The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) also known as laughing hyena, is a carnivorous mammal of the family Hyaenidae, of which it is the largest extant member. Though the species' prehistoric range included Eurasia extending from Atlantic Europe to China, it now only occurs in all of Africa south of the Sahara save for the Congo Basin. Spotted hyenas live in large matriarchal communities called clans, which can consist of up to 80 individuals. Studies indicate that their social intelligence is on par with some primate species. The relative amount of frontal cortex in their brains not used for motor control is higher than in other carnivorans examined, which has been attributed to their complex social lives.
Spotted hyenas are not seasonal breeders, and can reproduce at any time of the year, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season. Females are polyestrous, with an estrous period lasting two weeks. The average litter consists of two cubs, with three occasionally being reported. Mating in spotted hyenas is a relatively short affair which typically only occurs at night with no other hyenas present.
Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_Hyena - 20.11.2008
The Spotted Hyena is the bigest exponent of the Hyena family, which consists of four species, only.