Brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea)

Brown hyaenas have long, shaggy, dark brown coats, with white or yellowish hair around the neck and shoulders. They have long, hairless, black snouts, long pointed ears and dark brown eyes. Their striped front legs are longer than the back legs, resulting in a sloped-back appearance. They have club-like feet with five digits and non-retractable claws. Adult brown hyaenas in Namibia weigh between 35 and 50 kg.


There is little distinction between the tracks of male and female brown hyaenas. The front foot is much bigger than the back foot. Average measurements (mm) are presented (width x height).

Front foot - 80 x 102mm
Back foot - 59 x 84mm

Brown hyaenas are solitary foragers but they breed communally. Home ranges may be highly variable and have been observed at 310 km2 in areas of stable food resources. Between one and five cubs are born at a communal den where all members of the clan visit the den frequently and provide food for the cubs. Female brown hyaenas lactate for up to nine months. Gestation period is approximately 97 days. Independence is reached at 2 to 3 years old.

Brown hyaenas occur at low density throughout Namibia, but are rare in areas of high human densities, and in the sheep farming areas of southern Namibia. As an arid adapted species they occur at higher density along the Namib coastline, especially around seal colonies in the Luderitz area. In recent years, their numbers have increased on freehold land, north of Windhoek.

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Brown hyaenas are predominantly scavengers. Their diet includes a wide variety of items, such as eggs, including ostrich eggs, insects, reptiles, small mammals, and fruit (e.g. wild melons).

Brown hyaenas live at low densities and generally avoid conflict with other large carnivores. They are however, frequently persecuted by man under the misconception that they kill livestock. Alarmingly, farmers attempting to solve livestock losses caused by lions or leopards, also often kill brown hyaenas accidentally. As true scavengers, brown hyaenas are susceptible to poisoning. Indifferent motorists, working in the Spergebiet, kill several brown hyaenas each year, on the roads south of Luderitz.

Case study - Swakopmund 2008 (update - 2 March 2008)

During February 2008 a brown hyaena started causing problems at a salt mine just north of Swakopmund. Mr. Detlef Klein (right), Director of Salt Company (Pty) Ltd. approached me for assistance to help solve the problem. On 27 February 2008 a sub-adult male brown hyaena was captured and radio-collared.

Fitting the radio collar
Brown hyeana at den
Brown hyaena just outside Swakopmund (DK)
Movements of the marked brown hyaena - up to 2 March 2008