So what’s in a laugh? Well, nothing funny at all for the hyena. More often than not in mainstream media, they're portrayed in a negative light due to their scavenging ability. However this laughter is no sign of fun- they are in fact signs of distress or nervous excitement, and usually made during fight or flight mode. The sounds are typically produced when they are anxious and chasing a larger predator, or are being chased themselves.
If the range of vocalisations can indicate how highly intelligent, social and complex a creature is, then the hyena has it in spades. Much like the elephant, they have a range of different vocalisations to communicate various messages, including who they are in the social structure of the matriarchal clan, how they’re feeling, where they are, who to band up with, who to fight, and much else besides. And on another level, their whooping calls, are to me, the most comforting sounds in the night- and will invariably send me off to the best sleep.
So here’s to the beautiful hyena. Misunderstood, misrepresented, but amazing.