What is a Hyaena?
"Speckled bird" in Jer 12:9 means, according to some, a vulture or other bird of prey, but according to other excellent authorities (the Septuagint, Gesenius, etc.), it should be translated "hyaena." "Zeboim," which occurs in 1 Sam 13:18; Neh 11:34, means hyaenas. Otherwise there is no reference to this animal in the Bible. The striped species (Hysena striata) is found in all Oriental countries, especially in Egypt and the desert. In Palestine it is more common than any carnivorous animal except the jackal. In general appearance it resembles the wolf, but it is of a dirty gray color, with dark transverse stripes upon the sides and limbs. The body is high at the shoulders (about 3 feet), declines rapidly toward the tail. It has a mane of erect, bristly hair along the back. What the vulture is among birds this creature is among animals. The odor from its food of carrion adds to the disgust caused by its hideous appearance. The hyaena, in spite of every precaution, often succeeds in digging up and devouring human corpses. Though cowardly in its nature, it is very savage. When driven by hunger, it will sometimes kill cattle. The strength of its jaws is so great that it can crack the bones of an ox with ease, but as the hyaena is neither swift nor courageous, it is not dreaded by man. When in bands, however, it fears neither the lion nor the tiger. It inhabits the numerous tombs of the Holy Land, the caves, and even the open desert.