Hyena Cult, Ethiopia — Vancouver Island Photographer

I took this picture outside the Ethiopian city of Harar, near the Somalian border.


The ceremony takes place every night just outside the walled city gates. Hyenas are nocturnal pack hunters that rip their prey apart. Not a pleasant end but, then again, most endings in the wild are not.

The idea behind the Hyena Cult is this: if they feed them every night the Hyenas will spare their children. One family has been doing this for generations and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch, as the pack comes in from the surrounding countryside every night. These wild animals walk right up to the people feeding them and take the meat that is placed on the end of a very short stick—mouth-to-mouth if you will.


The most amazing thing is to watch each hyena gently take their turn. The trick is to stay cool—no fast moves or tickle, tickle, that’s a nice hyena…

In the old days, when the walled city was closed up each night the citizens would let the hyenas into the alleyways where everyone would throw their food scraps. The cult grew from this period.

And then there is the walled-city of Harar—a marvel in and of itself. According to UNESCO, it is “considered ‘the fourth holy city’ of Islam” with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.

More on this city later on.

Bye for now.

Gordon Ross

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