Hyenas welcomed at Lincoln Park Zoo

December 6, 2012 (CHICAGO, Ill.)

The two males, 14-year-old Phika and 3-year-old Kai, are from the Denver Zoo.

"We have spotted hyenas here at Lincoln Park Zoo. It's a fantastic species, the largest hyena group in the hyena family. They weigh about a 150 to 180 pounds. And we're just thrilled to have them here at the zoo," Mark Kamhout, curator of mammals, said.

The short-legged, slope-backed, big-headed creatures are from Africa.

"They look a little different," Kamhout said. "Some people think of them as a combination of a cat species and a dog species. They look more like a dog but they're actually more similar to a cat."

A cat? Hard to believe, but scientists say anatomically the hyena's circulatory and skeletal systems are more feline than canine. The hunters and scavengers travel in packs of up to 80 in Africa.

"They have tremendously powerful jaws. They can crush bone. They can crush horns of animals they prey upon and so they'll digest all the material and clean it up for the plains," Kamhout said.

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