Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea)

Conservation Status

Near Threatened (NT)

Physical Description

Large dog-like size with shoulders higher than rump; long dark brown hair with lighter neck and shoulders. Its ears are pointed and it has a long haired tail; legs are striped black and light brown.
Weight 42-47kg
Size 80cm shoulder height
Lifespan (wild) 12 years
Lifespan (captivity) 13 years


Brown hyena are mainly nocturnal, with territory sizes from around 20km² to over 400km². These territories are marked with latrine sites, scent markings, and are defended against other brown hyena groups. They are mainly scavengers but will undertake hunts from time to time. Hunting and scavenging are done mostly on a solo basis.

Social and Reproduction

Although brown hyenas can have several individuals in territorial groups, they are mostly seen singly. They are mostly only seen in groups at large kill sites or carcasses. Groups consist mainly of related family individuals, with average family sizes between 4-6 individuals.

Mating System Polygamy (Polygynandry)
Breeding interval 12-41 months
Breeding season Mainly during the dry months, but may occur during spontaneous visits by nomadic males.
Gestation 97 days
Number of offspring 2-3 cubs are born from August to January

Habitat and Food


Wide habitat tolerance, from open savanna and wooded areas to the arid Namib coastal belt.


Brown hyena are mainly scavengers but also eats a wide variety of food such as small vertebrates, insects, and fruits to medium sized antelope and fur seals. They will hunt, but only rarely attempt to take down larger prey.


Lions, leopards, humans

Conservation Challenges

Brown hyenas are often persecuted for sheep predation and are given little tolerance by farmers. In some areas, road fatalities can be quite high at night.

Naankuse Solutions

Several brown hyena have been collared and released by Naankuse to map their movements and work with farmers who report having problems with hyena. Partnership projects with other researchers have helped to clarify many of the misunderstandings of the species and aided in building tolerance and understanding of hyenas by farmers.


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Brown Hyena at Naankuse sites