The brown hyena is a species of mammal native to Africa. Its scientific name refers to the coloration of its coat, which ranges from light tan to dark chocolate brown.
Brown Hyenas are carnivores; they eat meat, such as antelope, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, buffalo, hares, monkeys, fish, snakes, lizards, birds, rodents and carrion. Hyenas hunt alone or in packs. They use their long snouts to probe animal carcasses for food. Their diet varies depending on where they live. In some areas, they feed mainly on carrion, while others prefer to eat small prey like mice, rats, rabbits, insects, reptiles and amphibians.
Brown Hyenas communicate via scent marking and vocalizations, including grunts, growls, roars, screams and howling. They sometimes form clans called “prides”. A pride consists of one adult male and several females and their offspring.
A female may give birth every four months. She usually gives birth to a single pup, although twins are occasionally born. Females nurse their young for about six weeks, and males continue to help raise their cubs for another eight weeks. Cubs begin eating solid foods around three weeks old, and become independent at five weeks. At this age, they weigh about 15 pounds.
Hyenas reach sexual maturity at approximately 10 months. Male hyenas fight each other during mating season, and the victors often mate with subordinate females. An average litter size is 4–8 pups.
Brown Hyenas live up to 20 years in captivity.
The brown hyena lives in desert regions where there are few trees and bushes. They prefer rocky mountains and hillsides because they offer protection from predators. Hyenas live in groups called clans. A clan consists of about 10 individuals. Each member defends the territory against intruders. Hyenas mark out their territories by urinating and defecating. Territories usually range from 2 to 5 square kilometers.
Hyenas communicate with each other through scent markings, vocalizations, and visual signals. Clans consist of females and young adult males. Adult females do most of the hunting. Young male hyenas tend to remain with their mothers until they reach sexual maturity. Females give birth every three to four months. Newborn cubs weigh around 3 kilograms and measure 50 centimeters long. Cubs grow quickly and become independent within six weeks. Hyenas hunt mainly during twilight hours. They eat mostly carrion, small animals, eggs, reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects, fish, fruit, berries, nuts, roots, bulbs, and tubers. They also consume carcasses left behind by lions and leopards. In some cases, hyenas kill livestock and raid farms. They are known to attack domestic dogs and cats.
Brown Hyena – Ursus arctos arctos
A member of the dog family Canidae, the brown hyena is found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. A solitary animal, it lives alone except during mating season. Its diet consists mainly of small animals such as rodents and birds; occasionally it kills larger prey like antelope. It is one of the most social carnivores, living in groups called clans consisting of up to 25 individuals. These clans live together in territories ranging from about 0.5 square mile to 13 square miles. They spend the day resting in dens located within their territory, emerging at night to feed.
The brown hyena is sexually mature at 2–3 months old. After reaching sexual maturity, males remain single while females form monogamous pair bonds. Males reach sexual maturity at 3–4 months old, and females at 4–6 months old. Females give birth once every 2 years, typically to twins. Gestation lasts approximately 9 months and newborn cubs weigh about 5 kg (11 lb). Cubs begin eating solid food at 7 weeks, and open their eyes at 10 weeks. By 18 months, they are fully weaned and independent of their mothers. In captivity, female brown hyenas usually bear three litters per year.
Social behavior among brown hyenas has been studied since the 1970s. A study published in 1975 showed that dominant Brown hyenas are aggressive toward subordinates. In addition, subordinate hyenas often flee from dominant ones. This suggests that a social hierarchy exists within the species.
A later study found that there is no clear dominance structure. Hyena clans include both males and females, and members of different groups do not interact much. However, dominant animals frequently attack submissive ones. This indicates that some form of rank does exist within the group.
The most recent research focused on the relationship between age and status. Older hyenas are generally considered to be higher ranked than younger ones. Male hyenas become dominant around the age of 2–3 years old, while female hyenas reach the highest rank at about 5 years old. These differences indicate that rank is determined based on sex rather than age.
Hyena clans consist of several adult pairs, along with one or two young adults and sometimes cubs. Adult male hyenas tend to be larger than females, and adult males usually outrank adult females. Younger hyenas are less likely to challenge older ones. Thus, it appears that rank is inherited.
In addition to rank, hyenas exhibit aggression towards those outside their clan. Subordinate hyenas are attacked more often than those inside the clan. This indicates that social relationships influence the amount of aggression displayed.
While hyenas spend most of their lives alone, they occasionally join together to hunt. Such hunting parties are called “alliances”. Groups of up to 20 hyenas cooperate to catch prey such as wildebeest calves. Members of the alliance work together to kill the animal, and then divide the meat.
Hyenas are known to engage in infanticide, where mothers kill newborns. Infanticides occur mostly during the dry season, when food is scarce. Mothers are thought to kill their infants because they are too weak to survive without help.
Reproduction and life cycle
The brown hyena does not follow a typical breeding pattern. Females do not mate during the same period every year. They start reproducing at age 2, and continue throughout their lives. Their gestation period lasts about nine months, and they give birth to one cub per litter. They usually bear two litters each year.