Unusual features/differences from similar
The ears are more rounded in
spotted hyena. The legs are striped and the tail is bushy. The hair
on the body is long as opposed to the spotted hyena
which has short hair. Powerful torso and longer front legs.
Visible Male/Female Differences
Females are slightly heavier and have two pairs of
nipples between their hind legs.
Habitat and Distribution
A wide range of habitats from savanna woodland to desert. Avoids areas with large numbers of
Primarily carrion but also eggs (with a preference for ostrich eggs), reptiles,
fruit, and tsama melons which is a good source of moisture. Food is
detected by smell and carrion can be detected from at least 14 km downwind. On
the Namibian coast seals are a major part of the diet. They have very
powerful jaws and teeth and can bite open bones for the marrow. Brown hyenas
can digest bone and hide.
Litters of 1-4 are born at
any time of year after a gestation of 90 days. Usually only
one female in a group breeds. Famales mate with nomadic males
from outside the social group. Cubs are weaned by 12-16
months until which time adults bring food to the den. After 10 months cubs begin foraging for themselves.
They have permanent teeth by 15 months and are full grown at 30
months with a lifespan of 16 years. Brown hyenas are sometimes killed by lions
and spotted hyenas but are not eaten.
Behavior and Habits
nomadic males or clans with up to 12 members which defend large territories. Active
for most of the night; sometimes seen at dawn and dusk. Shelters in
thick vegetation and sometimes sleeps in caves. Cubs hide in clan dens, which
has narrow tunnels that adults and other large carnivores cannot enter.
Territories are marked up to 20 000 with anal-gland secretion marks which lasts
for at least a month.
is deposited in middens near territory borders
and along regular routes. Brown hyenas forage alone and can cover up to 30 km per
night. Several may be seen together at a large carcass. Brown hyenas are not
good hunters but occasionally become pests by killing domestic stock.
All clan members help to raise cubs by bringing food back to the den and extra food is
hidden in caches. Females sometimes suckle one another's cubs.
There is no long-range
contact call. Serious fights involve neck biting, growls and yells.Cubs whine
when begging for food.
and Field sign
is white cylinders with tapered ends, 8cm long. Very dark when fresh, white when
old. Deposited in middens. Scent
marks on grass stems; the white secretion turns brown in a few days.
Accumulations of bones and other food remains at dens whereas Spotted
dens do not have bones at the dens because food is not carried back to their cubs.