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Heinous Hyena

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Shenzi: Do you know what we do to kings that step out of their kingdom?
Simba: *scoff* You can't do anything to me!
Zazu: Uh, technically, they can. We are on their land.
Simba: But Zazu, you told me they're nothing but slobbery, mangy, stupid poachers.
Zazu: Ix-nay on the upid-stay...
Banzai: Who you callin' "upid-stay?!"

Hyenas are frequently portrayed as evil in fiction. They are often depicted as either insane Ax-Crazy sadists, as stupid Dirty Cowards, as a horrific Monster Clown, as a Super-Persistent Predator, or as the occasional Terrible Trio. The majority of the time, however, they're depicted as dirty, smelly Villainous Gluttons. These hyenas also have a fondness for laughing and a fear (and hatred) of lions.

Due to the omnipresence of this trope, good hyenas in fiction pretty much only exist as a deliberate subversion. Thankfully, these have become slightly more common in recent years, even though it is still somewhat rare. This trope does not only apply to actual hyenas, but humans or other creatures that use hyena symbolism; comparing a character with an unpleasant laugh to a hyena is particularly common in fiction, to the point that there's a trope named after it.


Fictional hyenas are mostly spotted hyenas; striped and brown hyenas are much, much rarer, and aardwolves (a purely insect-eating species) are still practically unheard of. This may be because the hyena's signature trait - that laughing sound - is actually only made by the spotted ones. Although when these other species do appear, they aren't always portrayed as negatively as the spotted hyena.

That's ironic, since the spotted hyena is the largest, strongest, and smartest hyena, very rarely scavenging, and living in large clans with a clear hierarchy. Despite this, it frequently clashes with Scavengers Are Scum; in Real Life, however, spotted hyenas are mostly hunters, and in the wild, lions will take any opportunity to steal kills from them and kill them as they are often rivals for territory. Contrast King of Beasts, Panthera Awesome, Noble Wolf, and Heroic Dog since hyenas are often made out as the Unpleasant Animal Counterpart to big cats and wild dogs. Compare The Hyena, which is a character who's constantly laughing (and who may or may not be a literal hyena).



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Averted in Aggretsuko. Haida the Spotted Hyena is actually one of the few characters who isn't mean or rude to Retsuko, and in the Netflix series develops a crush on Retsuko.
  • One episode of Doraemon has a clan of spotted hyenas menacing an African elephant calf Nobita befriended as well as Nobita and Doraemon themselves.
  • Averted with Elza from Interspecies Reviewers. While she has a rather intimidating appearance, she actually turns out to be very good natured and gentle to Crimvael when she has sex with him.
  • In The Jungle Book anime series, Shere Khan's minion Tabaqui is portrayed as a striped hyena (he was a golden jackal in the original book).
  • Haibuchi Ena from Killing Bites is a female Hyena Brute. Apparently cute and harmless, she's a sociopath who takes advantage of her... unique hyena biology to rape other women, and almost does the same to the protagonist Pure. That being said, she's also a dangerous fighter whose bite is a force to be reckoned with, contributing to fighting a crazed Nodoka in the climax of the Deathival arc by biting her neck.
  • Two hyenas named Tom and Tab are henchmen of the villainous lion Claw in Kimba the White Lion.
  • One Piece: Bellamy the Hyena is an obnoxious Big Bad Wannabe who gets his nickname from his cackling Evil Laugh and tendency to "scavenge" treasure from other pirates, including one he spontaneously murders in public after losing to them in cards.

    Asian Animation 
  • Vyxx from the Season 2 of Rimba Racer is a spotted hyena who's part of the evil counterpart racers. In a variation, however, she's a punk rock arrogant gal instead of a coward, as well as the biggest and strongest racer seen so far.

    Comic Books 

     Fan Works 
  • Subverted by Carla Hyenandez in Born to Be Wilde. She's a mole for the Count, but she's hardly evil, just gruff and unfriendly. And she's in an Interspecies Romance with Masked Luchador rat, Priscilla Rodentriguez.
  • Prehistoric Earth: An entire pack of viciously hungry cave hyenas try to attack a viciously wounded Martha the woolly mammoth for the sake of finishing her off and eating her, or at the very least getting a bite out of her already dead sister, over the course of the rescue team's efforts at keeping Martha safe for the night to allow her to hopefully recover enough to be able to stand and walk through the portal. Fortunately for all involved, the hyenas themselves end up getting sent through the portal for their trouble.
  • Prehistoric Park Reimagined: Regular rescue team member Alice and Guest-Star Party Member Will end up encountering a pack of cave hyenas over the course of the fic's woolly mammoth rescue mission episode Ice Time. While the hyenas don't instantly attack the duo on sight or likewise act any more aggressively than any ordinary animal, they do prove very tense and territorial, and also hungry enough to almost immediately go chasing after some scraps of meat torn from a nearby woolly mammoth carcass and subsequently thrown through the portal; which naturally results in them successfully rushing through the portal to the safety of the park.

    Films — Animation 
  • One of the Jokerz who act as The Joker's goons in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is a spliced hyena-man named Woof, who never speaks anything more than growls and giggles.
  • In the animated soccer segment of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, there is a spotted hyena in the yellow team, which consists of other stereotypically mean animals such as a crocodile, a warthog, a rhino and a gorilla.
  • The Lion King:
    • The original film is one of the worst offenders (and Trope Codifier, as previously hyenas didn't have much of a positive or negative reputation in pop culture aside from laughing a lot) when it comes to this trope. The hyena clan are opportunistic scavengers who act as enemies to the heroic pride of lions, and happily follow Scar when he promises them food. Most of them are not that smart (although in a bit of Fridge Brilliance, the dumb ones are male- hyenas are matriarchal), and happy to go after the young cub Simba. They do end up killing Scar in revenge when he tries to pin the blame for his takeover on them.
    • The CGI remake changes the hyenas. They're still villainous, but they're portrayed less like they're inherently awful and more like they're just animals competing against lions. Shenzi's role has been expanded so that she's the leader of the clan and, as a result, she feels much more ruthlessly evil than the original.
  • While they aren’t actual hyenas, the clan of fossa (an animal closely related to hyenas) from Madagascar otherwise fits the stereotype to a T, since they are depicted as moronic, gluttonous, cackling, slobbering, and cowardly pack hunters who get trumped by a lion hero (Alex).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Downplayed in Birds of Prey. Here, Harley Quinn has a pet spotted hyena named Bruce (after "that hunky Wayne guy"), which she purchased from a shady back-alley animal dealer. However, Harley is an Anti-Hero in this movie instead of a proper villain, and Bruce himself is presented as a very affectionate pet whom she truly loves. In real life, hyenas can indeed be tamed, though the striped kind are usually easier to domesticate. The filmmakers wanted to use an actual hyena but ended up using a dog which was covered over with a CGI hyena because of how hard they are to train however.
  • In Duck Soup, Groucho's character insultingly refers to the villain as a "hyena".
  • It's easily missed, but in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe spotted hyenas are in the crowd surrounding Aslan during his death along with many of the other evil species ruled by Jadis that plagued Narnia at the time, such as wolves, ghouls, black-bearded dwarfs, and harpies. It can be assumed they served in her army as well.
  • Similarly to the aforementioned anime, several live-action adaptations of The Jungle Book turn Tabaqui, the lackey of Shere Khan, from a jackal to a hyena. Examples include the 1998 film The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (where he is a spotted hyena despite the species not being native to India) and the 2019 film Mowgli.
  • Nosferatu: Orlok's transformed wolf form is represented by a striped hyena, possibly because the film-makers believed a hyena to be more uncanny and unfamiliar to a Western audience than a regular wolf.
  • Averted in Yeelen. A hyena that Nianankoro encounters during his travels (played by a man wearing a hyena mask) does not attack him and simply prophesies that Nianankoro is destined to become legend. Still, it nonetheless draws upon the negative connotations of the hyena in Malian culture, an ugly lowly being in comparison to the lion.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the monstrous wargs ridden by the orcs are given a more hyena-like design than the Savage Wolves they are in the books.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level has tamed spotted hyenas as the pets and guard dogs of the film's primary antagonist, Jurgen the Brutal.

  • Animorphs has a book in which the narrator also becomes part of the team. In this book plays the trope zigzagged. Because on the one hand, the narrator is one of the heroes, and uses the hyena as a preferred battle morph. On the other hand, the hyena's mind is still described as very aggressive, and the first time the narrator turns into it, it does not end good.
  • All of the hyenas depicted in Bravelands are ravenous, cruel, or otherwise more villainous than most of of the other predators.
  • In the Earth's Children series Ayla has a strong aversion to hyenas, ever since a hyena grabbed a baby during a mammoth hunt. She sees hyenas as scum and will never allow a hyena around. She is otherwise a Friend to All Living Things (even those she kills for food).
  • In The Island of Doctor Moreau, the nastiest of the Beast Folk was created from a hyena and a pig.
  • Mostly averted with Barbs, the zoo hyena in The Last Dogs. The most antagonistic thing she does is laugh at inappropriate times, but she seems like a decent hyena, even willing to share food with the dogs. The red panda sisters seem to think this is played straight, though, always saying that she's nasty or ugly.
  • Life of Pi depicts the hyena as ruthless and vile when it kills and eats the zebra and Orange Juice the orangutan.
  • There is a very obscure The Lion King (1994) tie in book, The Lion King: Six New Adventures, with a friendly heroic female hyena that befriends Kopa (a now non-canon son of Simba that was dropped without [official] explanation) and meets his parents at the end. There is a similar character (possible Expy) in The Lion Guard.
  • The Lost World (1995) goes out of its way to avert this in the scene that introduces Sarah Harding, in which she makes a speech about all of the problems with this trope.
  • Averted Trope in the children's book Pinduli, which is one of the few sympathetic depictions of hyenas. The protagonist is a young hyena who gets teased by other animals because of her looks. The book also lists various facts about hyenas at the end. This book was written by Janell Cannon, the author of a number of other books starring traditionally unpopular animals, including Stellaluna (about a bat), Verdi (about a snake), and Crickwing (about a cockroach).
  • In The Way of Kings (2021) by Louise Searl the trope is initially played straight - the book is about lions who, naturally enough, despise hyenas. However, it's subverted when Kachula, the main character, gets to know a hyena - he comes to recognise his own prejudice and acknowledges that the two species actually have a lot in common.
  • When Fat Charlie travels to the realm of African animal spirits in Anansi Boys, he meets Hyena. She's weird and unsettling, but ultimately helps Fat Charlie on his journey, telling him which way to go. He can't decide whether she is "attractive or monstrously ugly".
    "You want to stop with me for a while first? I’m an education. You know what they say—nothing leaner, meaner, or obscener than Hyena."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series Buffy the Vampire Slayer has an episode called "The Pack" (despite a group of hyenas actually being called a clan) in which Xander and four other students are possessed by the ghosts of hyenas. They eat up first in a little piglet, and finally also the school principal. Note that the images on the computer screen of "hyenas" in this episode are actually African wild dogs most of the time.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The crocotta is a vicious mythical animal from Roman and Medieval bestiaries and accounts, said to inhabit Sub-Saharan Africa, India or both and resemble a monstrous doglike or wolflike animal. It was reputed to have a single ridge of bone in each jaw rather than teeth, to dig up and eat human corpses and to switch genders every year. Its most notable characteristic was its ability to imitate human voices, an ability it used to lure humans and dogs out of their homes and into the wilderness. Those who answered its calls were set upon by the beast and viciously torn to pieces.
    • There was a similar creature called the leucrocotta, which had much the same appearance and attributes, but also had hooves and was reputed to be an extremely swift runner. Like the Basilisk and Cockatrice, it may be synonymous with the Crocotta depending on who you ask.
    • It is generally agreed that the creature was inspired by real life accounts of spotted hyenas, which do indeed produce human-like vocalizations (such as their famous "laughter") and whose genders are notoriously difficult to tell apart (female hyenas are bigger than the males, in the inverse of how it usually works for mammals, and most notably their sexual organs resemble those of mammal males far more than they resemble those of other female mammals). The scientific name of the spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, may be inspired by the mythical crocotta (it may also come from "crocus" and mean "the saffron-coloured one" — there are different theories on this).
  • In Antiquity, the striped hyena was associated with fertility and love, which ensured some degree of reverence (as well as being killed and their body parts being used for charms). Come Gnosticism, and the Archon of Venus is the hyena-headed Astaphaios, their mockery of the Love Goddess prevalent in the surrounding mythologies.
  • In many African — especially West African — traditions, hyenas do not exactly enjoy a stellar reputation. They are often associated with a great variety of negative traits (exactly which ones often depends on the culture and tradition in question), including deviousness, brutishness, immorality, gluttony, subversive and unwholesome behavior and filthiness.
    • At least one myth, from the Tanzanian Gogo people, blames hyenas for human mortality: according to the myth, humans were originally supposed to be made immortal, but a hyena kept this from happening to ensure it would always have plenty of corpses to eat.
    • Hyenas are also associated with evil magic. They are often paired with witches: in the folklore of the Mbugwe people of Tanzania, for instance, all hyenas are considered to be under the control of witches, who keep them as familiars, milk them and use them as mounts.
    • Further north, in the traditions of Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, and surrounding countries, the witches are the hyenas, sinister shapechangers called boudas, who desecrate graves, put the evil eye on people, and things like that. Unfortunately there is a long history of the semi-nomadic Beta Israel people (Ethiopian Jews) being scapegoated as boudas, similiar to how another travelling people, the Romani, have often been conflated with werewolves and vampires in European myths.
    • This has spread beyond the native animistic religions: the Christian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia uses hyenas to symbolize criminal behavior and sexual deviancy.
    • This is, however, averted in a number of other traditions which see hyenas in a more positive light. For example, the mythology of the Lungu people credits a hyena with bringing the sun — and, consequently, warmth and life — to a previously cold and barren Earth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Gnolls are monstrous humanoids resembling hyenas that were originally created by the demon lord Yeenoghu. Exactly how straight this trope is played depends on the setting and ruleset used: many settings have Gnolls being mostly evil but with occasional non-evil gnoll societies, and in 3rd edition Eberron non-evil gnolls are the default, while in 5th edition, gnolls are Always Chaotic Evil and possess a mindset similar to demons, with nothing resembling a conscience and no easy way to get them to curb their destructive tendencies.
    • Yeenoghu would also qualify as an example, given that he appears as a giant, demonic gnoll. Even amongst demons, he's infamous for his cruelty and his love of destruction. 5th edition lore claims that gnolls were mutated from hyenas that consumed the corpses of creatures slain by him when he went on one of his sporadic rampages through the Material Plane. His favored demon servants are the shoosuvas, which resemble albino hyenas with spikes and scorpions' tails.
    • Leucrottas appear in some editions, as Chaotic Evil monsters resembling hyenas with deer-like hooves, lion-like tails, badger-like heads, and the ability to mimic voices. They frequently associate with gnolls, and in 5th edition's Volo's Guide to Monsters, it's stated that they came about the same way the gnolls did during Yeenoghu's rampages.
  • In Nomine: The Archangel Dominic's tendency to endlessly patrol Heaven for impurity and mercilessly pounce on any weakness has led other angels, especially Michael, to scornfully call him the Hyena of Heaven.
  • Pathfinder:
    • D&D's gnolls return in this game as hulking humanoid hyenas known for their tremendous slothfulness and horrific savagery, with lifestyles centered chiefly on raiding other people for food, supplies and slaves. Most worship Lamashtu, the Chaotic Evil Mother of Monsters. That said, they are also noted to have some positive qualities: they are immensely loyal to their packs, and never war against or enslave other gnolls.
    • Yaenits are a kind of demons in the shape of six-feet-tall, hyena-headed humanoids who serve Lamashtu and live to main and kill in their goddess' name. Mortal gnolls worship them as incarnations of Lamashtu's will and strive to be like them, and a good deal of yaenits start out as the souls of particularly evil gnolls.
    • Leucrottas are Chaotic Evil, sapient pack hunters resembling lean-bodied hyenas with cloven, deer-like hooves and the ability to mimic voices nearly flawlessly. They are rumored to be descended from regular hyenas and demons, enjoy extensively tormenting their prey before going in for the kill, and are known to take over and lead groups of other evil hyena-like monsters, such as gnolls and the leucrottas' degenerate, animalistic kin, the crocottas.
    • Kishis are sociopathic fey who delight in tricking their way into others' confidence, luring them into the depths of the jungle, and then turning on their victim and tearing them apart. They resemble humans in almost every respect save one — they have a hyena's face on the back of their heads, which swivels around to snarl and bite when they drop their acts and attack their victims.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: The Ajaba werehyenas aren't evil per se, but they certainly occupy the furthest reach of antiheroism in a setting were no one's particularly nice to start with. While other Fera has divine mandates like "fight evil" or "reveal the truth," the Ajaba's job is to kill the weak and sick of every species to strengthen it as a whole - a mission they share only with the Ratkin, who of course embody another unflattering trope.
  • World Tree (RPG): Cyarr, the setting's primary enemy species, are centauroid hyenas. They're noble, civilized and highly moral in their own societies, but they're also obsessed with waging constant war against the primes and eventually eradicating an entire prime species to take their place.

    Video Games 
  • BUCK: Saturday Morning Cartoon Apocalypse: Anthropomorphic hyenas are a common enemy that Buck faces in the game. Whenever they attack, they will usually let out some chuckles.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Giant Fist: Spotted hyenas are among the enemies faced in the Savannah. Of course, they're only as violent as any other animal in the area, who are rampaging as a consequence of the ancient bracelet dug up nearby. After a quick Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! fight, they scamper off.
  • Kingdom Rush Origins has the Gnolls in the starting levels, who are evil hyena-people working alongside the Twilight Elves to attack the elven capital. Amusingly, they also have actual hyenas under their command. Then there's the first boss Hi-hi Enha, a huge Gnoll so heinous and unpleasant that even the other Gnolls keep him locked up in a cage, and his Flavor Text states that he's angry because he's never invited to their parties.
  • League of Legends has Hyena Warwick, a hyena based skin of Warwick that also makes him have hysterical fits.
    "In the old days, hyenas were known as opportunistic hunters famed for their violent infighting and chorus of inhumane laughter. Now, in the wasteland, not much has changed."
  • Flame Hyenard from Mega Man X7, who is a hyena-based Reploid gone mad due to Maverick Virus.
  • In Pokémon, the two hyena-like Pokemon debuting in the Hoenn region, Poochyena and Mightyena, are pure Dark-type, the type most associated with amoral and underhanded behavior (and outright called the "Evil-type" in Japanese). Their personalities also fit — the Pokédex describes Poochyena as both very aggressive (as it will take a bite out of anything that moves) and cowardly (it will run away as soon as the prey strikes back), although the latter is dropped when it evolves. The intro to Ruby, Sapphire and their remakes (Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire) also has the player rescue Professor Birch from a vicious pack of wild Poochyena who attacked him. They're also regularly used by members of the various evil teams, such as Team Aqua, Team Magma, and Team Flare.
  • Out of the various Beast Man species that populate the Warcraft universe, the gnoll (humanoid hyenas) are one of the least noble ones.
  • Hyenas appear as annoying low-level enemies in some of the desert areas of Dragon Age: Inquisition. What really stands out about the Dragon Age hyenas is how little they resemble actual hyenas, looking more like exaggeratedly ugly dogs with tusks. They also drop a loot item called "Canine Leather" (real hyenas are not canines), suggesting that they may be wholly different from the hyenas of our world.

    Web Comics 
  • Archipelago: Kurr the were-hyena is a dull-witted brute with a taste for both humans and other were-beasts and is a member of the Ravens.
  • Muhammad al-Aziz in Better Days is an anthropomorphic hyena with a very long rap sheet. However, in the setting as a whole, hyenas aren't portrayed as inherently worse than any other species. Many hyena characters are nice and sympathetic. This variation is probably because in this universe, hyenas are stand-ins for African-Americans.
  • In Carry On, hyenas in their native land are a warrior race and thus frequently heinous. Those in America are more civil on average.
  • Subverted by the anthropomorphic hyenas in Digger: the first group that Digger encounters have no qualms about targeting her for a Sapient Eat Sapient lunch, but she later befriends the tribe and finds them to be staunch allies. She's also close friends with Ed, who was Too Good for This Sinful Earth.

    Web Original 
  • DeviantArt: For some reason, artwork of hyenas, and artists making hyena characters are getting more common as time goes on, with these portrayals more likely to be positive than heinous, showing that at least in art circles their reputation is improving.
  • Orion's Arm: Sapient spotted hyenas are one the many kinds of Uplifted Animals among the Terragen civilizations. While not evil, as such, they are noted to be very aggressive and competitive compared to other sapients, something carried over from their non-sapient ancestors. As such, they have long-standing problems with conflicts with both each other and other sapients, as well as recurring issues of fratricide among their young before they can be properly socialized.
    • As they developed as a people in their own right, they ended up consciously embracing the stereotypes of this trope: while neurological and biological modifications were available to dampen their aggressive tendencies, the sapient hyenas saw these as anthropocentric attempts to erase their identity as a species and turn them into yet another clade of humans in animal bodies. As such, most sapient hyenas ended up celebrating their status as aggressive outcasts and pariahs unwanted by mainstream civilization. Of course, many hyenas did choose to take the behavioral modifications, and considered the hyenas still enamored with this trope to be backward savages obsessed with glorifying violence.
    • Overall, sapient hyenas in the setting's present have tendency to live in highly hierarchical matriarchies, to have personalities tending to being aggressive and vindictive and to spend a great deal of time jockeying for position amongst each other, although they are also highly social and cooperative. Notable hyenas in the galaxy include the inhabitants of Skulk, a gas giant dotted with floating habitats home to hyena clans, which were unified by a hyena matriarch named Belligerence in a bloody power grab. Some centuries in the past there was also a band of mercenary humanoid hyena cyborgs that rose to infamy when they attacked a peaceful habitat with maser weaponry, boarded it with several containers of salt and spices and devoured the soft-boiled bodies of its inhabitants over the course of a three-day feast.
  • The main antagonists in Smirvlak's Stone are a tribe of gnolls, anthropomorphic hyena-like beasts who are deadly and have no problem killing anyone in their path if it'll lead them to their goals.

    Western Animation 
  • Babar and the Adventures of Badou has a notable aversion with Hoot. While she is a practical joker, she always means well and is generally friendly. She also averts Animal Jingoism by being friends with Dandi Andi and his lionesses.
  • Batman: The Animated Series introduced both Harley Quinn and her aforementioned nasty hyena pets, Bud and Lou - although they're already shown as loyal and affectionate pets.
  • Subverted in The Batman: When the Joker gets some albino hyenas in "The Laughing Cats", he expects them to be this, Instead they turn out to be pretty docile, and instantly bond with Catwoman.
    Joker: Boys, sic her! She's a cat! What kind of crazy canines are you?
    Catwoman: Sorry to burst your balloon, Joker, but hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs. And, by the way, they're laughing at you.
  • In Gargoyles, one of the most depraved members of the animal-themed mercenary group The Pack is named Hyena (according to Word of God she's a psychopath).
  • Bud and Lou also appear as recurring antagonists in Krypto the Superdog, although in this show they belong to The Joker instead of Harley Quinn.
  • The Lion Guard:
    • Zigzagged Trope. A group of hyenas are the villains in the pilot and become recurring antagonists in the series; they are portrayed as thuggish and malevolent. However, a hyena named Jasiri mentions that hyenas serve as scavengers in the Circle of Life and tells Kion that not all hyenas are bad, and Kion and the Guard become close friends with a group of "good" hyenas (including Jasiri). Janja and his clan eventually do a Heel–Face Turn.
    • At least two of Janja's clan members are actually decent when he's not around to order them to do bad things. One episode has him (temporarily) banish them from his clan, and Kion says they are allowed to stay in the Pride Lands as long as they don't cause trouble. They agree to this, and keep their word.
    • All the aardwolves (a small species of hyena) that appear in the show are "good." In fact, this trope is a plot point in their initial appearance, since they get mistaken for the "bad" spotted hyenas and chased out of the Pridelands by the Guard. As aardwolves are insectivores, they are exempt from the Scavengers Are Scum stereotype associated with hyenas.
    • Jasiri notably has been very well received by fans (even general Lion King fans that otherwise hate or dislike The Lion Guard), specifically for being kind and portrayed positively, showing many people are getting tired of this trope.
  • The New Adventures of Batman (basically an animated adaptation of the 1960s Batman) gave The Joker a pet Hyena named Giggles. Maybe averted in that Giggles was himself very cute and outside of his loyalty to his criminal owner, was not evil per se.
  • Harchi the hyena from Oscar's Oasis is part of a villainous trio that tries to eat Oscar.
  • In The OWCA Files (the de facto Grand Finale of Phineas and Ferb), one of Perry's new teammates happens to be a hyena — going with the cliche of constantly laughing but otherwise an aversion of the usual stereotype.
  • The Simpsons: A deleted scene of "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood" involved a trio of hyenas dragging away Homer after he collapsed from exhaustion in a marathon. Homer hallucinates them as angels dragging him to Heaven.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): "Fed Up With Antoine" introduces The Nasty Hyenas, a biker gang coming from a cannibalistic tribe that always eat their king.
  • Downplayed Trope with Ernie, one of Kit Cloudkicker's friends in TaleSpin. He's an obnoxious Bratty Half-Pint, but he winds up taking a level in kindness in both of his appearances.
  • Zig-zagged in one episode of The Wild Thornberrys named "No Laughing Matter". Eliza meets a spotted hyena who is pretty friendly, thus averting this trope, but the hyena had lived his whole life in a cage at a gas station and did not gain natural instincts as a result. Eliza finds this out when the hyena is unable to survive in the wild after freeing him, so she offers to teach him how to be a ferocious predator. This trope is played straight with the first and second clan of hyenas the group encounters, who are all hostile and violently attack the friendly hyena, albeit for territorial reasons. The third clan ends up subverting this when they allow the hyena to join them, due to him sharing the same scent as them.
  • Zig from Zig & Sharko is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who keeps trying to eat a mermaid.
  • In one episode of Jungle Cubs, young Bagheera gets hounded twice by a pair of terrifying and non-anthropomorphic striped hyenas, one of which is missing an eye.

     Real Life 
  • The biggest reasons why hyenas are portrayed as evil in fiction so much is (apart from being well known as one of the Super Persistent Predators, which is true in Real Life) probably because of their ugly appearance, the widespread dislike of them, and outright myths, rather than reality, as other loved predators such as dogs, wolves, and big cats do the exact same things hyenas are despised for, yet no one seems to despise them the same way. For example, they are often portrayed as stealing from lions, but if you actually look the numbers up lions steal more kills from them than vice versa, and eat carrion more often compared to hyenas, which are statistically more successful hunters than they are (that is, hyenas' hunts end with a successful kill more frequently than lions do). They are also thought of as stupid, when they are actually very intelligent animals. But, nobody cares or knows about any of this because they have the misfortune of looking thuggish and awkward. However, thanks to several years of research, peoples' perception on hyenas are slowly starting to change to a more positive one.
    • A significant part of their bad rap, and the misconception that they are pure scavengers, comes from the fact they will scavenge graves if desperate. While other animals will attempt this, the fact the spotted hyenas can directly eat bone means they will be interested in graves far after other animals wouldn't find anything edible.
    • Another quality of hyenas that may play into their negative perception is the fact that they look superficially doglike, but they're clearly not canines, creating a sort of Uncanny Valley effect. They're closer related to cats than to dogs, but their closest relatives are the mongooses.
    • An interesting idea as to why spotted hyenas are hated by human beings can be seen in the fact that their social structure is actually more similar to ours than that of other carnivoran mammals. We're literally hating potential competitors...
    • Being seen as rivals to lions also does not do them any good. Lions are among the most beautiful and popular animals in the world, and although more people are beginning to like hyenas as time goes on, they still can't compete with lions in that respect, although as mentioned above lions, being bigger and stronger and very aggressive towards other carnivores in general, will actually harass, kill them, and steal from them more than vice versa. Everyone just likes lions more because of their looks, and sees them in a more positive light when in actually they are every bit as brutal, wild, and fierce as hyenas and most other large African predators.
    • One unpleasant habit they do not share with most of these other predators is killing their siblings shortly after birth, which may be another reason for their reputation for brutality. However, recent research has shown that this sort of behaviour is actually quite rare.
    • Another misattribution about hyena culture is the belief that male hyenas are treated as runts for their sex and expelled from their clan to die in the wilderness. This is only half-true; hyenas are matriarchal, they are led by the alpha female because females are biologically stronger and bigger than males. The males that leave the clan are cubs that have reached sexual maturity and, if they want a chance to mate, they have to leave in order to prevent inbreeding within the clan (lions also do this). These males join new hyena clans and become subordinate to the offspring, males native to the new clan, and the other immigrant males who joined the clan before they did. However, some males may choose to stay in the clan, which allows them to retain their rank in the clan. In some instance, males can lead a clan rather than a female.
  • In a real life aversion of this trope, an African wild dog that had lost its pack was lonely enough it bonded with a clan of hyenas (it also bonded with and helped a family of jackals raise their pups — as said, this was a very lonely animal that was completely isolated from others of its species). This is interesting because the two species usually will kill or steal from each other when given the chance, and Interspecies Friendships are very rare in general in the wild. This is shown in the documentary Solo: The Wild Dog.
  • "Lion Whisperer" Kevin Richardson, despite the title and his love of lions, is also very fond of hyenas, and works to change public opinion about them. This involves actually going into the enclosure and interacting with them, petting and playing with them despite the danger of working with wild animals like these.
    • The hyenas in this video are almost as tame as pets.
  • Another man named Kim Wolhuter went a step further and actually managed to befriend a clan of completely wild hyenas, even going so far as to let his little daughter play with them.
  • In another subversion showing that hyenas aren't so bad, a man named Bryan Hawn, who was featured in an episode of Fatal Attractions (2010), attempted to keep a hyena named Jake in his apartment. When asked why he chose a hyena, he stated that he thought that if he could get a hyena to love him, then he must be a very lovable person. The story ultimately had a happy ending, unlike most episodes of Fatal Attractions, as he eventually had to give up Jake when he realized that his apartment was not a healthy environment for Jake but the two of them remained life long friends, so he succeeded.
  • There are videos on YouTube of hyenas sharing kills with lions and other rival predators, although these are probably uneasy truces caused by neither party being willing to risk injury in a fight rather than anything truly heartwarming.
  • Averted by the walled town of Harar in Ethiopia that has developed an almost symbiotic relationship with the local hyenas. They allow the hyenas to enter their town at night where they are fed leftover scraps and bones (hyenas noted for being one of the few creatures able to directly eat bone), hence acting as a convenient organic waste disposal system. In the religious beliefs of the town, hyenas protect the town from evil spirits, and while inside the town wall they act very tame and non-aggressive toward humans.
  • Hyenas are rarely kept in zoos because they're unpopular with guests — perhaps ironically, the spotted hyena, the kind most often hit by this trope, is the most commonly displayed.
  • Another unexpected aversion, this video shows a family of hyenas sharing a den with a family of warthogs even though warthogs are something hyenas prey on. For some reason, the narrator feels the need to play into this trope nonetheless by stressing how ugly the adult hyenas are, even though they're really not.
  • Hyenas are also far from being "dirty" animals like many people think. Although hyenas may smell bad due to their scent glands, they actually love taking baths and having their teeth brushed.
  • The Nazi concentration camp guard Irma Grese was sometimes referred to as "The Hyena of Auschwitz".
  • South African media company Wild Earth note  are doing their best to change people's perception of hyenas to a more positive one, doing so by showing the animals in the natural habitat and even visiting active hyena dens, which are home to young hyena cubs. For the most part, they have succeeded.


Video Example(s):


Harley Quinn

After getting sprayed with the same ooze that transformed the Ninja Turtles, Harley gets mutated into a hyena.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeinousHyena

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