Spotted hyenas were once found throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. These days, however, it is mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is quite common.
The spotted hyena has a long cultural history with humans, even being depicted in cave paintings by early humans in France. In many west African folk tales, hyenas symbolize negative habits and are seen as embodying abnormal, dirty traits. In east Africa, meanwhile, they are said to have brought warmth from the sun to the cold earth.
In Western depictions, spotted hyenas are often associated with cowardly, lowly behavior, going back all the way to Aristotle of Ancient Greece. They are still depicted in this manner at times in media, including the popular Disney Lion King franchise. However, the reality is that they are skilled and successful predators.