, and are noted for their piercing and dismal howling.


One who does mean work for another's advantage, as jackals were once thought to kill game which lions appropriated.


Old World nocturnal canine mammal closely related to the dog; smaller than a wolf; sometimes hunts in a pack but usually singly or as a member of a pair


What are hyenas known for?

Hyenas are known for their strong jaws and vocalizations.

What is the typical social structure of jackals?

Jackals typically form monogamous pairs.

Are hyenas larger than jackals?

Yes, hyenas are generally larger and more robust than jackals.

What family do jackals belong to?

Jackals belong to the Canidae family.

Do hyenas hunt or scavenge?

Hyenas both hunt and scavenge, depending on the opportunity.

Do jackals have a wide geographic range?

Yes, jackals are found across Africa, Asia, and parts of southeastern Europe.

Are jackals solitary or social animals?

Jackals are less social than hyenas and often seen in pairs or small groups.

What is unique about the hyena's vocalization?

Hyenas are known for their distinctive laughs and whoops.

How do hyenas contribute to their ecosystem?

Hyenas help maintain ecological balance by scavenging and hunting.

What do jackals typically eat?

Jackals are omnivorous, eating small animals, birds, and fruits.

What roles do female hyenas play in their clans?

Female hyenas are dominant and lead the clans.

What adaptations help jackals survive in different environments?

Jackals' adaptability in diet and habitat choice helps them survive.

How do humans impact jackals and hyenas?

Human activities affect their habitats and food sources, impacting their populations.

What kind of habitat do jackals prefer?

Jackals are adaptable to various habitats, from savannas to woodlands.

Are all hyenas spotted?

No, there are different species like spotted, brown, and striped hyenas.

How do hyenas interact with other predators?

Hyenas often compete with other predators like lions.

Do hyenas have any natural predators?

Adult hyenas have few natural predators, but cubs are vulnerable.

How do jackals communicate?

Jackals communicate through vocalizations like howls.

Can hyenas be found outside of Africa?

Yes, some hyena species are also found in parts of Asia.

Do jackals form packs like wolves?

No, jackals do not form large packs like wolves.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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