Centuries ago, when European explorers first came upon the hyenas, something about their organization seemed strongly amiss. Try as they might, even the best medieval naturalists just couldn't locate a female of their breed. Every hyena they found was stockier and fiercer than the last, and their external sexual anatomy looked... pretty damn masculine. Dark Ages science being what it was, these people soon concluded that there simply were no female hyenas, and that they must be springing up randomly from the earth. (You know, the same way flies suddenly appear out of old meat.) Here's the root of a lot of the stigma surrounding these creatures: ancient "scientists" decided that hyenas weren't born naturally and therefore weren't made by God, but perhaps some unholy supernatural force. The four-legged witches having no way to defend themselves, this assumption hung around for hundreds of years.
|This animal's face is on the side of his head. Clearly he's not of this world.|
The truth is almost stranger than fiction. -Almost, science couldn't match medieval imagination this time. Obviously, there are female hyenas. I've already made reference to them so they must be real. Ancient scholars just never found them because their anatomy is so misleading. ...As much as we're all wishing to keep this site classy, the explanation here does involve a little bit of hyena gynecology, so skip through to the next section if you're squeamish. When you look at the backside of an adult hyena, (which I know you're all just dying to do,) you'll invariably see what appear to be testicles. Actually, females of the Crocutta genus have large, prominent labia, as well as an overdeveloped clitoris that looks and behaves like a penis. They can get erections and produce large amounts of androgens (male hormones) in their blood, which explains some of the typically 'masculine' behavior. This exotic equipment comes with its setbacks, as infant mortality and miscarriage rates for hyenas are exceedingly high, and about 10% of first-time mothers die in labor.
Scientists are still unsure about why evolution shaped these charming shemales, but it might have something to do with their long gestation periods and high competition for food. Either way, it can be difficult for an observing human to discern the sexes unless you take into account that the females are noticeably larger and more aggressive than the males. (We only figured this out after a few much-needed dissections.) Basically, their society revolves around an inversion of the typical gender dynamic: the females are the big, domineering ones, who make kills while hunting and get first dibs on food. They pick and choose their mates from a list of hopeful males, and a potential suitor will only earn her paw if he expresses total submission to her. Females still take exclusive responsibility for their young, but any male who comes too close to them will be punished severely. They're essentially nature's real-life Amazons, with comparatively small, captive menfolk who they treat like trophies and boy toys.
|Get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich!|