This creature has pointed ears and striped legs with a dark brown to black shaggy coat, white shoulders and neck. It stands 800 mm at the shoulder and weighs 40 Kg. They have a long cream-coloured mane which extends from the back of their neck across the shoulder bones. The head and neck, are grey, and the legs, are covered with brown and grey bars.
The Brown Hyena is a carnivore which has adapted to a scavenging lifestyle. It will however, supplement its diet with insects, birds' eggs and wild fruits and even occasionally kill small animals. The Brown Hyena is mainly a scavenger, feeding upon carcasses of large herbivores killed by other animals. Their jaw and dentary adaptations allow them to break open the long bones of these large animals and feed on the marrow inside.
Brown Hyenas are non seasonal breeders and have a gestation period of about 90 days. Females give birth to 1 to 4 young. Young are suckled for more than a year and live in the den for up to 18 months. Mother's milk is supplemented with meat from three months of age. At birth Brown Hyena have the same body colouration as adults and reach full size by 30 months.
They are solitary and nocturnal, lying during the day in thick bush or in deserted Aardvark burrows. Brown Hyenas live in small clans ranging from a breeding pair and their young to groups of several mature males and females. The clan cooperatively defends a territory, but do not forage together.
In South Africa they are found in the southern savannahs, grasslands, semi-deserts and deserts. It is an extremely retiring animal, as illustrated by the fact that it still persists north-west of Pretoria in the Magaliesberg mountain range. Brown Hyenas are a common sight along the Skeleton Coast, where they feed on detritus washed from the Atlantic Ocean. They tend to avoid areas frequented by the spotted Hyena.