The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Squirrel
Story Of The Otter
Story Of The Civet
Story Of The Crocodile
Story Of The Sloth
Story Of The Tortoise
Story Of The Ocelot
Story Of The Wolf
Story Of The Badger
Story Of The Hyena
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Story Of The Hyena
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In all my associations with hunters, travellers and naturalists, I have never yet been able to find one who would defend the hyena, which by common consent is classed as the most skulking, cowardly, cruel and treacherous of beasts.
The hyena is remarkable for its predatory, ferocious, and withal cowardly habits. There are several hyenas, the striped, the spotted, and the shaggy, rough-coated, but the habits of all are very similar. The hyenas, although very repulsive in appearance, are yet very useful, as they prowl in search of dead animals, especially of the larger kinds, and will devour them even when putrid, so that they act the same part among beasts that the vultures do among birds, and are equally uninviting in aspect. They not unfrequently dig up recently interred corpses, and in Abyssinia they even flock in numbers into the village streets, where they prey on slaughtered men who are thrown out unburied. One of these animals attacked the explorer Bruce in his tent, and was only destroyed after a severe battle. Their jaws and teeth are exceedingly powerful„ as they can crush the thigh-bone of an ox with apparently little effort; and so great is the strain upon the bones by the exertions of these muscles, that the vertebra of the neck become united together, and the animal has a perpetual stiff neck in consequence.
In Syria and Palestine the favorite haunts of the striped hyena are the rock-cut tombs so common in these countries; but in India it is more commonly found in holes and caves in rocks. I have more than once turned one out of a sugar-cane field when looking for jackals, and it very commonly lurks among ruins; but in general its den is in a hole dug by itself on the side of a hill or ravine, or a cave in a rock. The call of the hyena is a very disagreeable, unearthly cry, and dogs are often tempted out by it when near, and fall a victim to the stealthy marauder. On one occasion a small dog be-longing to an officer was taken off by a hyena very early in the morning.
The den of this beast was known to be not far off in some sandstone cliffs, and some sepoys of the detachment went after it, entered the cave, killed the hyena, and recovered the dog alive, with but little damage done to it. A hyena, though it does not appear to move very fast, gets over rough ground in a wonderful manner, and it takes a good long run to overtake it on horseback, unless in most favorable ground. A stray hyena is now and then met with by a party of sportsmen, followed and speared; but sometimes not till after a run of three or four miles, if the ground is broken by ravines. It is a cowardly animal, and shows but little fight when brought to bay. The young are very tamable, and show great signs of attachment to their owner, in spite of all that has been written about the untamable ferocity of the hyena.
The striped hyena's food is mainly carrion or carcasses killed by other animals; and in inhabited districts the animal is much dreaded on account of its grave-robbing propensities. Portions of such carcasses as it finds are eaten on the spot, while other parts are dragged off to its den, the situation of which is generally indicated by the fragments of bones around the entrance. These hyenas will also feast on skeletons that have been picked down to the bone by jackals and vultures; the bone-cracking power of the hyena's jaws rendering such relics acceptable, if not favorite, food.
The striped hyena probably on account of its "body-snatching" propensities is cordially detested by the natives of all the countries it inhabits. When a hyena is killed, the body is treated in many parts of India with every mark of indignity, and finally burnt. On one occasion in the Punjab, I came across a party of natives cruelly ill-treating a nearly full-grown hyena, which had been rendered helpless by its jaws being muzzled and its feet broken. I soon ended the sufferings of the poor brute by a bullet.
Although, owing to their nocturnal habits, hyenas are seldom seen, yet in some parts of India, from the multitude of their tracks, they must be very common.
The African spotted hyena is much larger and more powerful than the striped species. It inhabits the greater part of Africa at the present day. Formerly the geographical range of this hyena was far more extensive than it is at present, as is proved by the vast quantities of its remains found in the caves of various parts of Europe, from Gibraltar in the south to Yorkshire in the north. It was formerly considered, indeed, that the so-called "cave-hyena" indicated a distinct species from the living one; but zoologists are now generally in accord in regarding the two as specifically identical, al-though the fossil European hyenas were generally of larger dimensions than the existing African form.