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Brown Hyena
Asset 8

Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena in Africa

This largely solitary scavenger is one of the more elusive and little-known of Africa’s carnivores. Shaggier than its spotted cousin, it occurs only in the arid southwest of the continent.

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Quick facts about Brown Hyena

Scientific name: Parahyaena brunnea Habitat: Semi-desert & savannah
IUCN status: Near Threatened Adult weight: 37–43kg

The brown hyena is a highly resourceful predator. Adapted to surviving in the arid Kalahari and Namib deserts, it scavenges on carcasses left by other predators but will also feed on insects, rodents, desert melons and – along the Namibian coast – abandoned seal pups.

Slightly smaller than the spotted hyena, you can distinguish a brown hyena by its pointed ears and shaggy brown coat, which it erects to intimidate other predators from their kills – even leopards.

Though generally seen alone, brown hyenas live in extended family clans, with all members cooperating to raise cubs. They are most active after dark, and cover great distances during their nightly foraging.


Foraging range

< 10,000

Estimated population


Length of neck hairs


Average clan size

Africa's top camps for seeing brown hyenas

Based on 244 reports by our travellers since May 2018, the camps below have the best chances of sighting brown hyenas. Simply follow the key below.

Best chances to see

Good chances to see

Some sightings

No sightings yet

Top 10 camps for brown hyena

% of travellers who saw brown hyena

Top 10 camps for brown hyena

% of travellers who saw brown hyena

Where to see brown hyenas in Africa

The brown hyena is much harder to see than the spotted hyena, due both to its restricted range and retiring nature. You will need to visit the Kalahari, Namibia or northwest South Africa.

Top tips for viewing brown hyena

Brown hyenas are most numerous in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Botswana), the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Botswana/South Africa) and the coastal and northern desert regions of Namibia. You may also see them in northern South Africa, notably in the Madikwe and Pilanesberg reserves. In general, brown hyenas avoid areas with high populations of lion or spotted hyena.

Wherever they occur, however, these shy animals take some finding. They are largely nocturnal and much less vocal than spotted hyenas. They also tend to forage alone.

The best sightings often come at a known den, at dawn or dusk, where the animals have become habituated to human observers. It’s always worth asking your guide.


Holiday ideas to see brown hyenas

Based on our travellers experiences, these are the holidays which will give you the best chances of good brown hyena sightings

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Black-faced Impala Guided Safari

13 days • 6 locations

A unique mix of luxury and adventure in our original, and perhaps most varied, destination on a privately guided Namibian overland safari. Perfect for families, friends or couples travelling together.

US$4,950 - US$6,520 per person

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Pygmy Mouse Self-drive Safari

18 days • 10 locations

A truly epic southern African self-drive safari adventure from Namibia’s mountains and deserts, along the lush Caprivi Strip to Botswana and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, staying at luxury lodges throughout.

US$6,230 - US$10,480 per person

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Black Wildebeest Self-drive Safari

19 days • 10 locations

Journey from South Africa’s cosmopolitan Cape Town to central Namibia’s Okonjima Nature Reserve during this self-driven safari. The route passes through a stunning variety of landscapes, offering access to this beautiful continent’s rich diversity.

US$3,350 - US$3,850 per person

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Goshawk Fly-in Safari

12 days • 6 locations

Discover Namibia’s remarkable landscapes, fascinating wildlife and unique cultures on this luxury adventure flying between a selection of the very best camps and lodges in the country.

US$11,880 - US$19,640 per person

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Dune Lark Fly & Drive Safari

14 days • 8 locations

A combination fly-in self-drive exploration of Namibia, with quick, easy and scenic flights in and out of Sossusvlei before a classic road trip adventure of the country’s rugged north.

US$4,780 - US$5,840 per person

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Our top destinations for brown hyenas

Click below for detailed information about brown hyenas in these countries, including our latest sightings data from the camps and lodges there.

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