In the ‘The Lion King‘, three hyaenas are shown as silly buffoons, giggling and cackling their way through the movie. Researchers and other hyena specialists unsuccessfully pleaded with Disney, makers of the movie, to portray hyenas as they are – serious, exceptionally clever, and extremely social carnivores. The hyenas in the movie were portrayed as stupid, evil and worthless creatures – ‘Friday Funnies‘ at the best.
Short from the Lion King: https://vimeo.com/34065246
Last year I did a series of blogs tracing some of the history and lore of the hyena – from earliest times. Deciding these needed serious revisions, I’ve removed them from the blog to be reworked. But in the meantime, here is a bit of information – to further an understanding of hyaenas and to render them less ‘funny’ and more interesting, in their own right. Also, villagers’ assessment of Ankole cattle and hyenas, in pictures from an Old Kingdom Egyptian Tomb, can be found in this blog: http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/ancient-egyptian-tomb-scenes-villagers-perspectives/
The first item below depicts, in shorthand, the evolution of the hyaena - showing that it is not a ‘dog’, but rather is more closely related to the cat. However, through convergent evolution, both hyenas and dogs developed the ability to love and to chew and eat large bones (actually, hyenas more so than dogs). A remarkable holdover from prehistoric times? Perhaps, and the more interesting because of it.
Hyenas bones are identified in bone remains 500,000 years ago in Europe, 5,000 years ago in cave drawings in France; later, in drawings dated to predynastic Egypt over 5000 years ago, as well as later in Egyptian history.
In the above offering scene, several hyenas are being led towards Ptahhotep together with several dogs. It appears that during the Old Kingdom Egyptians attempted to domesticate hyenas. More on that in upcoming blogs.
Dr. Kay Holekamp, Director of the Spotted Hyena Research Project at Michigan State University, is one of the foremost experts on hyenas; further references to the species are given in her page, above. I will begin reposting my hyena pages within a few weeks.