- Status: Near threatened
- Known as: Brown hyena, Brown Hyaena
- Estimated numbers left in the wild: 5,000 to 8,000.
Table of Contents
There is no denying that the brown hyaena is not among Nature’s more elegant creatures; not only does it have the large head, muscular shoulders, and sloping hindquarters of its cousins, but it also has a shaggy, untidy brown coat. The long hairs on the neck, shoulders, and back can be raised when the animal is agitated.
The brown hyaena has large, pointed ears over a grey-furred face. There is almost no difference in size or appearance between the sexes in the brown hyaena, although, at a top weight of 43 kilograms, the males are just several kilos heavier than the females.
See Related: Spotted Hyena
Hunting and scavenging
As the brown hyaena is primarily a scavenger, it has extremely powerful teeth and jaws to crack open bones to access the marrow. These hyaenas search for carrion alone because most of their finds are small and scarce but will sometimes form larger groups when a large carcass is available.
In addition to offal, the brown hyaena will also eat eggs, birds, fruit, and rodents. Brown hyaenas inhabit semiarid regions and deserts as well as open woodlands. Some brown hyaenas live on the coast and have access to seal pups and seal carcasses.
These hyaenas travel long distances on their nightly excursions for food, sometimes up to 35 kilometers. Their acute sense of smell allows them to detect carrion kilometers. In the distance, and except for bringing back food for the cubs, brown hyaenas do not carry the meat back for the rest of the clan.
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The brown hyaena lives in family units called clans, which will consist of up to 6 hyaenas. The cubs are protected and raised by all members of the clan. Males never mate with clan females but leave to find females in other clans. Females in a clan are impregnated by wandering males, who may or may not join the clan.
After a gestation period of approximately 3 months, 1 to 3 young is born. The mother cares for them exclusively for several months before leaving the den to join the rest of the clan.
Brown hyaenas establish clan territories that mark with feces and a secretion (paste) from their anal glands. The latter is black and white and is deposited on grass stems at regular intervals to mark the territory’s boundary.
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The brown hyaena is found in the southern part of Africa, specifically in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Angola. They are the climax predators in the Namib Coast Desert.
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The appearance and habits of the brown hyaena have made it the target of superstition and disgust. Farmers in the regions where it lives often shoot, trap, or poison it for killing livestock, although it very rarely does so. Besides persecution, the brown hyaena is also used in native rituals and for traditional medicines.
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Education of local people has helped to curb the wholesale killing of brown hyaenas. As there are hyaenas that do attack and kill livestock, removing the ‘criminal element’ generally solves the problem. It allows the rest of the hyaenas to survive without persecution.
The range of the brown hyaena extends through several parks and game reserves, which gives the animals a high level of protection.
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Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Brown Hyena? Then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.