Parahyaena brunnea (Brown hyaena)

strandjut, bruinhiŽna, strandwolf [Afrikaans]; Braune Hyšne, Schabrackenhyšne [German]; hyŤne brune [French]; impisi, ipisi enzotho [isiNdebele]; ingqawane, inchuka [isiXhosa]; isidawana [isiZulu]; sephiribjŰkwane, phiribjŰkwane [Sepedi]; phiribjokwane, phiri, thamahane [Sesotho]; phiri, phiritshwana, lefiritshwana, phiri Íntsho, phiri Íntshonyana, mosonokwane, mosonolokwane, setinikwana, sethenekwane [Setswana]; bere [Shona]; imphisi [siSwati]; mhisi, mhisana [Xitsonga]; tshivhingwi [Tshivenda]; Hiras [Nama] [Damara]; nutsa [San]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Ferae > Carnivora > Family: Hyaenidae (hyenas) > Subfamily: Hyaeninae

Parahyaena brunnea (Brown hyaena)

Parahyaena brunnea (Brown hyaena), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. [photo Bernard Dupont  ©]

Parahyaena brunnea (Brown hyaena) Parahyaena brunnea (Brown hyaena)

Brown hyaena. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Parahyaena brunnea (Brown hyaena), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. [photo Bernard Dupont  ©]


Brown hyaena have a typical “up-hill” shape, with heavily build forequarters that stand significantly higher than the lighter hindquarters. The head is large with longish pointed ears and a black muzzle. It has a coat of long dark brown hair and mantle of lighter coloured hair on the back and shoulders. The legs are striped black and light brown. The tail is short and bushy. The powerful jaw structure and large teeth ensure that the whole prey animal is eaten including crushing the large bones to extract the marrow. Hyena droppings are characteristically white because of the very high bone content.


Total Body Length: 130-160 cm; height at shoulder 80 cm; weight range 47 kg (male) and 42 kg (female)

Dental Formula

I C P M = 34

Distribution and habitat

Used to occur widely in southern Africa in arid and semi-arid habitats, but now limited to the Kalahari and arid Namibian coastal belt, only rarely seen south of the Orange River.

General behaviour

Brown hyaena are nocturnal and usually seen alone, although several animals may share a territory. The animals that share a territory are usually an extended family unit and will all assist with raising cubs. Territories are marked using droppings and anal gland secretions. Nomadic males range through several territories and mate with receptive females. It is interesting that males within each group do not generally mate with the females in the same group. Unlike the Spotted hyaena this species not particularly vocal.


Predominantly a scavenger, but includes a wide range of small vertebrates, insects and fruits.


A litter of 1-4 cubs is born in a underground burrow after a gestation period of 90 days.

Life span

14 years


The brown hyaena used to occur widely in southern Africa but the numbers are drastically reduced today. This species has been relentlessly hunted by stock farmers that regard it as a threat to their sheep and goat stocks. Loss of habitat as a result of farming has also contributed.

Text by Denise Hamerton

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