Although the aardwolf (Proteles crisata) is a type of hyena, it is so different in size, appearance and behavior it is really quite unique.
Aardwolves are only found in two populations in southern and eastern Africa. At only about three feet long and weighing less than 30lbs they are much smaller than other hyenas and are only slightly larger than foxes. A slender muzzle and sharper ears than other hyenas further differentiates the aardwolf in appearance.
Much like the aardvark it’s partially named after, the aardwolf feeds almost exclusively on insects; specifically the termites that are native to its home range. With its specialized tongue and teeth, the aardwolf is capable of eating up to 300,000 termites in a single night. Unlike other hyenas, aardwolves do not scavenge or eat carrion, and will only kill small mammals and birds as a last resort.
Aardwolves are monogamous animals that usually mate for life. A single mated pair will occupy and fiercely defend a territory of up to two square miles, only allowing their youngest offspring to stay until weaning. Primarily nocturnal, aardwolves are very solitary most of the time, with males and females usually feeding separately.
Unlike other hyenas, aardwolves are not very vocal animals and have no long-distance call. They are capable of making clucking and growling sounds aimed at intruders, though. Young or careless aardwolves can face predation from jackals, but their primary threat comes from man. They are frequently hit by automobiles in more populated areas and are occasionally shot by farmers who mistakenly blame the aardwolves for killing livestock; something they are not capable of doing.
Despite their limited range, aardwolves are not considered threatened or endangered and are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a species of “Least Concern”.
The aardwolf is the only species of hyena with five toes on its front feet. All other hyenas have four toes.
Despite being capable of digging their own burrows, aardwolves will usually uses abandoned aardvark or porcupine burrows.
IUCN Hyena Specialist Group