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Brown Hyena
Asset 8

Brown Hyena

Where to see Brown Hyena in South 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

The top camps for seeing brown hyena in South Africa

Based on 6 reports by our travellers since Jun 2018, visitors at these camps in South Africa have the best chances of sighting brown hyena.

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.


Our best South Africa holidays for brown hyena sightings

Based on our travellers' reports, these ideas for South Africa safaris are likely to give the best brown hyena sightings

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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$3,280 - US$3,780 per person

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Kwandwe Self-drive Safari

3 days • 1 locations

An elegantly stylish lodge that is well suited to families, Kwandwe offers a range of safari activities and the chance to sight all of the "Big 5" during exploration of the Eastern Cape.

US$2,830 - US$4,400 per person

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Leopard Safari

13 days • 4 locations

Victoria Falls, Botswana and Cape Town – a classic southern African itinerary combining luxury, wilderness, safari and culture. We can't think of a better way to spend two weeks.

US$12,200 - US$17,980 per person

View all holidays to South Africa

More information about brown hyena in our other destinations

Click here for detailed information about brown hyena in other countries, including the places for sighting brown hyena.

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