This is the first time that I have seen a brown hyena and I think you will agree that the screenshot from the video makes the animal look very peculiar. It makes you want to find out more about the brown hyena. This group of lions, possibly a lion pride, were inquisitive about the animal – a potential prey animal – but it appears they were unsure about the creature and simply left it alone. Perhaps they hadn’t seen a brown hyena before either! They ended up drinking water together at a nearby water hole. A lot of the lions in the video are subadults which may be a factor in leaving the hyena alone.
The brown hyena looks like a more delicate and therefore more vulnerable species of hyena compared to the much larger spotted variety. The brown hyena is found in the Namibia, Botswana, western and southern Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique and South Africa. It is also called the strandwolf.
They are near threatened (IUCM Red List classification) meaning that they are heading towards extinction gradually and there are upwards of about 10,000 individuals left on the planet. Not a lot. As you can see, they have long shaggy brown coats and a cream-coloured ruff around their necks.
The hairs on their neck and back can be erected to make them look larger like a domestic cat when threatened as you see in the video. An average adult male weighs around 90 pounds while a female weighs slightly less at around 85 pounds. They have powerful jaws and a young brown hyena can break the leg bones of a springboks in five minutes but as they get older this skill deteriorates because of age and wear and tear on their teeth.
They are mainly scavengers. Most of their diet consists of large carcasses killed by more able predators such as, I expect, the lion. They supplement their diet with rodents, eggs, insects, fruit and fungi (the desert truffle). They are considered to be poor hunters and therefore fresh prey animals are a small part of their diet.
In the southern Kalahari, around 4% of their diet is made up of caught species such as spring hares, springbok lambs and bat-eared foxes.
It doesn’t surprise me that these lions backed off and didn’t attack the hyena. They were unsure about the strange animal and it pays to play safe. If they did know the animal, they might have known that it has very strong jaws. The point is they might have incurred an injury and when a lion is injured it can spell the end for them because they can no longer prey on animals to survive. Or their predation skills are severely compromised. Another possibility is that the lions had recently fed and were not hungry enough to take it.
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