We enjoy seeing animals drinking, especially the predators, but have you ever seen a predator in water? There are only a few who like to spend time immersed; the large cats are not generally a part of this group. Lion, leopard and cheetah will avoid water where they can but will swim when they need to.
Hyenas and African wild dogs are a different story; they will readily enter shallow pools of water to cool down.
When we saw the hyena above lying in a pool of water a few days ago I just thought to myself how this must be a shock for some people to see. We see rhinos, buffalo and elephant in and around water so often, but few first time visitors to Africa expect to see predators bathing.
I remember watching this particular hyena for about 30 minutes; everybody on the vehicle was in a discussion about how hyenas have a bad reputation but are actually wonderfully entertaining creatures, an image change significantly aided by the wallowing individual.
Water is key to spotted hyenas surviving in an area. They prefer to drink every day although they can survive for a week without drinking given that they are extracting enough moisture from their prey.
Hyenas will not hesitate to pursue prey into water. They will also not hesitate to wade into water to retrieve carcasses. I have seen hyenas dragging a zebra carcass into water and feeding in the water. Maybe this preserves the carcass for longer and also hides the large carcass that they cannot finish in one bout of feeding.
After feeding a hyena’s body temperature will rise and a full, engorged stomach will put pressure on its diaphragm. He/she will pant heavily and have difficulty breathing comfortably. In order to cool down it will often lie in a pool of water, this also probably facilitates easier breathing.
It is really fun to see hyenas and wild dogs, or any predator, in and around water. You will probably see more of this behaviour in the summer months though, when temperatures are high and the waterbodies are full and warm.
Two days ago it was a classically hot summer’s day in the bush and in three instances on one drive we saw hyenas lying in waterholes.