Spotted Hyena

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Were-hyena is a neologism coined in analogy to werewolf for therianthropy involving hyenas. It is common in the folklore of North Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Near East, as well as some adjacent territories. Unlike werewolves and other therianthropes, which are usually portrayed as being originally human, some werehyena lore tells of how they can also be hyenas disguised as humans.

In the Kanuri language of the former Bornu Empire in the Lake Chad region, werehyenas are referred to as bultungin which translates into “I change myself into a hyena”. It was once traditionally believed that one or two of the villages in the region was populated entirely by werehyenas, such as Kabultiloa.

In the folklore of western Sudanic peoples, there is a hybrid creature, a human who is nightly transformed into a cannibalistic monster that terrorizes people, especially lovers. The creature is often portrayed as a magically powerful healer, blacksmith, or woodcutter in its human form, but recognizable through signs like a hairy body, red and gleaming eyes and a nasal voice.

Al-Doumairy, in his Hawayan Al-Koubra (1406), wrote that hyenas are vampiric creatures that attack people at night and suck the blood from their necks. Arab folklore tells of how hyenas can mesmerise victims with their eyes or sometimes with their pheromones.

A Persian medical treatise written in 1376 tells how to cure people known as kaftar, who are said to be “half-man, half-hyena,” who have the habit of slaughtering children.

The Greeks, until the end of the 19th century, believed that the bodies of werewolves, if not destroyed, would haunt battlefields as vampiric hyenas which drank the blood of dying soldiers.

An episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called The Pack, featured creatures similar to the werehyena

image 1: http://bpuig.deviantart.com/art/Human-to-hyena-353198779

image 2: A hyena, as depicted in a medieval bestiary

image 3: Engraving of a spotted hyena fromThomas Pennant‘s History of Quadrupeds, one of the first authentic depictions of the species