Sources : Hyena

Aesop's Fables [6th century BCE +] (The Hyena and the Fox; Perry 242) They say that hyenas change their nature every year, so that sometimes they are male and sometimes female. So when a hyena saw a fox and criticized her for having spurned her friendly overtures, the fox replied, 'Don't blame me! Blame your own nature, which makes it impossible for me to tell whether you would be my girlfriend or my boyfriend!' [The Two Hyenas; Perry 243] They say that the hyena has a double nature: for a period of time the hyena is male, and then later on she is female. The story goes that when a male hyena was treating a female badly, she said to him, 'Listen here: remember how things used to be, and don't forget that I will be a male hyena the next time around!' - [ Gibbs translation]

Aristotle [ca. 350 BCE] (De animalibus Book 6, 28.2; 8, 7.2): [Book 6, 28.2] It is a mistake to say that each individual has the sexual organs of both sexes. That of the male resembles the same organ in the wolf and the dog. That which has been imagined to be the female organ is placed beneath the tail, and it resembles that of the female, but is imperforate, and the anus is beneath it. The female hyena has an organ similar to that which bears its name in the male. It is placed beneath the tail, and is imperforate. Beneath this is the anus, and below this again the true genital organ. [Book 8, 7.2] It also secretly attacks men, and hunts them down; it hunts dogs also by vomiting like men; it also breaks open graves for the sake of this kind of food.- [Cresswell translation, 1887]

Ovid [1st century CE] (The Metamorphoses, Book 15: 391-417): If there is anything to marvel at, however, in these novelties, we might marvel at how the hyena changes function, and a moment ago a female, taken from behind by a male, is now a male. - [Kline translation]

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 30): [Book 8, 44] The hyena is popularly believed to be bi-sexual and to become male and female in alternate years, the female bearing offspring without a male; but this is denied by Aristotle. Its neck stretches right along the backbone like a mane, and cannot bend without the whole body turning round. A number of other remarkable facts about it are reported, but the most remarkable are that among the shepherds' homesteads it simulates human speech, and picks up the name of one of them so as to call him to come out of doors and tear him in pieces, and also that it imitates a person being sick, to attract the dogs so that it may attack them; that this animal alone digs up graves in search of corpses; that a female is seldom caught; that its eyes have a thousand variations and alterations of color; moreover that when its shadow falls on dogs they are struck dumb; and that it has certain magic arts by which it causes every animal at which it gazes three times to stand rooted to the spot. [Book 8, 46] Hyenas occur most numerously in Africa... [Book 9, 55] ... the eyes of the ... hyena change frequently into a thousand colors... - [Rackham translation]

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 1, 25; 6, 14; 7, 22): [Book 1, 25] Should you this year set eyes on a male hyena, next year you will see the same creature as a female; conversely, if you see a female now, next time you will see a male. They share the attributes of both sexes and are both husband and wife, changing their sex year by year. [Book 6, 14] The Hyena, according to Aristotle, has in its left paw the power of sending to sleep and can with a mere touch induce torpor. For instance, it often visits stables, and when it finds any creature asleep it creeps softly up and puts what you might call its sleep-inducing paw upon the creature's nose, and it is suffocated and overpowered. Meantime the hyena scoops out the earth beneath the head to such a depth as makes the head bend back into the hole, leaving the throat uppermost and exposed. Thereupon it fastens on to the animal, throttles it, and carries it off to its lair. And it attacks dogs in the following manner. When the moon's disc is full, the hyena gets the rays behind it and casts its own shadow upon the dogs and at once reduces them to silence, and having bewitched them, as sorceresses do, it then carries them off tongue-tied and thereafter puts them to such use as it pleases. [Book 7, 22] At any rate the hyena prowls about cattle-folds by night and imitates men vomiting. And at the sound dogs come up, thinking it is a man. Whereupon it seizes and devours them. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 27.23-25): [Chapter 27.23] Africa also gives forth hyenas. The necks of these creatures are stiffened with a spine which is one continual unit, and they cannot turn except by an entire revolution of the body. Hyenas possess many marvelous features. First, they range around shepherds’ huts and learn, by assiduous listening, to mimic the human voice, so they may savage men called out in the night by their cunning. [Chapter 27.24] They also imitate the sound of people vomiting, and thus devour the dogs attracted by their false retching. If by change dogs out hunting touch the shadow of a hyena while pursuing him, they lose their voices and cannot bark. Hyenas, by way of spying out buried bodies, dig up tombs. It is an easier matter to capture a male hyena, for in the females a more crafty cunning is instilled by birth. Their eyes change color and have a complex variety. [Chapter 27.25] In the pupils of hyenas a stone is found which they call “hyaenia”. It possesses this power: when placed under the tongue of any man whatever, he prophesies the future. Any animal which the hyena walks around three times cannot move. For this reason, they proclaim that the hyena has magical knowledge. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 16, 15:25): The hyena-stone [hyaenia] is found in the eye of that beast, the hyena [hyaena]. If this stone is placed under a person’s tongue, they say he predicts the future. - [Barney, Lewis, et. al. translation]

Aberdeen Bestiary [circa 1200 CE] (folio 11v-12r):There is an animal called the hyena, which inhabits the tombs of the dead and feeds on their bodies. Its nature is that it is sometimes male, sometimes female, and it is therefore an unclean animal. Since its spine is rigid, all in one piece, it cannot turn round except by turning its body right around. Solinus recounts many marvelous things about the hyena. First, it stalks the sheepfolds of shepherds and circles their houses by night, and by listening carefully learns their speech, so that it can imitate the human voice, in order to fall on any man whom it has lured out at night. The hyena also [imitates] human vomit and devours the dogs it has enticed with faked sounds of retching. If dogs hunting the hyena accidentally touch its shadow behind, they lose their voices and cannot bark. In its search for buried bodies, the hyena digs up graves. The sons of Israel resemble the hyena. At the beginning they served the living God. Later, addicted to wealth and luxury, they worshiped idols. ... This beast has a stone in its eyes, called hyenia; anyone who keeps it under his tongue is believed to foretell the future. It is true that if the hyena walks three times around any animal, the animal cannot move. For this reason men declare that the hyena has magical properties. In a part of Ethiopia the hyena mates with the lioness; their union produces a monster, named crocote [leucrota].

Thomas of Cantimpré [circa 1200-1272 CE] (Liber de natura rerum, Quadrupeds 4.53, 4.112): [Thomas describes the hyena under two names hyena and zybo.] [Quadrupeds 4.53] The hyena, as Pliny and Solinus say, is an animal that always dwells in the graves of the dead. It has two natures, being both male and female. Its spine is stiff, so the neck cannot be bent unless the whole body is turned. It haunts the stables of the horses, as Jacobus and Aristotle say, and by carefully listening it learns the names of people, which it can express by imitating the human voice, in order to kill a man summoned by cunning imitation. By vomiting it also lures and devours anxious dogs. Even hunting dogs, if they happen to follow its shadow, lose their voice and cannot bark. It changes its color when it wills. This beast wears a precious jewel in its eyes, or, as some say, in its forehead. The size of a hyena is like the size of a wolf, and there are hairs on its neck like the necks of horses, and it has hard hairs on all the vertebrae. As Pliny says, hyenas are most numerous in Africa. [Quadrupeds 4.112] Zybo is a very cruel animal that kills people and animals. It has the size of a wolf. On its neck are hairs like those of horses, and it has strong hairs on all the vertebrae. It imitates the voices of men, and with these voices usually deceives men who are unaware of his malice. For it hides itself in the forests, having been taught by some word, where it worries the people passing by, whom he preys on as they come near. it also enters the graves of the dead, and there delights in the uncleanness of corpses: for it feeds gladly on human flesh. it also deceives the dogs in this way: it imitates their barking, and when the dogs hear it, they think it is another dog, and when they approach, they are torn apart by the hyena. Some say that the zibo is a kind of wild hyena, and it is quite apparent in its behavior. - [Badke translation/paraphrase]

Albertus Magnus [ca. 1200-1280 CE] (De animalibus, Book 22, 10; 22, 57): [Book 22, 10] Alzabo is mentioned in Book 60 of [Aristotle's3] De animalibus as a creature of great medicinal value, residing in the deserts of Arabia. ... These animals turn tail and flee from anyone who carries colocynth root on his person. ... The lesions of leprosy are ameliorated by anointing them with warm, fresh hyena’s blood. When the tooth of a hyena is strapped to the right arm between the shoulder and elbow, it prevents forgetfulness. If a person obtains the left foot and claws of a hyena, wraps them in a linen cloth and ties the parcel to his right arm, he will never forget anything he has heard or learned. A man who ties a pouch containing the bile of a male hyena to his left thigh will have continued success in his amatory affairs with women, as long as he wears the pouch. If the right forepaw with skin intact is severed from a hyena’s body and worn about the neck, the wearer may enter the presence of a king or anyone else with whom he had business, and the matter will be concluded to his satisfaction. Moreover, if a hyena’s right forepaw is lopped off by the stroke of a man’s left hand and is worn as an amulet, it will cause the wearer to be received with affection by all who meet him, but a hyena will avoid him. They claim the pulverized marrow from a hyena’s left foot can cure a wife’s disaffection for her husband; if the powder is thrust beneath her nose and she inhales it, she will love him more than any other man. [Book 22, 57] Hyena approximates the size of a wolf. Though it frequently lives among the tombs of the dead, it is known to seek out equine stables. By listening closely, it learns to imitate the sounds of men and dogs; by this ruse it sometimes kills and devours those deceived into approaching its call. Occasionally, it fools men by making the retching sound of a person vomiting. According to rumor, a hunting dog that comes within the shadow of a hyena loses its ability to bark. Another story maintains the hyena can change its color at will. Some writers claim that every animal which attempts to encircle a hyena will stick fast in its own footprints. Jewelers allege this animal bears a precious stone in its eyes, but more likely it is found in the animal's forehead. The hyena has hairs on its neck resembling a horse's mane. Some assert the hyena’s spinal column is so stiff and rigid, it cannot bend the neck except by turning the whole body. Jorach goes so far as to claim the hyena is sometimes a male and at other times a female, and bears a poisonous material on its tail. But Jorach is given to making untrue statements. - [Scanlan]

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (Liber de proprietatibus rerum, Book18.60): Hiena is a cruell beast lyke to the Woulfe in devouring and gluttony, and réeseth on dead men, and taketh their carcasse out of the earth and devoureth them. And therfore hath ye name Hiena, of Hiando, for desire he réeseth to his praye with open mouth and voyce. It is his kinde to chaunge Sexus, for he is nowe found male and now female, and is therfore an uncleane beast, as Isidore sayth, and commeth to houses by night, and feineth mannes voyce as hée maye, for men should thinke that it is a man. Libro. 8. cap. 30. Plinius speaketh of this Beast, and sayth, that in Hiena is eyther kinde, for it is sayd, he is one yéere male another yéere female. And she bringeth forth her broode without male, as the common people suppose. And Aristotle denieth that. And hath the necke of the adder Vipera, and the ridge of an Elephaunt, and may not bend but if he beare all the body about. And heards tel that among stables be feyneth speach of mankinde, and calleth some man by his owne name, & renteth him when he hath him without, and he feineth oft the name of some man, for to make hounds run out, that he may take & eat them: And this beast hath endlesse many manners & diverse colours in the eyen, & full moveable eyen & unstedfast, and his shadowe maketh houndes leave backing & be still, if he come neere them: and if this beast Hiena goeth thrice about anye beast, that beast shall stint within his steps. And this beast gendereth with a Lyonesse of Aethiopia, and gendereth on her a beast that is most cruell, & followeth the voice of men & of tame beasts, & hath many rowes of téeth in every side of the mouth. In Affrica be many Hienas, & manye wilde Asses and Fibres, & many other beasts wonderfully shapen. As Plinius sayth, this beast Hiena bréedeth a stone that is called Hiena: and what man that beareth it under his tongue, he shal by vertue of that stone devine and tell what shall befall, as Solynus sayth. Also libr. 28. Plinius sayth, that Hiena hateth the Pantera. And it is sayd, that if both theyr skinnes bee hanged togethers, the haire of the Pantheres skinne shall fall awaye. This beast Hyena flyeth the hunter, and draweth towarde the right side, to occupy the trace of the man that goeth before: and if hée commeth not after, he telleth that he goeth out of his wit, or els the man falleth down of his horse: and if he turne against the Hiena, ye beast is soone taken, as Magitians tell. Also as he sayth, this beasts gall is full medicinall, and helpeth most against dimnesse of eien: and also witches use the heart of this beast and the licour in many witchcrafts, as it is sayd there. And Aristo[tle] li. 7. sayth, that the quantity of Hiena is as the quantity of a Wolfe, & in his neck is haire, as in the necke of an horse, & hath haire upon all the length of the ridge, and bequileth and deceiveth men, & ravisheth and stealeth them, and taketh houndes and devoureth them, as gladly as men, and diggeth burialls and graves, & eateth the flesh of dead bodyes that be in them. - [Batman]