This picture of a were-hyena is copyright 2003 by Jamie Hall Common in legends from Morocco to Angola, were-hyenas are surely the African equivalent of the werewolf. Like wolves, hyenas run in packs, and they have been traditionally regarded with great fear, even though the animals themselves are not deserving of their bad reputation.

In hyena packs, the females are highly dominant over the males, and this fact of hyena life seems to be reflected in the legends: female were-hyenas are said to be more common than the males (though this feature varies depending on which region's folklore you listen to).

The most common way to become a were-hyena is to inherit the property. A race called the Bouda has the strongest reputation for having many were-hyenas among them, and because of this, "Bouda" has become a synonym for "were-hyena" in many regions of Africa, even in some places that lack the Bouda race.

These creatures are even found on occasion outside of Africa. Of the four hyena species, the brown hyena is the only one to extend its range into the Middle East, India and Turkey. Though it has recently been hunted to near extinction in most of its non-African range, a few remnant pockets of brown hyenas still survive. In Syria, Bulgaria and Greece, legend still recalls the were-hyenas, who were often portrayed as running in mixed packs also consisting of werewolves.

Go to the Library
Find out more about human hyenas by reading pages 113-115 of the book African Mythology by Jan Knappert, pages 175-192 of the book Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures by Jamie Hall and pages 145-153 of the book African Folklore by Richard Dorson.

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The text on this page is copyright 2007 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.

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