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For residents of southern Africa, brown hyenas are the rarest species of hyenas. Their scraggly hair and spindly legs frequently rank among Africa’s five ugliest creatures, and the most significant population adheres to the Kalahari Desert.

The antics of hyenas always fascinate me. Dr Kay Holekamp, who’s researched the creatures and their habitats, has compared her job to “following a soap opera.” Due to a lack of research on their natural hyena, the scientific world is still unaware of many details about brown hyenas. Most study so far has focussed on spotted hyenas.

Today, brown hyenas can only be found in southern areas of Africa, but the fossil record suggests that they travelled across Europe in ancient periods.

Brown Hyena Scientific Name

Hyaena brunnea is the scientific name for these hyenas. The name hyaena derives from the ancient Greek word “hyena,” which originated from “hys,” meaning pig or hog. When the Romans invaded southern Europe and northern Africa, hyena became hyaena, and when Middle English was established as the primary regional language, hyaena further changed into a hyena.

The Latin word “brunneus,” meaning “brown,” is the source of the name Brunner.

The Afrikaans term for these hyenas is strandwolwe, which means “beach dogs.”

A troop of hyenas is dubbed a “cackle.”

KINGDOM Animalia
Scientific Name Hyaena brunnea
FAMILY Hyaenidae
LENGTH 130-160 CM

The Appearance of a Brown Hyena

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brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea), Kalahari desert, South Africa
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Hyenas belong to the suborder Feliformia — commonly termed Feloidea — which contains carnivorous mammals with “cat-like” behavioural and anatomical traits.

Brown hyenas are four-legged creatures with straight, coarse hair, pointed ears, and short tails. The species’ members feature downward spines, short rear legs, and large front legs. Their claws, used for protection and digging, are non-retractable, and their mouths are harsh.

Animals of the species have long, scraggly hair. Adults also have cream-coloured ruffs around their necks. The pelage on the legs, on the other hand, is much shorter and is striped in brown and white.

You should also be wary of their jaws, which are their primary line of protection. To give you an idea, baby hyenas can fracture the femurs of springboks! However, strandwolf jaws deteriorate with time, like automobiles and everyday oral wear and tear in aged animals.

How Big Are Brown Hyenas?

Strandwolves are the second-largest extant hyena species. Male and female hyenas are nearly the same size. Height-wise, they average between 28 and 31 inches. They range from 51 to 63 inches in length. Females weigh between 83 and 89 pounds, while males tip the scales at 89 to 96 pounds.

Brown Hyena Lifespan

Hyenas have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, with maturity occurring at 30 months. They tend to have shorter lifespans than the other hyena types. Animals in captivity have experienced a 40-year lifespan.

Habits and Lifestyle

Affection between hyena pups and mother
Brown Hyena – Hyaena brunnea, rare shy carnivore from African bushes, Etosha National park, Namibia.
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

To avoid being hot, brown hyenas are nocturnal creatures who spend their waking hours in the shade of shrubs, trees, or rocks. Adults hunt alone, following scent-marked tracks they’ve previously utilized. This species lives either nomadically or inside a clan. About one-third of men are nomads, having abandoned their original tribe, and are hunting for a new family to join in the position of the alpha male. The females are occasionally migratory, but only when no cubs tend after. Clans may contain from five to fifteen members, all of whom are related, although the alpha males tend to come from outside the family. These animals defecate at latrine sites across their area, particularly near their den and other significant spots like slaughter sites and territorial borders. Such places are usually utilized for communication between clan members, coupled with scent markers.

Brown Hyena Habitat

These hyenas may be found in the southern African nations of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. Primarily, they keep to the desert, semi-arid environments, forest savannas, and rocky mountainous regions. However, these hyenas may be seen scavenging closer to urban areas due to habitat deterioration these days.

Between 90 to 180 square miles is the typical size of a brown hyena clan’s home range.

Brown Hyena Diet

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Brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) with prey (baby bat-eared fox) in mouth – Kalahari desert (South Africa)
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

These hyenas are primarily scavengers. Occasionally they hunt, but they’re not adept at capturing prey. They retain an omnivorous diet but prefer meat carcasses. However, when meat is nowhere to be found, they will settle on insects, eggs, fruits, and mushrooms.

In common with other hyenas, these cats devour the marrow and hooves of their hyena, as well as any scraps of meat left on the corpse. In some instances, hyenas have been reported to consume inanimate things, such as tires and tents.

They can detect dead animals from great distances because of their extraordinary sense of smell.

Brown Hyena mating Habits

Brown hyenas generally display one of two sophisticated systems of mating. In a polygynous system, the alpha male mates with all the females in the clan; this only happens when the alpha male comes from another family and is not related to any females in that clan. The alternative system includes the clan females predominantly mating with one or several migratory men who come into the clan’s area, being a polyandrous or polygynandrous (promiscuous) system, with females occasionally mating with up to four different males. Their mating season usually is from May to August, during Africa’s dry season. However, the date might also be determined by the sudden appearance of another nomad in the area. Breeding is usually every 12 to 41 months. Gestation lasts around 90 days, with 1 – 4 cubs born in the natal den. Their mother will take them to the communal cave when they are three months old and feed them there until they are six months old, at which point another nursing female will take over. At 15 months old, the cubs are weaned. Between the ages of two and three, they are fully developed. Males tend to depart the den, while females tend to stay.

Brown Hyena Babies

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Affection between hyena pups and mother
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

A cub is a baby given to a young hyena. And while the men in the clan generally aren’t the biological dads, they assist raise the group’s offspring. When two litters are born at the same time in the same group, the mothers help all the cubs, but they prefer their own litter to be fed by the group. All of a clan’s adults will lug food to the infants to make matters worse.

A litter may include anything from one to five babies, and a newborn cub bear weighs typically about two pounds. These hyena pups are unique among the Hyaenidae species in that they are born without their eyes open.

Mothers wean their infants within a year, and teenagers often leave their dens at approximately 18 months.

The population of Brown hyena

Many people are murdered each year because of the Brown hyena’s unjustly terrible reputation and the resulting misunderstandings and myths. There is a continuous mistaken perception that these creatures endanger domestic cattle, resulting in commercial farmers across its range murdering innocent individuals. In reality, brown hyenas seldom prey on cattle, and when they do, it’s almost always a single one. Aside from being hunted, this species is sometimes used in traditional ceremonies and medicines. In the southern half of their range, brown hyenas are becoming scarce or perhaps extinct because of the widespread poisoning, killing, and trapping.

Brown hyena predators and threats

Lions and spotted hyenas have been known to kill these hyenas, but the species’ most significant danger is people. Expressly, farmers incorrectly assume they’re a menace to livestock, killing the highest number of these hyenas yearly. Additionally, habitat degradation and population fragmentation are significant threats to the species.

How do they communicate?

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Hyena clan sniffing one another, friendship.
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

These hyenas have a well-developed sense of smell, and a comprehensive inspection of the neck, head, back, and anal gland occurs. These smell marks are vital for defining territory and thus assist in transmitting essential information among clan members without a physical connection. These odours aid in hyenas recognizing whether any specific has been previously explored for food and regarding territorial boundaries. Visual displays are also employed when the cubs push the female mammary glands with their front paws to signal their wish to nurse. Vocal communication includes whines and squeals as a warning about predators coming. A relatively faint cry is used to summon cubs into the cave while harsh growls occasionally signal meeting between competitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

brown hyena, brown hyena cub, brown hyena diet, brown hyena size, brown hyena endangered, hyaena brunnea, brown hyena facts, brown hyena pet
Hyena in the grass during safari in National Park of Ngorongoro, Tanzania. Wild nature of Africa
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What type of animal is a brown hyena?

Another kind of hyena is the brown hyena.

What kind of animal does a brown hyena belong to?

The brown hyena belongs to the class of mammals.

How many brown hyenas are there in the world?

The worldwide assessment of the number of brown hyenas in the globe is 4000-10000, according to IUCN.

Are Brown Hyenas Carnivores, Herbivores, or Omnivores?

Brown hyenas are omnivores. However, they prefer to stick to the meat.

Where Does the Brown Hyena Live?

Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa are home to brown hyenas.

How long does a brown hyena live?

The lifespan of the brown hyena varies from 12-15 years.

Do Brown Hyenas Laugh?

One of the little-known facts about brown hyenas is that they don’t laugh. They don’t even make a peep very often. Occasionally, you may catch them grunting or snorting.

What Sound Does Brown Hyenas Make?

Brown hyenas produce little noises. Occasionally, they’ll grunt or yip.

How fast can a brown hyena run?

Brown hyenas can attain a speed of 50 mph (80 kph) (80 kph).

How cute are they?

Brown hyenas are not considered cute creatures by some, yet since they are dog-like, others may find them charming.

Are they dangerous?

As terrifying as hyenas might be, they pale in comparison to the threat posed by the other big cats.

Would they make a good pet?

Even though they may be trained, wild brown hyenas should not be kept pets. These are enormous creatures that need a lot of care and frequent enrichment. The quantity of flesh necessary to feed the hyenas is likewise too great.

What is another name for a brown hyena?

The brown hyena is sometimes nicknamed an Afrikaans Strandwolf (beach dog) because it searches the seashore for dead seals and other dead animals.

Why Is the Brown Hyena Endangered?

According to the IUCN, brown hyenas fall under the Near Threatened category on the conservation group’s endangered species list. They made a list as their population numbers are dropping and their habitats are jeopardized.

Facts for Children

brown hyena, brown hyena cub, brown hyena diet, brown hyena size, brown hyena endangered, hyaena brunnea, brown hyena facts, brown hyena pet
The brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea) running from the waterhole in morning sun.
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)
  • These hyenas are the second-largest hyena species.
  • In search of food, brown hyenas are nocturnal foragers that traverse lengths of up to 35 kilometres every night.
  • These creatures can detect corpses from many kilometres afar thanks to their keen sense of smell.
  • The laugh of a hyena is not for pleasure. According to studies, the tone and pitch of an individual’s laughter might reveal its social rank and age.
  • Hyenas are cleverer than chimps. A Duke University research indicated that a pair of hyenas were better at problem-solving and social collaboration than chimpanzees. Remarkable, though, was that these hyenas remained quiet throughout the investigation while working on all the tasks, utilizing non-verbal signs alone for communication.
  • Hyenas have a highly robust digestive system and can consume various animals and vegetables, readily digesting skin, teeth, and bones. Some campers allege that they have even eaten metal pots and pans.
  • A hyena can live for many days without water.
Also Read: Baby Lions Facts.
Also Read: Lion Tailed Macaque


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