Three times the cuteness. 

Like a few other species we're always defending, hyenas don't have the best reputation (thanks, Lion King). In reality, though, they're highly intelligent animals and skilled hunters – and as this video proves, they'll outcute a lion cub any day of the week. 

The newborns emerged from their den just recently in South Africa's Shindzela Game Reserve, and much to the delight of the park's rangers, they're looking healthy. (Baby hyenas are referred to as cubs, not pups, because the animals are actually more closely related to cats than dogs.)

Although they're highly successful pack hunters, female hyenas go it alone in the early days of motherhood. In fact, they've been known to act aggressively towards other pack members who get too close to their young. The same goes for human interlopers, so if you're lucky enough to encounter a litter, make sure to keep your distance. 

You might notice that one cub is quite a bit smaller than the others. This is typical in litters of more than two, because hyena mothers have only two nipples. Life for baby hyenas isn't easy, and in crowded company, competition for food becomes pretty darn stiff. That said, the little runt looks strong, so there isn't cause for concern just yet. 

The cubs will feed on their mother's milk – which has the highest protein content of any terrestrial carnivore at around 15%! – for nearly a year. And protein isn't the only nutrient that dense milk is packing: its fat content is rivalled only by the milk of whales, sea otters, polar bears and seals. 

Once they've gained strength and confidence, the cubs will likely be transferred from an individual den to a communal "daycare centre". This not only allows the little ones greater protection, but it's also an integral part of integrating them into the dominance structure of the clan. It gives mom a break, too – and if we know one thing about baby hyenas, it's that they certainly like their attention:

Top header image: Arno Meintjes/Flickr