Cave Hyena; also known as Crocuta crocuta spelaea
Plains of Eurasia
Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-10,000 years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 5 feet long and 200-250 pounds
Long hind legs; strong jaws with sharp teeth
About the Cave Hyena (Crocuta Crocuta Spelaea):
It's not quite as well known as the Cave Bear or the Cave Lion, but the Cave Hyena (Crocuta crocuta spelaea) must have been a common sight in Pleistocene Europe and Asia, to judge by this megafauna mammal's numerous fossil remains. As you can guess from its name, this hyena liked to drag its kill (or, more often, the kill of other predators) back to its den, and it had longer, more muscular hind legs than contemporary hyenas (of which the Cave Hyena is now classified as a subspecies, rather than a separate species as had previously been thought). One group of caves in Europe has yielded tantalizing evidence about the Cave Hyena's favorite prey animals, with Przewalski's Horse and the Woolly Rhino ranking high up on the dinner menu.
Like most opportunistic predators of the Pleistocene epoch, Cave Hyenas occasionally preyed on early humans and hominids, and they weren't shy about stealing the hard-earned kill of packs of Neanderthals. Where Crocuta crocuta spelaea and the ancestors of modern humans really mixed it up was in competing for habitable space: paleontologists have unearthed caves that bear alternating evidence of populations of Cave Hyenas and populations of Neanderthals, evidence of a pitched, thousands-of-years-old feud. In fact, this subspecies of hyena may have been doomed by the encroachment of early humans on its rapidly dwindling caves, which grew even scarcer after the last Ice Age.