Is The Hyena Bisexual?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
Legend has it that spotted hyenas are able to assume, at will, either the role of the male or that of the female. True, the external reproductive organs of both sexes have a similar appearance.
One medical doctor shot a spotted hyena and, upon dissection, found that this male had rudimentary female sexual organs. Another hyena that he shot was a female, but it had rudimentary male organs. Reportedly, rudimentary sex organs of both male and female were noted in yet another full-grown spotted hyena. Another man reported that he had a hyena that had both fathered and mothered at least a litter. However, it has been suggested that possibly the three animals examined by the doctor were not adults.
A report, based on observations on mating spotted hyenas in zoological gardens, by Karl M. Schreeder, published in 1952, seems to prove conclusively that this animal is not bisexual.

"In embryo, a mammal is potentially both male and female; as it develops, one sex becomes dominant. Nature has its imperfect products, and there may be signs of maleness and femaleness together in one animal. Such a creature is never capable of the functions of both sexes, and is usually incapable of the functions of either."

So, the female hyena is the one that bears the offspring. In the case of the spotted, or laughing, hyena, one or two (occasionally three) young ones are born after a gestation period of 99 to 110 days. Incidentally, the little ones are born completely furred. Also, their eyes are open and they are able to run immediately after their birth.

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