Brown Hayena - Hyaena brunnea

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Spotted Hayena - Crocuta crocuta | Brown Hayena - Hyaena brunnea | Aardwolf - Proteles cristatus


Afrikaans Strandjut  Shona Bere
Tswana Tlonkana, Phiritshwana

F 8 cm
H 6 cm


Dark when fresh, white when old, 
deposited in middens

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

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 spotted hyenas.


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

Solitary 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.

Dung 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.

Dung and Field sign 

Dung 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 hyena dens do not have bones at the dens because food is not carried back to their cubs.


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