Giving birth is difficult for female spotted hyenas, as the females give birth through their narrow clitoris, and hyena cubs are the largest carnivoran young relative to their mothers’ weight.
Cubs are born with soft, brownish-black hair, and weigh 1.5 kg on average.
Unique among carnivorous mammals, spotted hyenas are also born with their eyes open and with 6–7 mm long canine teeth and 4 mm long incisors.
Also, cubs will attack each other shortly after birth. This is particularly apparent in same-sexed litters and can result in the death of the weaker cub. Male cubs that survive grow faster and are likelier to achieve reproductive dominance, while female survivors eliminate rivals for dominance in their natal clan.
Spotted hyenas are social animals that live in large communities (clans). Females dominate males, with even the lowest ranking females being dominant over the highest-ranking males.
High-ranking hyenas maintain their position through aggression directed against lower-ranking clan-members.
Spotted hyena hierarchy is nepotistic; the offspring of dominant females automatically outrank adult females subordinate to their mother.
Compared to other hyenas, the spotted hyena shows a greater relative amount of frontal cortex which is involved in the mediation of social behavior. Studies strongly suggest convergent evolution in spotted hyena and primate intelligence.
The spotted hyena is very efficient at eating its prey; not only is it able to splinter and eat the largest ungulate bones, but it is also able to digest them completely. Spotted hyenas can digest all organic components in bones, not just the marrow. Any inorganic material is excreted with the feces, which consist almost entirely of a white powder with few hairs.