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22 Brown Hyena Facts: Habitat, Diet, Strandwolf Size

Not all hyenas are the laughing kind. In this guide, you’ll learn all about brown hyenas, including what they look like, their diet, and what sounds they make. Strandwolves are long-haired hyenas found in southern Africa.

brown hyena

Brown Hyena Overview

  • Latin Name: Parahyaena brunnea
  • Location: Southern Africa; Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
  • Habitat: prefers rocky montane areas; desert or semi desert areas, open woodlands, close to urban areas
  • Population Status: Near Threatened
  • Length: 51 to 62 inches (130 to 160 cm), tail is 9.8 to 13.8 inches (25 to 35 cm)
  • Weight:
    • Males: 89 to 96 pounds (40.2 to 43.7 kg)
    • Females: 83 to 89 pounds (37.7 to 40.2 kg)
  • Height: 28 to 31 inches (70 to 80 cm)
  • Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Diet: Scavengers, kills of other bigger predators; will also eat eggs, insects, and rodents, seals
  • Physical Features: Brown coat, short tail, shaggy fur, striped legs of brown and white; adults have cream-colored fur around necks
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

1. What is the scientific classification of a brown hyena?

The scientific classification of a brown hyena is Parahyaena brunnea.

Parahyaena brunnea

Brown hyena is “Fisi kahawia” in Swahili.

2. What is another name for the brown hyena?

Brown hyenas are also called strandwolves (strandwolf singular). The name is Afrikaans in origin. The name means “beach dog”, as they can be found on the coast.

3. What do brown hyenas look like?

Brown hyenas have brown, shaggy fur, and a short tail. They also have legs that are striped white and brown.

Adult brown hyenas have cream-colored fur around their necks.

4. How big do brown hyenas get? How much do they weigh?

Brown hyenas can get up to 62 inches (160 cm) long excluding their tail. Their tails can add up to 13.8 inches (35 cm) in length.

Male brown hyenas are heavier than females. Males can get up to 96 pounds (43.7 kg), while female brown hyenas can get to 89 pounds (40.2 kg).

5. Where do brown hyenas live?

Brown hyenas can be found in the wild in southern Africa.

They can be found in the following countries:

  • Botswana
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • Zimbabwe

6. What habitat do brown hyenas live in?

Brown hyenas can be found in a wide range of habitats, preferring mountain and rocky areas.

They can also be found in areas like desert or semi-desert areas, woodland savannahs, beaches, and even urban areas.

brown hyenas

7. How big is a brown hyena’s home range?

Brown hyenas can have a home range anywhere from 90 to 180 square miles (233 to 466 sq km).

Within that range, brown hyenas may have territories of up to 34 miles (55 km).

Brown hyenas will mark it by pasting. They will secrete a black and white paste from its anal gland and spread that on rocks and vegetation.

8. When are brown hyenas most active?

Brown hyenas are nocturnal animals, so they are most active during the night.

They can travel up to 25 miles (40 km) a night to search for food.

9. How fast can a brown hyena run?

Brown hyenas can run up to a speed of 50 mph (80 km/h).

10. What do brown hyenas eat?

Brown hyenas eat a variety of foods. They can eat carcasses from bigger predators, while also eating fruit like desert melons or fungi.

They may also eat eggs, insects, and rodents. In coastal or beach environments, brown hyenas also eat seals.

11. How do brown hyenas get their food?

As mentioned, brown hyenas eat carcasses from other predators. They are mainly scavengers. But that doesn’t mean they’re passive about it. They may charge other animals like leopards to take their kills away from them.

Brown hyenas sometimes hunt live prey, but that is rare. They’ll use their keen sense of smell to detect food from long distances.

Brown hyenas may also store their food in shrubs or whole if they don’t eat it right away. They’ll usually go back to it within 24 hours.

12. How social are brown hyenas?

Some brown hyenas live in clans, though these clans tend to be on the smaller side. According to one source, each clan may contain up to 14 individuals.

Within the clans, females usually take the lead. If a male brown hyena wants to move up the ladder, so to speak, it may kill another male that’s considered higher up. The highest-ranking female brown hyenas are usually the oldest ones within the group.

Other brown hyenas may be nomadic and live on their own. They’re either not associated with any clan, or they may be searching for a new one from their birth clan.

13. Are brown hyenas dangerous?

While brown hyenas are not known to attack humans, they are on the aggressive side.

As previously mentioned, they can steal carcasses from other predators, even if they’re bigger.

For example, not only will they force leopards up a tree to steal their food, brown hyenas may force them to climb even when there’s no food involved.

14. Do brown hyenas have predators?

There have been times when brown hyenas have been killed by lions and even their cousins, the spotted hyena.

Baby hyenas may be in more danger from predators like jackals or African wild dogs.

brown hyena markings

15. When is breeding season for brown hyenas?

Breeding usually takes place from May to August, during the dry season in southern Africa. However, females mate with nomadic males, and not with males within their clans. So breeding may take place if these females encounter nomadic male brown hyenas.

Females will often have their first litter when they’re two years old, and will then produce a litter every 20 months, or 1.75 years.

16. What are baby brown hyenas called?

Baby hyenas are known as cubs. They’re born with their eyes closed and don’t open them until 8 days later.

17. How are baby brown hyenas raised?

Baby brown hyenas are born in dens, to give better protection from predators like lions and spotted hyenas. They’re born after a 3-month gestation period.

All adults in the clan help take care of the cubs and bring back food for the cubs.

Brown hyena cubs are weaned at around 12 months and leave their dens 6 months later.

Usually, only the dominant female will have a litter. But if more than one in the clan has a litter, then the females may take turns nursing the other cubs.

18. When are brown hyena cubs considered adults?

Brown hyenas reach adulthood at 30 months, or 2.5 years, of age.

19. Are brown hyenas endangered?

Brown hyenas are the rarest hyena species. They are considered Near Threatened. Population estimates of brown hyenas are at around 4,000 to 10,000.

This sad situation is due to the loss of habitat and human interference. The latter can particularly take place when farmers think that brown hyenas are a danger to their livestock. The reality is that another creature probably killed their livestock, and the brown hyena scavenged the carcass.

Another reason is that body parts of the hyena have been used in traditional medicine on occasion.

20. What’s being done to protect brown hyenas?

There are some conservation areas where brown hyenas live, like Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Botswana) and Etosha National Park (Namibia).

There have also been programs to educate and raise awareness of brown hyenas and to debunk any myths surrounding them.

21. How long do brown hyenas live?

Brown hyenas can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years in the wild.

22. What sounds do brown hyenas make? Do they laugh?

Brown hyenas don’t “laugh” like spotted hyenas. In fact, they are much quieter than their spotted cousins.

While they may make occasional grunting and growling sounds, brown hyenas don’t often make much noise.

Here’s why hyenas laugh.

strandwolf

Learn about the safest countries in Africa. And the 12 major African rivers.

Your Turn!

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