Science, Tech, Math › Animals & Nature Giant Hyena (Pachycrocuta) Share Flipboard Email Print Animals & Nature Dinosaurs Prehistoric Mammals Basics Paleontologists Carnivores Dinosaurs & Birds Herbivores Marine Reptiles Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Wildlife Conservation Insects Marine Life Forestry Evolution View More By Bob Strauss Science Writer B.S., Cornell University Bob Strauss is a science writer and the author of several books, including "The Big Book of What, How and Why" and "A Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of North America." our editorial process Bob Strauss Updated June 05, 2019 Name: Giant Hyena; also known as PachycrocutaHabitat: Plains of Africa and EurasiaHistorical Epoch: Late Pliocene-Pleistocene (3 million-500,000 years ago)Size and Weight: Up to three feet high at the shoulder and 400 poundsDiet: MeatDistinguishing Characteristics: Large size; short legs; powerful head and jaws About the Giant Hyena (Pachycrocuta) It seems that every animal on earth came in larger packages during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs, and the Giant Hyena (genus name Pachycrocuta) was no exception. This megafauna mammal was very similar to the modern spotted hyena, except that it was about three times the size (some individuals may have weighed as much as 400 pounds) and more stockily built, with comparatively shorter legs. Save for these crucial differences, however, the Giant Hyena pursued a recognizably hyena-like lifestyle, stealing freshly killed prey from other, presumably smaller, predators and only occasionally hunting for its food, when circumstances demanded. Tantalizingly, the fossils of some Pachycrocuta individuals have been discovered in the same Chinese caves as the modern human ancestor Homo erectus; however, it's unknown if Homo erectus hunted the Giant Hyena, if the Giant Hyena hunted Homo erectus, or if these two populations merely occupied the same caves at different times! Ironically, given its massive size compared to its modern descendant, the Giant Hyena may well have been driven to extinction by the much smaller spotted hyena--which would have been ranged much more nimbly over the grasslands of Africa and Eurasia and been able to chase prey over longer distances (during times when freshly killed carcasses were thin on the ground). The spotted hyena was also better adapted for the conditions that prevailed at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, shortly after the last Ice Age, when most of the world's giant mammals went extinct for lack of available food.