When a mother does her best, she expects a well-behaved child. But for top-dog hyena moms, a hell-raiser is preferred. Alpha females give a. If ever an animal needed rebranding, it's the hyena—a strong, smart animal (Read more about hyena sexual quirks in How Can You Tell a. Thefemale spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is well known, among connoisseurs of this sort of thing, to have among the most 'masculinized'.
The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), also known as the laughing hyena, is a hyena species, .. Spotted hyenas reach sexual maturity at the age of three years. When a mother does her best, she expects a well-behaved child. But for top-dog hyena moms, a hell-raiser is preferred. Alpha females give a. Thefemale spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is well known, among connoisseurs of this sort of thing, to have among the most 'masculinized'.
Thefemale spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is well known, among connoisseurs of this sort of thing, to have among the most 'masculinized'. In Aesop's fable “The Hyenas,” they “change their sex each year.” Even Ernest Hemingway called the hyena a “hermaphroditic self-eating. When a mother does her best, she expects a well-behaved child. But for top-dog hyena moms, a hell-raiser is preferred. Alpha females give a.
Indeed, biologists since Charles Darwin have marvelled at its amazing member, which measures in some species up to a whopping nine times the length of its body. Why is the barnacle thus endowed? As adults, these marine crustaceans cement themselves to rocks in intertidal zones, hulls of boats and the bodies of turtles and whales. This lifestyle makes sexual reproduction somewhat challenging. Although barnacles are hermaphrodites, hyenas both male and female genitalia, they rarely have sex with themselves.
Instead, they use their extraordinarily long penises to reach out and find a mate within striking distance. Barnacle penises resemble muscular telescopes. They have a series of folded rings that allow it to stretch to great lengths. Hyenas the untrained eye it is hard to pick the females in a clan of spotted hyenas.
Females also have no vagina, which means that mating can be a hit-and-miss affair where the males with their actual penis must inseminate the females through the narrow clitoral opening. Birth for first-time mums is even more eye-watering, as the pups exit sex this same narrow canal, splitting it open. More than half the pups suffocate on their way out. The biology behind the masculine-looking clitoris is not yet fully understood.
It appears to develop without the influence of male sex hormones. One suggestion is that the cellular receptors that detect male sex hormones could be faulty in spotted hyenas, so sex the receptors are sex switched on.
Other hyena species — brown ones, striped ones and hyenas — have escaped this evolutionary quirk. The Argentine blue-billed duck is another animal that rates highly in the penis-to-body length stakes.
For a start, the fact it even has one is unusual. Duck penises are twisted like corkscrews, and grow anew each year. Duck vaginas corkscrew in the opposite direction. The twisted organs are a classic case of an evolutionary battle of the sexes. In this case, the females have the upper hand. In all but one of more than a dozen antechinus species, males live for a single frenzied season of fornication and die soon after. Recommended The incredible — and bizarre — spectrum of animal colour vision Biology.
It is not uncommon for insects and fish such as Pacific salmon to put their resources into a single bout of mating before they cark it. Food supply is the most likely culprit.
In places where insect availability is highly variable across seasons, females squeeze their mating into a short window so their offspring will be born hyenas food is plentiful. This is especially important for marsupials, whose pouched young need to be suckled for several months. The result is that a male antechinus is a kamikaze Casanova, staking hyenas his resources on frantic mating marathons lasting up to 14 hours.
His fur falls out, his stress hormones are through the roof and his immune system collapses. Then he dies, though hopefully his genes sex live on in the next generation. Anglerfish, with their bobbly lures hanging off sex heads, are weird creatures hyenas the best of times.
Sex how the males lure females into sex is stranger still. Other male fish impress prospective mates with brightly coloured scales or mating dances. Not so for some species of anglerfish. A young male, which is significantly smaller than a female, will hunt down a companion and sink his teeth into her flesh.
Thus attached, the male becomes a tumour-like parasite, relying hyenas the female for food, delivered directly via their now melded blood vessels. Nutrition aside, the parasitic male is also afforded prime real estate from which to release sperm when the female releases her eggs. Whereas humans and most other mammals have a sex vagina, leading to a single uterus, marsupials — such as koalas, kangaroos, wombats, opossums and sugar-gliders — have three vaginas sex two uteri.
The narrow size of the central passage probably makes early birth followed by development of the young in a pouch a necessity. Digital Issues Buy a back issue. Renew my subscription Give sex Gift Manage my subscription.
Features Biology 05 February While the basic thrust of sexual reproduction remains the same throughout nature — sperm meets egg — hyenas animals have evolved impressive adaptations to make it work. Dyani Lewis takes hyenas peek. Though barnacles are hermaphrodites, it is their male side that most shows the scale of attachment issues. Spot the difference: the spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta While it may be hard to spot the females in a pack of spotted hyenas, they certainly stand out from the females of other hyena species.
Paddling softly but carrying a big stick. Twisted organs are a classic case of an evolutionary battle of the sexes. Reproductive success for the male antechinus depends on one frantic binge lasting up to 14 hours a day for two to three weeks. The incredible — and bizarre — spectrum of animal colour vision Biology.
A female deep sea anglerfish Edriolychnus schmidti with two males on her back. Explore reproduction nature animal behaviour. Dyani Lewis is sex freelance science journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Looking for more science? Click here to see our subscription options. Click here to see our gift options.
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While the bizarre genitals thus aren't simply a side effect of the androgen, they certainly evolved for a reason. What the high levels of androgen are likely doing, by the way, is causing males to begin mounting females at a younger age.
The hyena's eating habits, too, have been the source of misplaced revulsion. Sixteenth-century naturalist Conrad Gesner claimed hyenas gorge themselves so thoroughly that they must force themselves between two trees or boulders to squeeze their meals out of both ends.
Incorrect, to be sure, but the hyena will in fact eat pretty much anything it can get its teeth on. The Aberdeen Bestiary's depiction of the crocotta, with percent less genitals than the bestiary's illustration of the mythical creature's inspiration, the hyena.
With their one-of-a-kind sex, hyenas were used in such bestiaries to illustrate the evils of homosexuality. These authors had no way of knowing it, but homosexual behavior has been observed in all kinds of species , from dolphins to penguins to certain homophobic politicians.
Image: Wikimedia. Here, take a look at these adorable cubs. This article is going to get a bit heavy. The medieval Aberdeen Bestiary's depiction of the hyena and its, uh, naughty bits. View Comments.
Fur colour varies greatly and changes with age. The spots, which are of variable distinction, may be reddish, deep brown or almost blackish. A less distinct spot pattern is present on the legs and belly but not on the throat and chest.
A set of five, pale and barely distinct bands replace the spots on the back and sides of the neck. A broad, medial band is present on the back of the neck, and is lengthened into a forward facing crest. The crest is mostly reddish-brown in colour. The crown and upper part of the face is brownish, save for a white band above both eyes, though the front of the eyes, the area around the rhinarium, the lips and the back portion of the chin are all blackish.
The limbs are spotted, though the feet vary in colour, from light brown to blackish. The genitalia of the female closely resembles that of the male; the clitoris is shaped and positioned like a penis, a pseudo-penis , and is capable of erection.
The female also possesses no external vagina vaginal opening , as the labia are fused to form a pseudo- scrotum. The pseudo-penis is traversed to its tip by a central urogenital canal, through which the female urinates, copulates and gives birth. After giving birth , the pseudo-penis is stretched, and loses many of its original aspects; it becomes a slack-walled and reduced prepuce with an enlarged orifice with split lips. Spotted hyenas are social animals that live in large communities referred to as " clans " which can consist of at most 80 individuals.
The clan is a fission-fusion society , in which clan-members do not often remain together, but may forage alone or in small groups. Although individual spotted hyenas only care for their own young, and males take no part in raising their young, cubs are able to identify relatives as distantly related as great-aunts.
Also, males associate more closely with their own daughters rather than unrelated cubs, and the latter favour their fathers by acting less aggressively toward them. Spotted hyena societies are more complex than those of other carnivorous mammals, and are remarkably similar to those of cercopithecine primates in respect to group size, structure, competition and cooperation. Like cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities, recognise individual conspecifics, are conscious that some clan-mates may be more reliable than others, recognise third-party kin and rank relationships among clan-mates, and adaptively use this knowledge during social decision making.
Also, like cercopithecine primates, dominance ranks in hyena societies are not correlated with size or aggression, but with ally networks. However, rank reversals and overthrows in spotted hyena clans are very rare. Female hyenas are more flexible than males in their social bonding preferences. Home ranges are defended through vocal displays, scent marking and boundary patrols.
Clan boundaries are usually respected; hyenas chasing prey have been observed to stop dead in their tracks once their prey crosses into another clan's range. Hyenas will however ignore clan boundaries in times of food shortage. Males are more likely to enter another clan's territory than females are, as they are less attached to their natal group and will leave it when in search of a mate.
Hyenas travelling in another clan's home range typically exhibit bodily postures associated with fear, particularly when meeting other hyenas. An intruder can be accepted into another clan after a long period of time if it persists in wandering into the clan's territory, dens or kills.
The spotted hyena is a non-seasonal breeder, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season. Females are polyestrous, with an estrus period lasting two weeks. Members of both sexes may copulate with several mates over the course of several years. Older females show a similar preference, with the addition of preferring males with whom they have had long and friendly prior relationships. These unusual traits make mating more laborious for the male than in other mammals, while also ensuring that rape is physically impossible.
Once this is accomplished, a typical mammalian mating posture is adopted. The length of the gestation period tends to vary greatly, though days is the average length of time. Cubs are born with soft, brownish black hair, and weigh 1.
Also, cubs will attack each other shortly after birth. This is particularly apparent in same sexed litters, and can result in the death of the weaker cub.
Male cubs which survive grow faster and are likelier to achieve reproductive dominance, while female survivors eliminate rivals for dominance in their natal clan. Spotted hyenas exhibit adult behaviours very early in life; cubs have been observed to ritually sniff each other and mark their living space before the age of one month. Within ten days of birth, they are able to move at considerable speed.
Cubs begin to lose the black coat and develop the spotted, lighter coloured pelage of the adults at 2—3 months. They begin to exhibit hunting behaviours at the age of eight months, and will begin fully participating in group hunts after their first year. The average lifespan in zoos is 12 years, with a maximum of 25 years. The clan's social life revolves around a communal den.
While some clans may use particular den sites for years, others may use several different dens within a year or several den sites simultaneously. In the rocky areas of East Africa and Congo, spotted hyenas use caves as dens, while those in the Serengeti use kopjes as resting areas in daylight hours. Dens have large bare patches around their entrances, where hyenas move or lie down on. Because of their size, adult hyenas are incapable of using the full extent of their burrows, as most tunnels are dug by cubs or smaller animals.
The structure of the den, consisting of small underground channels, is likely an effective anti-predator device which protects cubs from predation during the absence of the mother. Spotted hyenas rarely dig their own dens, having been observed for the most part to use the abandoned burrows of warthogs, springhares and jackals. Faeces are usually deposited 20 metres 66 feet away from the den, though they urinate wherever they happen to be. Dens are used mostly by several females at once, and it is not uncommon to see up to 20 cubs at a single site.
This chamber measures up to 2 metres 6. The latter is primarily used by low status females in order to maintain continual access to their cubs, as well as ensure that they become acquainted with their cubs before transferral to the communal den. Compared to other hyenas, the spotted hyena shows a greater relative amount of frontal cortex which is involved in the mediation of social behavior.
Studies strongly suggest convergent evolution in spotted hyena and primate intelligence. Experienced hyenas even helped inexperienced clan-mates to solve the problem. In contrast, chimps and other primates often require extensive training, and cooperation between individuals is not always as easy for them.
Similarly, mothers will emit alarm calls in attempting to interrupt attacks on their cubs by other hyenas. Unlike other large African carnivores, spotted hyenas do not preferentially prey on any species, and only African buffalo and giraffe are significantly avoided.
Carrion is detected by smell and the sound of other predators feeding. During daylight hours, they watch vultures descending upon carcasses. Spotted hyenas usually hunt wildebeest either singly, or in groups of two or three. Chases are usually initiated by one hyena and, with the exception of cows with calves, there is little active defence from the wildebeest herd. Wildebeest will sometimes attempt to escape hyenas by taking to water although, in such cases, the hyenas almost invariably catch them.
Typical zebra hunting groups consist of 10—25 hyenas,  though there is one record of a hyena killing an adult zebra unaided. Though hyenas may harass the stallion, they usually only concentrate on the herd and attempt to dodge the stallion's assaults.
Unlike stallions, mares typically only react aggressively to hyenas when their foals are threatened. Unlike wildebeest, zebras rarely take to water when escaping hyenas.
Female gazelles do not defend their fawns, though they may attempt to distract hyenas by feigning weakness. The spotted hyena is the most carnivorous member of the Hyaenidae. The spotted hyena is very efficient at eating its prey; not only is it able to splinter and eat the largest ungulate bones, it is also able to digest them completely.
Spotted hyenas can digest all organic components in bones, not just the marrow. Any inorganic material is excreted with the faeces, which consist almost entirely of a white powder with few hairs. They react to alighting vultures more readily than other African carnivores, and are more likely to stay in the vicinity of lion kills or human settlements.
Wildebeest are the most commonly taken medium-sized ungulate prey item in both Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, with zebra and Thomson's gazelles coming close behind. Springbok and kudu are the main prey in Namibia 's Etosha National Park , and springbok in the Namib. In the southern Kalahari , gemsbok , wildebeest and springbok are the principal prey. In Chobe , the spotted hyena's primary prey consists of migratory zebra and resident impala. Bushbuck , suni and buffalo are the dominant prey items in the Aberdare Mountains , while Grant's gazelle , gerenuk , sheep , goats and cattle are likely preyed upon in northern Kenya.
In west Africa, the spotted hyena is primarily a scavenger who will occasionally attack domestic stock and medium-size antelopes in some areas. In Cameroon , it is common for spotted hyenas to feed on small antelopes like kob , but may also scavenge on reedbuck , kongoni , buffalo, giraffe, African elephant , topi and roan antelope carcasses.
Records indicate that spotted hyenas in Malawi feed on medium to large-sized ungulates such as waterbuck and impala. In Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve , spotted hyenas primarily prey on wildebeest, followed by buffalo, zebra, impala, giraffe, reedbuck and kongoni.
In Uganda , it is thought that the species primarily preys on birds and reptiles, while in Zambia it is considered a scavenger. Spotted hyenas have also been found to catch fish , tortoises , humans , black rhino , hippo calves, young African elephants, pangolins and pythons.
Jane Goodall recorded spotted hyenas attacking or savagely playing with the exterior and interior fittings of cars , and the species is thought to be responsible for eating car tyres. The fossil record indicates that the now extinct European spotted hyenas primarily fed on Przewalski's horses , Irish elk , reindeer , red deer , roe deer , fallow deer , wild boar , ibex , steppe wisent , aurochs , and woolly rhinoceros.
Spotted hyenas are thought to be responsible for the dis-articulation and destruction of some cave bear skeletons. Such large carcasses were an optimal food resource for hyenas, especially at the end of winter, when food was scarce. A single spotted hyena can eat at least When feeding on an intact carcass, spotted hyenas will first consume the meat around the loins and anal region, then open the abdominal cavity and pull out the soft organs.
Once the stomach, its wall and contents are consumed, the hyenas will eat the lungs and abdominal and leg muscles. Once the muscles have been eaten, the carcass is disassembled and the hyenas carry off pieces to eat in peace. Where spotted hyenas and lions occupy the same geographic area, the two species occupy the same ecological niche, and are thus in direct competition with one another.
In some cases, the extent of dietary overlap can be as high as There exists a common misconception that hyenas steal kills from lions, but most often it is the other way around,  and lions will readily steal the kills of spotted hyenas. In the Ngorongoro Crater , it is common for lions to subsist largely on kills stolen from hyenas.
Lions are quick to follow the calls of hyenas feeding, a fact demonstrated by field experiments, during which lions repeatedly approached whenever the tape-recorded calls of hyenas feeding were played. When confronted on a kill by lions, spotted hyenas will either leave or wait patiently at a distance of 30— metres until the lions have finished eating.
The two species may act aggressively toward one another even when there is no food at stake. Spotted hyenas have adapted to this pressure by frequently mobbing lions which enter their territories.
Although cheetahs and leopards preferentially prey on smaller animals than those hunted by spotted hyenas, hyenas will steal their kills when the opportunity presents itself. Cheetahs are usually easily intimidated by hyenas, and put up little resistance,  while leopards, particularly males, may stand up to hyenas. There are records of some male leopards preying on hyenas.
Spotted hyenas will follow packs of African wild dogs in order to appropriate their kills. They will typically inspect areas where wild dogs have rested and eat any food remains they find. When approaching wild dogs at a kill, solitary hyenas will approach cautiously and attempt to take off with a piece of meat unnoticed, though they may be mobbed by the dogs in the attempt. When operating in groups, spotted hyenas are more successful in pirating dog kills, though the dog's greater tendency to assist each other puts them at an advantage against spotted hyenas, who rarely work in unison.
Cases of dogs scavenging from spotted hyenas are rare. Although wild dog packs can easily repel solitary hyenas, on the whole, the relationship between the two species is a one sided benefit for the hyenas,  with wild dog densities being negatively correlated with high hyena populations.
Black-backed and side-striped jackals , and African golden wolves will feed alongside hyenas, though they will be chased if they approach too closely. Spotted hyenas will sometimes follow jackals and wolves during the gazelle fawning season, as jackals and wolves are effective at tracking and catching young animals.
Hyenas do not take to eating wolf flesh readily; four hyenas were reported to take half an hour in eating a golden wolf. Overall, the two animals typically ignore each other when there is no food or young at stake. Though they readily take to water to catch and store prey, spotted hyenas will avoid crocodile-infested waters,  and usually keep a safe distance from Nile crocodiles. Recent observations shows that African rock pythons can hunt adult spotted hyenas.
Spotted hyenas dominate other hyena species wherever their ranges overlap. Brown hyenas encounter spotted hyenas in the Kalahari , where the brown outnumber the spotted.
The two species typically encounter each other on carcasses, which the larger spotted species usually appropriate. Sometimes, brown hyenas will stand their ground and raise their manes while emitting growls. This usually has the effect of seemingly confusing spotted hyenas, which will act bewildered, though they will occasionally attack and maul their smaller cousins.
Similar interactions have been recorded between spotted and striped hyenas in the Serengeti. Spotted hyenas have a complex set of postures in communication. When afraid, the ears are folded flat, and are often combined with baring of the teeth and a flattening of the mane.
When attacked by other hyenas or by wild dogs, the hyena lowers its hindquarters. Before and during an assertive attack, the head is held high with the ears cocked, mouth closed, mane erect and the hindquarters high.
The tail usually hangs down when neutral, though it will change position according to the situation. When a high tendency to flee an attacker is apparent, the tail is curled below the belly. During an attack, or when excited, the tail is carried forward on the back. An erect tail does not always accompany a hostile encounter, as it has also been observed to occur when a harmless social interaction occurs.
Although they do not wag their tails, spotted hyenas will flick their tails when approaching dominant animals or when there is a slight tendency to flee. When approaching a dominant animal, subordinate spotted hyenas will walk on the knees of their forelegs in submission. Both individuals raise their hind legs and lick each other's anogenital area.
Erection is usually a sign of submission, rather than dominance, and is more common in males than in females. It is said that feasting Hyaenas engage in violent fights, and there is such a croaking, shrieking and laughing at such times that a superstitious person might really think all the inhabitants of the infernal regions had been let loose.
The spotted hyena has an extensive vocal range, with sounds ranging from whoops, fast whoops, grunts, groans, lows, giggles, yells, growls, soft grunt-laughs, loud grunt-laughs, whines and soft squeals. The loud "who-oop" call, along with the maniacal laughter, are among the most recognisable sounds of Africa.
Typically, very high-pitched calls indicate fear or submission, while loud, lower-pitched calls express aggression. Hans Kruuk compiled the following table on spotted hyena calls in ; . Spotted hyenas may contract brucellosis , rinderpest [ citation needed ] and anaplasmosis. They are vulnerable to Trypanosoma congolense , which is contracted by consuming already infected herbivores, rather than through direct infection from tsetse flies.
During the canine distemper outbreak of —94, molecular studies indicated that the viruses isolated from hyenas and lions were more closely related to each other than to the closest canine distemper virus in dogs. Evidence of canine distemper in spotted hyenas has also been recorded in the Masai Mara. Exposure to rabies does not cause clinical symptoms or affect individual survival or longevity.
Analyses of several hyena saliva samples showed that the species is unlikely to be a rabies vector, thus indicating that the species catches the disease from other animals rather than from intraspecifics. The microfilaria of Dipetalonema dracuneuloides have been recorded in spotted hyenas in northern Kenya. The species is known to carry at least three cestode species of the genus Taenia , none of which are harmful to humans. It also carries protozoan parasites of the genus Hepatozoon in the Serengeti, Kenya and South Africa.
Trichinella spiralis are found as cysts in hyena muscles. The spotted hyena's distribution once ranged in Europe from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals , where it remained for at least one million years. Europe experienced a massive loss of lowland habitats favoured by spotted hyenas, and a corresponding increase in mixed woodlands. Spotted hyenas, under these circumstances, would have been outcompeted by wolves and humans which were as much at home in forests as in open lands, and in highlands as in lowlands.
Spotted hyena populations began to shrink roughly 20, years ago, completely disappearing from Western Europe between 14—11, years ago, and earlier in some areas. Historically, the spotted hyena was widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. It is present in all habitats save for the most extreme desert conditions, tropical rainforests and the top of alpine mountains. Its current distribution is patchy in many places, especially in West Africa. Populations are concentrated in protected areas and surrounding land.
It is scarce or absent in tropical rainforests and coastal areas. Its preferred habitats in west Africa include the Guinea and Sudan savannahs, and is absent in the belt of dense coastal forest. In the Namib Desert , it occurs in riverine growth along seasonal rivers, the sub-desertic pro-Namib and the adjoining inland plateau. In ideal habitats, the spotted hyena outnumbers other large carnivores, including other hyena species.
However, the striped and brown hyena occur at greater densities than the spotted species in desert and semi-desert regions. The spotted hyena cave hyena subspecies is depicted in a few examples of Upper Palaeolithic rock art in France. A painting from the Chauvet Cave depicts a hyena outlined and represented in profile, with two legs, with its head and front part with well distinguishable spotted coloration pattern.
Because of the specimen's steeped profile, it is thought that the painting was originally meant to represent a cave bear , but was modified as a hyena.
In Lascaux , a red and black rock painting of a hyena is present in the part of the cave known as the Diverticule axial, and is depicted in profile, with four limbs, showing an animal with a steep back.
The body and the long neck have spots, including the flanks. Its head is in profile, with a possibly re-engraved muzzle.
The ear is typical of the spotted hyena, as it is rounded. An image in the Le Gabillou Cave in Dordogne shows a deeply engraved zoomorphic figure with a head in frontal view and an elongated neck with part of the forelimb in profile. It has large round eyes and short, rounded ears which are set far from each other. It has a broad, line-like mouth that evokes a smile. Though originally thought to represent a composite or zoomorphic hybrid, it is probable it is a spotted hyena based on its broad muzzle and long neck.
The relative scarcity of hyena depictions in Paleolithic rock art has been theorised to be due to the animal's lower rank in the animal worship hierarchy; the spotted hyena's appearance was likely unappealing to Ice Age hunters, and it was not sought after as prey. Also, it was not a serious rival like the cave lion or cave bear , and it lacked the impressiveness of the mammoth or woolly rhino. In Africa, the spotted hyena is usually portrayed as an abnormal and ambivalent animal, considered to be sly, brutish, necrophagous and dangerous.
It further embodies physical power, excessivity, ugliness, stupidity, as well as sacredness. Spotted hyenas vary in their folkloric and mythological depictions, depending on the ethnic group from which the tales originate. It is often difficult to know whether or not spotted hyenas are the specific hyena species featured in such stories, particularly in West Africa, as both spotted and striped hyenas are often given the same names. In East Africa, Tabwa mythology portrays the spotted hyena as a solar animal that first brought the sun to warm the cold earth.
In the culture of the Mbugwe in Tanzania, the spotted hyena is linked to witchcraft. According to Mbugwe folklore, every witch possesses one or more hyenas, which are referred to as "night cattle" and are branded with an invisible mark. It is said that all hyenas are owned by witches, and that truly wild hyenas are non-existent.
Lactating female spotted hyenas are said to be milked by their owners every night to make hyena butter , and are further used as mounts. When a witch acquires a hyena mount, he rides it to distant lands in order to bewitch victims and return safely home before morning. The Mbugwe consider killing hyenas to be dangerous, as the bond between the hyena and its owner is very strong, and will likely result in the witch seeking retribution.
In order to obviate this danger, a killed hyena usually has its ears, tail and front legs cut off and buried, as these are the parts which are supposed to be marked by the witches' brand.
In the same area, hyena faeces are believed to enable a child to walk at an early age, thus it is not uncommon in that area to see children with hyena dung wrapped in their clothes. The Kaguru of Tanzania and the Kujamaat of Southern Senegal view hyenas as inedible and greedy hermaphrodites.
A mythical African tribe called the Bouda is reputed to house members able to transform into hyenas. These " werehyenas " are executed when discovered, but do not revert to their human form when killed. Gogo folklore links the spotted hyena to the origin of death; in one tale, the hyena prevents humanity from achieving immortality , thus ensuring it can continue to eat corpses.
A similar tale is present among the Meru. In their narrative, the supreme god Murungu sent a mole to inform humanity that they would be reborn after death. Fearing this would deprive it of corpses to eat, the hyena prevents the mole from ever delivering the message. Madi and Nuer mythology links the spotted hyena to the separation between heaven and earth ; at one time, humanity kept in contact with the Creator in the sky via a cowhide rope, which was subsequently severed by a hungry hyena.
The Egyptian Saint abba Father Matewos of Asfoni was associated with hyenas; one fable tells of how he rescued a cub trapped in a pit, and had his feet licked in gratitude by its mother. In Ethiopian folklore, an albino hyena called the "King of Hyenas" is ascribed great power. Some ethnic groups in Ethiopia associate themselves with hyenas; the Gurage traditionally believe that their ancestors migrated from Arabia to Ethiopia using hyenas as mounts.
Spotted hyenas feature prominently in the rituals of certain African cultures. As the spotted hyena usually finishes the meals of other carnivores, the animal is associated with the conclusion of all things. The role of the spotted hyena mask in their rituals is often to turn the neophyte into a complete moral being by integrating his male principles with femininity.
The Beng people believe that upon finding a freshly killed hyena with its anus inverted, one must plug it back in, for fear of being struck down with perpetual laughter. They also view spotted hyena faeces as contaminating, and will evacuate a village if a hyena relieves itself within village boundaries. Traditional Western beliefs about the spotted hyena can be traced back to Aristotle 's Historia Animalium , which described the species as a necrophagous , cowardly and potentially dangerous animal.
Help us improve our products. Sign up to take part. A Nature Research Journal. Thefemale spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta is well known, among connoisseurs of this sort of thing, to have among the most 'masculinized' external genitalia of any known female mammal. Typically, a female has a large, erectile penis-like clitoris through which she gives birth, urinates and copulates.
How is this unusual situation related to the structure of those parts of the brain known to relate to sexual activity and preferences? Nancy Forger of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts and colleagues had the opportunity to examine this question after the Kenyan Wildlife Service shot six female and four male spotted hyenas as part of a programme of population control.
The researchers examined the hyenas' brains and present their findings in the November issue of Nature Neuroscience 1. It turns out that sex-related differences in the brains of hyenas are less marked than in other animals - but differences do remain. Female hyenas get their masculine traits while still in the womb: hyena fetuses, whether male or female, are bathed in high concentrations of male hormones.
This exposure accounts for the anatomy of the female hyenas' genitalia. However, female hyenas are still females and behave as such - female-female mounting is rare, and the females are incapable of actually mating.
If a hyena pup indulges in sex play, involving mounting other pups, that hyena is almost invariably a male. This difference is, in fact, modest compared with differences observed in many other mammals, including rats, gerbils, guinea pigs and ferrets.