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The Hyenas Of Harar


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Corny Hiatt



Welcome to the fascinating world of Harar, a city tucked away in the eastern part of Ethiopia. While Harar is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, one of its most unique and intriguing aspects is its relationship with hyenas. Yes, you heard that right – hyenas.


For centuries, the people of Harar have coexisted with these wild predators in a truly harmonious manner. Instead of fearing them, the locals have developed a bond with these creatures, creating a spectacle that combines danger, awe, and wonder. The hyenas have become an integral part of Harar’s identity and their presence adds an undeniably mystical charm to the city.


Exploring the connection between Harar and hyenas not only reveals the amazing adaptability of these misunderstood creatures but also provides insight into the local culture, traditions, and beliefs that have shaped the city’s distinctive character.


So, join us as we embark on a journey into the world of Harar and discover the hyenas’ mesmerizing role in this enchanting Ethiopian city.


History of Harar

Harar, with its labyrinthine alleys and ancient architecture, has a history that dates back over a thousand years. This historic city served as a prominent trading hub on the eastern edge of the Ethiopian highlands, connecting the Red Sea coast with the interior regions of Africa. Due to its strategic location, Harar became a melting pot of cultures, attracting merchants, scholars, and travelers from far and wide.


Founded in the 7th century, Harar was influenced by various civilizations, including the Egyptian, Arabian, and Ottoman empires. In the 16th century, it came under the control of the Sultanate of Adal, a Muslim state that played a significant role in shaping the city’s identity. This period saw the development of unique architectural styles and the spread of Islam throughout the region.


During the 19th century, Harar became an independent kingdom and the capital of the Harari people, who were renowned for their skills in trade, crafts, and intellectual pursuits. The city’s walls, constructed in the 16th century, still stand as a testament to its historical significance and are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Harar’s rich history is also intertwined with the Abyssinian Empire, later known as Ethiopia. The city experienced various conflicts and shifts in power, but managed to maintain its autonomy and cultural distinctiveness. Today, Harar remains an important center of Ethiopian culture, tradition, and spirituality.


As we delve deeper into the connection between Harar and hyenas, it is important to understand the historical context that has shaped this unique relationship. Harar’s past is a key factor in the city’s ability to embrace and coexist with these remarkable creatures in a way that is both astonishing and awe-inspiring.


Harar’s Relationship with Hyenas

Harar’s relationship with hyenas is nothing short of extraordinary. Unlike most places where hyenas are viewed as dangerous predators and a threat to human life, the people of Harar have developed a remarkable bond with these wild animals.


Legend has it that centuries ago, when Harar was facing a famine, hyenas emerged from the surrounding wilderness and brought food to the starving city. As a result, the people of Harar began to see the hyenas as their protectors, a source of divine intervention in times of need.


Since then, a unique feeding ritual has developed in Harar, where locals feed the hyenas every night. Led by a designated “hyena man” or “hyena feeder,” the ritual is considered a religious and cultural tradition. The hyena feeders call out to the hyenas using specific vocalizations and offer them meat scraps, building a mutual trust and respect between humans and these powerful predators.


During the feeding sessions, visitors can witness the incredible sight of hyenas gathering in close proximity to the hyena feeder, snatching meat from his hands or even taking it directly from visitors. This spectacle presents a jaw-dropping display of the hyenas’ immense power and the deep bond they share with the people of Harar.


Contrary to popular belief, the hyenas in Harar are not domesticated but rather habituated to human presence. They are still wild animals and exhibit natural behaviors and instincts. However, through generations of interaction, the hyenas have become accustomed to the nightly feeding rituals and have learned to associate humans with a source of food.


Harar’s unique relationship with hyenas has attracted visitors from all over the world who come to witness this incredible display of coexistence. It serves as a testament to the resilience of both humans and animals, showcasing the interconnectedness of nature and the potential for peaceful cohabitation.


Next, we will explore the fascinating hyena feeding ritual in Harar and shed light on the significance of this practice for both the local community and the hyenas themselves.


Hyena Feeding Ritual in Harar

The hyena feeding ritual in Harar is a truly mesmerizing sight, attracting locals and tourists alike. Every evening, just after sunset, a designated hyena feeder embarks on a captivating display of trust and interaction with these formidable creatures.


As darkness descends upon the city, the hyena feeder sets out on foot carrying a basket filled with meat scraps. Locals and visitors gather at a designated spot, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the hyenas. The feeder begins to call out to the hyenas using distinct vocalizations, echoing through the night, which the hyenas have come to recognize as an invitation to feed.


Soon enough, the hyenas start to emerge from the surrounding wilderness, their glowing eyes visible in the moonlight. Swirling around the feeder, they exhibit a mix of curiosity, anticipation, and hunger. With nerves of steel, the feeder kneels down, offering pieces of meat to the waiting hyenas. Without hesitation, the hyenas snatch the meat from the feeder’s hand or even from the hands of brave onlookers.


This ritual has been practiced for generations in Harar, carrying with it a deep sense of spirituality and cultural significance. The feeding of hyenas is believed to bring good luck, protect the city from harm, and maintain the delicate balance between humans and wildlife.


While the exact origins of this tradition remain shrouded in mystery, it has become an integral part of Harar’s identity. It showcases the innate connection between humans and animals, reminding us of our shared existence and our capacity to coexist harmoniously with the wild.


Participating in the hyena feeding ritual provides a captivating experience like no other. It offers an opportunity to witness the hyenas up close, observe their behavior, and appreciate their natural beauty and power. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving these magnificent creatures and the ecosystems they inhabit.


However, it’s important to note that the feeding ritual should be respected as a cultural tradition and not exploited for entertainment purposes. Visitors should adhere to local guidelines and regulations, ensuring the welfare of both the hyenas and the community.


Now that we have explored the fascinating hyena feeding ritual, let’s uncover the deeper cultural significance of hyenas in Harar and understand why they hold such a revered status in this ancient Ethiopian city.


Hyenas and the Local Community

In Harar, hyenas are not just seen as wild animals but as respected members of the community. The unique bond between the locals and these powerful predators has created a sense of coexistence that is truly extraordinary.


The hyenas have become an integral part of daily life in Harar. The locals have come to accept their presence and have developed strategies to mitigate any potential conflicts. A strong sense of mutual understanding and respect exists, ensuring that both humans and hyenas can peacefully coexist within the city.


The relationship between the hyenas and the local community is not solely based on the feeding ritual. Hyenas often roam the streets of Harar at night, scavenging for food scraps and organic waste. This scavenging behavior plays a vital role in keeping the city clean, as the hyenas serve as nature’s garbage collectors, devouring waste that would otherwise accumulate.


Furthermore, hyenas are seen as protectors of Harar. The locals believe that the presence of hyenas keeps away evil spirits and brings good fortune to the city. It is not uncommon for residents to leave meat outside their homes as an offering to the hyenas, in hopes of ensuring the safety and prosperity of their households.


The symbiotic relationship between the locals and the hyenas extends beyond the physical realm. It is deeply intertwined with cultural and spiritual beliefs, highlighting the interconnectedness of humans and nature. The hyenas have come to represent qualities such as strength, resilience, and adaptability, which are highly valued in the Harari culture.


It’s important to note that the relationship between the locals and hyenas is not without challenges. The hyenas’ scavenging habits can sometimes bring them into conflict with humans, particularly when they come into contact with livestock. Efforts have been made to find ways to mitigate these conflicts, such as implementing better waste management practices and raising awareness about coexistence.


Overall, the relationship between the local community and hyenas in Harar serves as a shining example of how humans and wildlife can harmoniously share the same space. It is a testament to the power of understanding, respect, and adaptation, demonstrating that even the wildest of creatures can find their place within the fabric of human society.


Next, we will delve into the cultural significance of hyenas in Harar, exploring how they are revered and celebrated in various aspects of daily life.


Cultural Significance of Hyenas in Harar

The cultural significance of hyenas in Harar extends far beyond their physical presence. These fascinating creatures have woven themselves into the fabric of everyday life, enriching the traditions, beliefs, and celebrations of the Harari people.


In Harari culture, hyenas are considered sacred beings. They are often associated with supernatural powers and mythical beliefs. The locals believe that hyenas possess the ability to communicate with spirits and have a deep understanding of the spiritual realm.


During religious festivals and important ceremonies, hyenas play a prominent role. It is believed that the presence of the hyenas brings blessings and ensures the success of these events. Their unique howls and nocturnal activities are seen as a form of communication with the spiritual world and are revered as auspicious omens.


Hyenas have also found their place in Harari folklore and storytelling. These mystical creatures often feature in traditional tales, where they are depicted as clever and cunning beings. Through these stories, lessons of resilience, adaptability, and survival are passed down from generation to generation.


Art and craftsmanship in Harar also reflect the cultural significance of hyenas. Intricate patterns and motifs inspired by these creatures can be found in various forms, from pottery and textiles to jewelry and woodwork. The hyena’s striking appearance and symbolic meaning are captured in these artistic expressions, perpetuating their presence in Harari culture.


The hyena feeding ritual itself is a significant cultural tradition. It serves as a testament to the belief in the unity of humans and nature, highlighting the interconnectedness of all living beings. The ritual represents a deep respect for the natural world and a commitment to coexisting harmoniously with wild animals.


Moreover, the hyenas have become symbols of pride for the people of Harar. They embody the city’s unique identity and serve as a source of local pride. The people of Harar take great pride in their ability to coexist peacefully with these powerful predators, showcasing the strength and resilience of their community.


The cultural significance of hyenas in Harar is a testament to the richness of the local traditions and beliefs. It is a reminder of the deep connection between humans and wildlife, highlighting the importance of respecting and protecting the natural world around us.


As we continue our exploration, we will focus on the conservation efforts that have been put in place to safeguard the hyenas and their unique relationship with the people of Harar.


Conservation Efforts for Hyenas in Harar

The unique coexistence between the people of Harar and hyenas has sparked a desire to protect and conserve these remarkable animals. Over the years, various conservation efforts have been implemented to ensure the long-term survival and well-being of the hyena population in Harar.


One crucial aspect of conservation is raising awareness. Local initiatives, supported by community leaders and organizations, are focused on educating residents and visitors about the importance of preserving the natural habitat and wildlife in and around Harar. Through educational programs, workshops, and informational campaigns, the significance of hyenas and the value of their presence in the ecosystem are emphasized, encouraging responsible actions and behavior.


Efforts have also been made to address the potential conflicts between hyenas and the local community. Livestock protection measures, such as reinforced enclosures and better herding practices, have been put in place to minimize the negative impact of hyena predation on livestock owners. These proactive measures help reduce the tensions between humans and hyenas, promoting harmony and coexistence.


In addition, waste management strategies have been improved to mitigate human-hyena conflicts. Proper waste disposal practices, including secure garbage containers and designated collection points, ensure that hyenas are not attracted to urban areas in search of food scraps. By minimizing their interaction with human settlements, we create a safer environment for both hyenas and residents.


Collaboration between local communities, conservation organizations, and government entities is crucial for effective conservation. Initiatives are underway to establish conservation areas and protected zones in and around Harar, providing a safe haven for hyenas and other wildlife. These areas aim to preserve the natural habitats where hyenas can freely roam and thrive.


Furthermore, scientific research and monitoring programs play a vital role in understanding hyena behavior and population dynamics. Researchers study hyenas in Harar, collecting data on their behaviors, feeding habits, and movements. This information helps inform conservation strategies and facilitates evidence-based decision-making for the management of hyena populations.


The collective efforts to conserve hyenas in Harar demonstrate the commitment of the local community to protecting these unique creatures. By respecting their presence, implementing sustainable practices, and promoting coexistence, the people of Harar are working towards ensuring that future generations can witness the awe-inspiring bond between humans and hyenas.


As we conclude our exploration of the remarkable relationship between Harar and hyenas, it’s important to reflect on the valuable lessons that can be learned from this extraordinary coexistence. The story of Harar and its hyenas serves as an inspiration to embrace diversity, foster harmony, and cherish the wonders of our natural world.



Harar, an ancient city nestled in Ethiopia, has captured our imagination with its extraordinary relationship with hyenas. What began as a mere coexistence has transformed into a deep bond, rooted in respect, cultural significance, and natural harmony.


Through centuries of living side by side, the people of Harar have embraced the hyenas as protectors, spiritual beings, and symbols of their community’s resilience. The hyenas, in turn, have become essential figures in the city’s daily life, from their role as nature’s garbage collectors to their involvement in religious ceremonies and folklore.


The hyena feeding ritual, a captivating spectacle that draws visitors from across the globe, showcases the trust and understanding between humans and these wild predators. It signifies the belief in a shared existence and the desire to coexist peacefully with nature’s wonders.


Conservation efforts in Harar are aimed at raising awareness, mitigating conflicts, and preserving the natural habitats of hyenas. By educating locals and visitors, implementing livestock protection measures, and improving waste management practices, the community is demonstrating its commitment to safeguarding these incredible animals.


The story of Harar and its hyenas serves as a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness between humans and wildlife. It teaches us the importance of respecting and cherishing the natural world, embracing diversity, and finding harmony amidst the complexities of life.


As we contemplate the remarkable bond between Harar and hyenas, let us carry forward the lessons learned. Let us strive to foster coexistence, celebrate our shared existence with all creatures, and work towards preserving the wonders of our planet for generations to come.


So, if you ever find yourself in Harar, immerse yourself in the magic of this unique place. Witness the hyenas gather under the moonlight, observe their majestic presence, and reflect on the extraordinary relationship that has blossomed between humans and the wild.


Harar and its hyenas are living proof that through understanding, respect, and a touch of awe, we can create a world where the mystery and wonder of nature thrive alongside our own human existence.