Crocuta crocuta

April 30, 2017 § 3 Comments

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Lions and cheetahs—spotted hyenas may feast upon their leftovers, but they may very well instead slash up their very own wee lizard or big old antelope and feast upon that. Imagine big spirally horns ground to calcium in a hyena’s guts. But hyena digestion is awfully quick. In less than the time it takes to make a calculated move in a chess game, one hyena can devour a whole gazelle fawn. When the prey is much bigger than themselves, spotted hyenas hunt in packs, led always by a female, biting into their prey, dragging it to the ground, and devouring it alive, bones, horns, hooves and all. Rather than be killed directly, you shall be pursued to the death. If you are a lion, one option is to eat the hyena, but the hyena might eat you first. Your young, anyway. It’s all very complicated. They are similar in some ways. Their diets overlap much. Like lions, the most dominant member of the group gets the biggest portion of the food. They’re furtive and quick, hyenas are, eyes and ears as sharp as their teeth. At nighttime they are boldest of all, perhaps then they’ll even feed right alongside a lion, perhaps even they’ll force the lion right off the kill, teeth bared, big intimidating jaws one and all. Really their social organization bears little resemblance to any other carnivore, really it’s closer to cercopithecine primates (mostly I bring this up because I feel a linguistic thrill from the word ‘cercopithecine’, akin to a slight brain tingle). They are about domination rather than cooperation, but cooperation is necessary due to competition from other predators, they’re together then apart in a fission-fusion society. This intrigues me. If you consult a medieval bestiary, you’ll find hyenas described thusly–“neither male nor female, they are neither faithful nor pagan,” quelle treacherous creature. Oh shit medieval dudes, what’s up? Let’s talk about hyena genitalia!! Females run this shindig. In order to keep up the aggression necessary to hunt in hyena society, alpha females give an androgen boost to their developing cubs. This boost is what causes female reproductive organs to grow, like a lot. On the male you shall spot a rather ho-hum run-of-the-mill penis, but have a look at the female–my, is that also a penis? No it is a seven inch clitoris through which she gives birth. Sometimes she dies this way. It is not an easy task. Hyena mating appears to be rather damned difficult, what with this penis-upon-pseudo-penis action.

I wanted to learn more about hyenas since these thoughts were swirling in me—hyenas are pirates and pirates are lesbians (this was likely a Kathy Acker-inspired thought) and hyenas are feminists? Something or other? How did this thought process begin? What’s this I say? I don’t remember. And I have not yet even got into their zany vocalizations. Oh I do know they emit a kind of soft squeal when encountering a clan-mate after a long separation.

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