With their incredibly strong jaws, ferocious attitudes, and high prey drives, hyenas are no animals to keep as pets.
Although humans are not their common prey, the scavengers can attack them if need be.
There are plenty of reports of hyenas killing and injuring people. They often prey on children, women, and weak men but they can attack normal men as well. In some instances, packs of hyenas attack families in their sleep.
This begs the question of whether the scavengers can be kept as pets or not.
There are African tribes who are sometimes rumored to keep hyenas. But how true is that? Is the practice a real thing in some African tribes?
We give the entire scoop in this guide….
Are Hyenas Kept As Pets In Africa?
Hyenas are not technically kept as pets in the African continent.
Except for a few tribes in specific countries, the animals are largely feared and shunned by a larger majority of people on the continent.
The probability of walking into a home that keeps a hyena as a pet is next to zero. People keep other animals such as dogs, cats, chickens, and snakes.
Hyenas aren’t common in Africa for the same reasons they aren’t in other continents.
For one, their high prey drives make them absolutely difficult to keep around the home.
With the ability to attack lions, they would surely harm cows, sheep, children, and dogs with relative ease.
When food shortage looms, they will not hesitate to act as predators and not members of the family.
You’d need a strong enclosure to keep them from harming people and animals.
Secondly, hyenas are hard to tame. Even the striped hyena which is the smallest needs a very firm leader.
It would literally take one a thousand years or more to domesticate the hyena.
Then there’s the issue of food which is difficult to navigate around for the average African family.
With that said, certain African communities do keep hyenas as pets. The most common is ‘hyena men” from Nigeria.
These are special men from the Hausa community in the West African country known for taming hyenas, baboons, and poisonous snakes.
Ethiopia also has its version of Hyena men from Harar. Spotted hyenas in this region have been living near human beings for over 500 years.
Hyenas are tamed for different reasons by the said men.
Reasons For Taming Hyenas In Africa
Both the hyena men of Nigeria and Harar keep the dangerous animals for specific reasons.
The former group uses it to make ends meet. They typically go to the forest to hunt hyena pups, train them and bring them along during stunt performances.
They move from place to place performing stunts with their animal friends in front of bewildered crowds.
Some perform on the streets attracting big crowds who offer them money.
Basically, hyena men of Nigeria have no other means of making ends meet. Thus, they risk their lives to tame hyenas. Some of them sell tamed animals to zoos as well.
Above is a thrilling video showing a hyena and his handler in action during a performance.
It is clear that the men know what they are doing with the animals.
They insert their fingers into the beasts’ teeth, caress them, and pretty much control their actions.
As a precautionary measure, the animals have a cage around their muzzles during the performance.
The men learned the practice from their fathers and grandfathers. They practically know no other way of making money.
The story of the hyena men of Harar began about five centuries ago.
Back then the scavengers would be allowed in the Ethiopian city to consume organic waste.
However, in the 1960s, people began deliberately feeding them to deter them from killing livestock during the 19th-century famine.
With time, hyena men tamed hyenas as tourist attractions. The men perform all kinds of spectacles in front of tourists at a fee.
Controversies Around The Practice
Unlike first-world counties, animal abuse isn’t such a big deal in a bigger percentage of African countries.
Granted, there are laws stating that people who abuse, kill, maim, and act cruelly towards animals are punishable by the government but the authorities are yet to get serious about enacting them.
For instance, hyena men of Nigeria mostly go on with their activities without facing the long hand of the law. Ethiopia isn’t any better.
While that’s true, the International community has, in many instances, condemned the act of taming hyenas for profit in Africa.
Animal activists from around the world claim that the practice interferes with the natural ecosystem in the forest.
Currently, the population of the animals in northern Nigeria has declined substantially.
Baboons, monkeys, and gorillas have also gone down in numbers for the same reason.
Then there’s the actual abuse the hyenas are subjected to. They are often chained in dingy cages, with muzzles, and have to perform dangerous stunts on a daily basis.
They cannot hunt as they desire, interact with other hyenas, and basically enjoy their lives.
Hyenas as Pets in Africa: Wrap Up
Hyenas are fierce, flesh-eating, and dangerous animals. They belong in the wild and not the home.
Although a large majority of people in Africa don’t keep them as pets, a few men from Nigeria and Ethiopia have managed to tame them.
These aren’t pets in the sense of the word but animals that bring profit to the owners.