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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature




Hyena (Tzeboa), (). Excepting in Ecclesiasticus just noted, the word does not occur in the English Bible, although there are several passages in the Hebrew canonical books, where Tzeboa, 'streaked' or 'variegated,' is assumed to designate the hyena. The most noted of these is , where the words which the Septuagint render 'the cave of the hyena,' are rendered in our version 'a speckled bird.' But Bochart and the continuator of Calmet vindicate what we take to be the true reading, 'the striped rusher,' i.e. the hyena, turning round upon his lair, introduced after an allusion in the previous verse to the lion calling to the beasts of the field (other hyenas and jackals) to come and devour. This allusion, followed up as it is by a natural association of ideas, with a description of the pastor, feeder, or rather consumer or devourer of the vineyard, treading down and destroying the vines, renders the natural and poetical picture complete; for the hyena seeks burrows and caverns for a lair; like the dog it turns round to lie down; howls, and occasionally acts, in concert; is loathsome, savage, insatiable in appetite, offensive in smell; and will in the season, like canines, devour grapes, as the writer has himself ascertained by actual experiment.

Tzeboa, therefore, we consider proved to be generically, the hyena. The striped species is one of three or four—all, it seems, originally African; and, by following armies and caravans, gradually spread over Southern Asia to beyond the Ganges, though not as yet to the east of the Bramapootra. It is now not uncommon in Asia Minor, and has extended into Southern Tartary; but this progress is comparatively so recent, that no other than Semitic names are well known to belong to it. The head and jaws of all the species are broad and strong; the muzzle truncated; the tongue like a rasp; the teeth 34 instead of 42, as in the canidæ, but robust, large, and eminently formed for biting, lacerating, and reducing the very bone; the neck stiff; the body short and compact; the limbs tall, with only four toes on each foot; the fur coarse, forming a kind of semi-erectile mane along the back; the tail rather short, with an imperfect brush, and with a fetid pouch beneath it. In stature the species varies from that of a large wolf to much less. Hyenas are not bold in comparison with wolves, or in proportion to their powers. They do not in general act collectively; they prowl chiefly in the night; attack asses, dogs, and weaker animals; feed most willingly on corrupt animal offal, dead camels, etc.; and dig into human graves that are not well protected with stakes and brambles. The striped species is of a dirty ashy buff, with some oblique black streaks across the shoulders and body, and numerous cross-bars on the legs; the muzzle and throat are black, and the tip of the tail white.

There is reason to believe that the deeb,or Scriptural wolf, when represented as carrying off a lamb, is no other than the hyena, unless the real wolf has been extirpated; for zoologists have not found the wolf in Syria.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Hyena'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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