Long, long ago somewhere in Africa…  Jackal and Hyena were out walking together when a white cloud came up behind the kopjes and floated over the veld quite close to them. It was a nice thick cloud, just like white fat, and Jackal climbed on to it and sat looking down over the edge. Then he bit pieces out of it, and ate them. ‘Ahhh this white fat is nice!,’ he said. ’N-yum, n-yum, n-yum,’ and he chewed round the cloud like a caterpillar chews a leaf.“ Hyena licked her lips and looked up at him. ‘Throw me down some, please,’ she said. “Ach’, said Jackal, ‘my Brown Sister, will I then be so greedy as to throw you down little bits? Wait till I get down, and then I’ll help you up to eat for yourself.’

So when Jackal wanted to come down, he said to Hyena, ‘My sister, as I am going to share with you, catch me well.’ So Hyena stood ready, and Jackal jumped in such a way that he knocked her into the sand. He fell soft, because he was on top, but foei! poor Hyena had all the breath knocked out of her and she was covered with dust.  ‘Ach! but I am clumsy!’ said Jackal,  ‘but never mind, now I’ll help you!’.  So when Hyena had got up and dusted herself, Jackal helped her to climb on to the cloud. There she sat, biting pieces off and eating them, ‘N-yum, n-yum, n-yum, it’s just like white fat!’ After a time Hyena called out, ‘Grey Brother, I’ve had enough. I want to come down. Please catch me well, when I jump.’


Jackal held out his arms, but just as Hyena jumped he sprang to one side and cried out, ‘Oh my, oh my! a thorn has pricked me and sticks in me’. And he hopped about holding one leg up. Woops, down fell Brown Sister, and as she fell she put out her left leg to save herself, but it doubled up under her and was nearly broken. She lay in a bundle in the sand, crying, ‘My leg is cracked! my leg is cracked!’  Jackal came along very slowly—jump, jump, on three legs. Surely the thorn, that wasn’t there, was hurting him very much! ‘Oh! oh!’ cried Hyena, ‘help me up, Grey Brother. My leg is broken!’ ‘And mine has a thorn in it’ Jackal said. . ‘My poor sister, how  can the sick help the sick?

The only plan is for us to get home in the best way we can. Good-bye, and I will visit you tomorrow to see if you are all right.’  And off Jackal went—jump, jump, on three legs—very slowly; but as soon as Old Brown Sister could not see him, he put down the other one and he shot over the veld and got home just in time to have a nice supper that Mrs. Jackal had prepared. But poor Brown Sister lay in the sand crying over her sore places, and from that day on, it is said that Hyenas’ hind feet have been shorter and smaller than the front ones and ever since then, Hyenas have walked with a limp…..

Moral of the story? Keep your head out of the clouds and you won’t be led astray.

Out of: World of tales – South African Folk- Lore Tales, Outa Karel’s Stories,  Sanni Metelerkamp 1914

Eight fascinating facts about Jackals and Hyena’s

  1. Jackals are members of the canine family, just like wolves and dogs. While looking dog-like, Hyenas make up a separate biological family that is more closely related to cats and to the mongoose and meerkat family.
  2. Jackals and hyena are fast animals. Jackals can run at a speed of 64 kilometres (40 miles) per hour, yet they usually run at speeds of 16 kilometres (10 miles) per hour for extended periods of time. Spotted hyenas (the most common one seen in south Africa) can run up to 60 kilometres (37 miles) per hour.
  3. Jackals form monogamous, life-long pair bonds. What’s more, youngsters from one year’s litter often act as ‘helpers’, remaining with their parents for a year or more in order to help them raise the next litter. Spotted hyenas are very social and live in groups called clans. Clans can have up to 80 members, with females dominating and far outnumbering the males. Adult males are the lowest of the low. Even baby girl cubs rule over the boys. Mating typically happens outside of the clan. Mothers in a clan will share the responsibility of nursing each other’s young and other members of the clan may bring food to the den for the cubs.
  4. Jackals are incredibly vocal animals. They use a broad variety of sounds to communicate, and respond only to the sounds produced by the members of their family. They ignore all other calls. Spotted hyenas also use a wide range of vocalizations to communicate with one another and with other predators. From rumbling bass growls to ominous shrieking squeals. And one thing is certain: hyenas are definitely one of the loudest creatures in the animal kingdom!
  5. Jackals are known as opportunistic omnivores, which means that their diet is both plant and animal based. Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, scavenged kills made by larger animals, insects, fruits and plants. Spotted hyenas are aggressive competitors in the bush, not only scavenging on the kills of other animals as it is often believed. About 75% of their diet comes from their own kills.
  6. For both the jackal and the hyena their sensing is phenomenal. The vision, hearing and sense of smell of jackals create a three dimensional world for them. Hyenas detect meat by smell from as far as 4 kilometre downwind. They find carcasses by scent and by the noises made by other predators. They also keep a look out for vultures.
  7. Unlike most other mammals, the female spotted hyena is larger than the male. Female spotted hyenas are also more muscular and more aggressive than their male counterparts. This is because the females have three times as much testosterone in their bodies.
  8. The size of an animal’s frontal cortex is believed to be connected to its social intelligence, and spotted hyenas have a frontal cortex on par with primates. A study done by Duke University showed that a captive pair of hyenas performed better at problem-solving and social cooperation than chimpanzees. Even more amazing is that during the study, the hyenas solved all the problems in silence, using only non-verbal signals for communication.

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