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190 × 135 × 12 mm
168 pages
82 illustrations, 47 in colour
01 May 2012

Hyena Mikita Brottman

Hyenas are almost universally regarded as vile, scheming creatures, skulking in the alleyways of the animal kingdom. Scorned as little more than scavenging carrion-eaters, vandals and thieves, they have long been associated with the malevolent and macabre. This book offers an alternative view of these mistreated and misunderstood animals and proves that the hyena is in fact complex, intelligent and highly sociable.

Hyena takes us on a tour of the hyena throughout history, detailing the magic, myth and ritual associated with this remarkable animal. Although shrouded in taboo, the hyena has been the source of and inspiration for talismanic objects since the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Many cultures use parts of the hyena – from its excrement and blood to its genitalia and hair – to make charms and totems that variously avert evil, promise virility and promote fertility. This book also considers portrayals of hyenas in modern popular culture, including The Lion King and The Life of Pi, in which they are often stereotyped as villains, cowardly henchmen or clowns, and their more impressive qualities ignored.

Rightly returning hyenas to their proper place in the animal pantheon, this richly illustrated book will be enjoyed by any animal lover with an interest in the unusual and offbeat.

‘this has been Brottmans project: to knock down the barriers of prejudice, clear away the cultural-historical-psychological detritus and give hyenas a chance to be loved. the rest is up to us.’ — Anthrozöos

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Mikita Brottman is a psychoanalyst, author and cultural critic. She is a Professor in the Department of Humanistic Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.


1. Evolution and Distribution
2. The Hyena and Human History
3. Hyena Magic
4. Wargs and Scrunts
5. Bad Rap

Timeline of the Hyena
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements