The Cryptid Zoo: American Hyena

In the Great Plains of the American West, from at least Montana to Nebraska, there have been reports of an animal that seems to be a hyena. With a sloping back and hyena-like features, this beast was known to the Ioway Indians as the shunka warakin. Similar creatures, with different names, were reported from the lands of other tribes. This animal was generally described as having dark fur, often black and sometimes red. The shaggy areas were distributed in a different way than on wolves. White settlers also thought they had seen this creature, and some were even mounted as trophies. Although the present wherabouts of these trophies is now unknown, one famous trophy had a picture taken of it, although it might have been a strange-looking wolf mounted by an incompetent taxidermist. Only DNA testing could settle the question.

As wild America was despoiled, these sightings almost died out. Today, there are still a few, but they are complicated by confusions due to folklore, apparent supernatural characteristics, and likely confusion with other reports of wolves, wild dogs, and dog-like cryptids of several sorts. It is possible that this creature survived all the way up to a hundred years ago, only for the last pockets of survivors to be exterminated before being officially recognized by science. Even if this is the case, it is still of interest to cryptozoologists. Cryptozoology is the science of unexpected animals, and that includes animals that happened to go extinct before we could identify them, if those animals survived thousands of years longer than they were supposed to.

Did America have a native hyena or hyena-like beast such as the presumably extinct hyena-dog when the first white settlers arrived on its shores? We may never be able to answer that question.

You can find out more about the American Hyena from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Page 221-224

Hall, Jamie. The Legend of Skinwalker Ranch

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Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Page 425

Wikipedia, The. Shunka Warakin

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The text on this page is copyright 2006 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.