Coyote vs Hyena: Who Will Win? (Answered)

Wild animals are a whole world apart from us and what we see in front of us is only a tiny portion of our fauna. With this limited knowledge, one can confuse certain species with another and this article today will help you clear out doubts about two very similar-looking animals – the hyena vs the coyote.

There are other differences in their food habits, genetics, and appearance, and we shall tell you all about them in this article. So, read on! 


What is Coyote?

Coyotes are small, wolf-like animals that are native to North America. They are closely related to eastern and red wolves and are predators that predator cooler temperatures. These canids are highly adaptable and can even eat fruits and vegetables on occasions just for their survival. 

Coyotes have 19 registered subspecies and they are a prominent part of Native American culture in their folklore, stories, and social references.

What is Hyena?

Hyenas are small, omnivorous African mammals that look a lot like dogs, but are closely related to felines and viverrids. You would recognize these infamous creatures from popular media and culture for making ‘laughing’ sounds, being scavenging creatures, or being closely related to death. 

While these superstitious facts may not be true, hyenas are well known for being rough and hardy creatures that can survive in all kinds of conditions. 

Comparison Table Coyote vs Hyena

To help you understand the major differences between a coyote and a hyena, we have assembled this quick comparison table listing down all the important points. 

AppearanceDusty, brown, or dark in color, and can also be striped or spotted.Shorter, and stockier with rounded paws that have retractable claws.
Solid, powerful teeth.
Can be red, brown, white, gray or have variants.Taller, but more slender with rectangular paws and no retractable claws. Longer teeth. 
HabitatAfrica, India, and the Middle East.
Prefer cooler places but can be found anywhere – deserts, forest edges, savannahs. 
South America and parts of North and Central America. Can be found anywhere – swamps, forest ends, near humans. 
GeneticsFeliform suborderCaniform suborder
Skills and abilitiesSouth America and parts of North and Central America. Can be found anywhere – swamps, forest ends, near humans. Higher speed but very low bite power.Loud, wailing noises that sound similar to a wolf’s howl. 
DietLike to scavenge for food rather than hunt. Can hunt their own food and are opportunistic scavengers. Mostly kills small animals like livestock, rodents, rabbits, deers and pets. 

Differences Between Coyote vs Hyena

1. Appearance

Coyotes and hyenas may appear similar with their brown-gray furs and dark spots, but they can be distinguished by specific features.

Coyotes look much like jackals – a small version of a wolf minus the more predatory structure. They can be black, red, white, grey, or have other variations in colors and can grow up to an average height of 24 inches weighing 20-50 pounds. Meanwhile, hyenas are only brown and dusty shades and can grow between 26-30 inches tall. 

Even their teeth lengths differ, with coyote teeth reaching up to 1.45 inches and hyenas having teeth only shorter than an inch. Coyotes may be larger, but hyenas are more stocky with their weight reaching up to 57-90 pounds – twice the weight of coyotes.

Another last difference between these two animals is the shape of their paw. Coyotes shave rectangular-shaped paws – in the sense that they are long but not wide. Hyenas, on the other hand, have rounder paws, much similar to felines, and also have retractability which coyotes do not.

Following is a small table noting down all the important physical differences between coyotes and hyenas that you need to know about. 

ColorCan be red, brown, gray, white, or mixed variants.Is only dusty and dirty colors like brown, black or striped and spotted.
ShapeLooks similar to a wolf but smaller. Bigger than hyenas but more slender. Shorter in height than a coyote, but stockier, more muscular, and heavier. 
Weight20-50 pounds57-90 pounds
Height24 inches24-30 inches
TailBushy and large like a wolfRagged, lower and unkempt, slightly thinner tail
PawsRectangular-shaped paws which are wider than longer. No retractable claws.Rounded paws and also have retractable claws.
TeethSolid, powerful teeth but short in size (half an inch or so).Long, sharp teeth that grow up to 1.45 inches. 

2. Habitat

Their geographical location is the main difference between the coyote and the hyena. There is a very low chance of you ever having to distinguish between them as their habitats are on two different continents. 

Hyenas are native to Africa, and Asia, and being hardy creatures, they can be found in all kinds of terrains like grasslands, deserts, savannas, forest edges, sub-deserts, and even mountains up to 4000 meters.

Coyotes can be adaptable too, but they are only found in South America and parts of North and Central Africa. These wolf-like creatures can be found in grasslands, forests, swamps, and deserts. 

Both, however, can be found living near human settlements as they are the types of species to go where food is available easily.

3. Genetics

From the distinct features in their appearances, you can see that coyotes are more like dogs while hyenas are more feline. This is because biologically, hyenas belong to the Feliform suborder which includes cats, mongooses, covers, and allies while coyotes belong to the Caniform suborder which is the same as wolves and dogs.

Socially too, they behave like their suborders. Though both are nocturnal animals that live in small family groups and hunt alone, when it comes to mating, their reactions are different. Coyotes are monogamous and breed once a year with their maximum number of pups going up to 19!

On the other hand, hyenas live monogamously, but their mating knows no bounds and can occur between different clans as well. These harrowing creatures also have smaller litters, with 3 cubs on average. 

4. Skills and Abilities

Due to their distinct features and habitats, coyotes and hyenas differ on the basis of their skills and hunting abilities as well. In terms of speed, with lighter bodies than hyenas, coyotes can run up to 43 miles per hour. They are agile and usually are on the lookout for their own food. 

Meanwhile, hyenas may be predators and weigh heavier than coyotes, but they are scavengers and mostly depend on other kills for their meals. With their chunkier and stocky bodies, they can only reach a speed of 31 miles per hour, which is a bad number for all kinds of predators. 

Though their speed is not the best when it comes to biting power, the hyena has a strong bite force quotient of 113 which is enough to tear down bigger prey as well as the remaining bones. Coyotes, on the other hand, only have an 88 BFQ and mostly hunt small prey.

Lastly, another interesting category of these animals’ abilities is the sounds they  make. Both let out a unique set of cries with different meanings. 

Coyotes are also known as ‘song dogs’ due to the loud, soul-haunting cry they make which is very similar to a wolf howl. These loud, high-pitched barks and wailing are done to fend off predators and establish a territory. 

Hyenas, on the other hand, let out short, huffing sounds that sound a lot like laughter. This is their natural vocalization and they do it whenever – whether having a good time or under attack. 

Bite Power88 BFQ113 BFQ
Speed31 miles per hour43 miles per hour
SoundLoud, high-pitched wolf howling and barkingHigh-pitched, short grunts that sound like laughter. 

5. Diet

Both the hyena and the coyote are omnivorous creatures that also fall under the predator category. Although general knowledge may suggest that they like to hunt, a lot of hyenas and coyotes will also eat plants, fruits, and vegetables. 

Although hyenas are capable of hunting their own food, they are predominantly scavengers and prefer to let a bigger carnivore do the difficult work for them. A typical hyena diet may include anything ranging from herbivores like zebras, impalas, and gazelle to small fruits and flowers. 

Coyotes can be scavengers too, but they do not depend so much on other, bigger predators to do their work. They are self-sufficient but can scavenge if they have the opportunity. With their size, the animals that coyotes hunt are mostly rabbits, small deer, livestock, rodents, poultry, and even pets like dogs and cats. 

Coyotes have also been known to supplement their own diet when they need plants, berries, and grasses. Both the coyote and the hyena are known to wander off to human settlements and even help themselves to garbage dumps if they wish to.

Who Would Win in a Fight? Coyote or a Hyena?

A hyena will win in a fight against a coyote as it is much larger and stronger than the latter. Since their scavenger habits also make them rough and hardy creatures, their bite power is also much more dangerous and heavy. Coyotes, on the other hand, have the upper hand in speed and agility with their lighter bodies. 

With their strong teeth, hyenas have an impact force of about 2,150 lb with their 113 BFQ, while coyotes have an impact force of 2150 lb at 88 BFQ. 

This shows that if you were to put these two animals against each other in a battle of strength, a hyena would most likely dominate the fight and prove victorious. Coyotes can escape the attack, but strength-wise, a hyena would win in a fight with a coyote. 

Final Thoughts

The canid family look quite similar to each other and it’s understandable that one might confuse about their looks. However, having given all these unique details and characteristics in this article about hyenas and coyotes, we hope that distinguishing between them at least would be easier for you now. 

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

About Shaun Clarke

Shaun is passionate about pets and animals, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits. He owns a dog and a couple of cats too. He loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries and shares a strong bond with animals. When he is not writing, he loves to do a barbecue in the backyard with his family and friends.