Werehyenas are a strain of therianthrope from African and Arabian mythology, and essentially take the role that the werewolf does in European mythology. In fact, there's actually a variety of different werehyena myths, depending on which part of Africa you look at. Specific named variants include the Bouda of Ethiopia; a shapeshifting witch who takes a day job as a blacksmith, and the Kishi of Angola, who appears as a handsome man who seduces young women into running away with him, only to then devour them with the hyena's face that sprouts from the back of his skull.
Al-Doumairy, in his Hawayan Al-Koubra (1406), wrote that hyenas are vampiric creatures that attack people at night and suck the blood from their necks. Arab folklore tells of how hyenas can mesmerise victims with their eyes or sometimes with their pheromones.
A Persian medical treatise written in 1376 tells how to cure people known as kaftar, who are said to be “half-man, half-hyena,” who have the habit of slaughtering children.
The Greeks, until the end of the 19th century, believed that the bodies of werewolves, if not destroyed, would haunt battlefields as vampiric hyenas which drank the blood of dying soldiers.
Whilst the werehyena hasn't been exactly embraced by fantasy games, there are a few examples here and there, largely in Dungeons & Dragons
The Forgotten Realms
In the Forgotten Realms werehyenas are native to the Al-Qadim region, a trait they share with the werelion. Conceptually, they clearly draw from the Kishi, being presented as overwhelmingly male (75%) therianthropes who shift from the form of a human man with a second mouth hidden at the base of their head to a large black-and-gold-colored hyena, and back again. Faerunian werehyenas in human form tend to be tall and sinewy, and naturally they wear their hair long, shaggy and tied around the back of the neck, in a desperate attempt to conceal their secondary mouths. They are often considered gregarious an charismatic, with a loud, resounding laugh.
Faerunian werehyenas typically travel in a close-knit pack of up to a dozen, led by a dominant male; infectees are welcomed into the pack, but only if they either agree to swear utter loyalty to the alpha male or if they prove themselves able to beat him into submission and take his place. Werehyena packs are often the nucleus for a larger pack of hyenas, with 2d6 ordinary hyenas tagging along for the superior hunting skills of their shapechanging relatives.
Whilst they can and do hunt and scavenge like regular hyenas, and they are surprisingly affectionate with each other, even mating for life with fellow packmates, they are sadistic and shameless hunters of humanoids. Werehyena packs scour the desert and plains in human form, seeking human settlements to infiltrate. A favorite ploy is for a single lycanthrope to enter a town or village and use its friends ability to win its way into the hearts of the people. Some are even known to shower gifts on “a long-forgotten sister” or relative. The gifts are typically small gems which it gathers for this purpose. The lycanthrope then lures the victim out of town to a trap, where the rest of the pack lies in wait. This is made easier by their supernatural charisma, which combines the effects of higher-than-average Charisma (14-15 under AD&D rules) with the ability to cast Friends as a 12th level wizard 1/day. They are only vulnerable to weapons that are enchanted or made of iron, and are immune to Enchantment school spells.
All werehyenas have a primal fear of fire, preferring to make appearances and attacks during the day. A flaming torch is enough to keep one at bay; over six points of fire damage will send one howling off into the wilderness. If cornered by fire, however, they will fight to defend themselves.
Al-Qadim's Werehyenas were introduced in the Monstrous Compendium Appendix for the setting, and haven't appeared since.
The werehyena has found its greatest D&D debut to date in the Midgard setting, where not only does the "basic" werehyena exist as a Lycanthrope, but the Bouda and Kishi have both found expression as hyena-based demons. They are scattered throughout the pages of the Tome of Beasts quadrilogy, with Kishi appearing in the Tome of Beasts 1, the Werehyena in the Creature Codex, and the Bouda in the Tome of Beasts 2.
The standard Midgard werehyena is actually a form of demonic possession, which infects the victim with a form of pseudo-therianthropy that allows them to assume the form of a hyena and a gnoll-like humanoid hyena. However, non-gnolls who contract this infection are fundamentally incompatible with it; unless cured, they die at the next full moon, with their soul being twisted into a "hyena-like demon" (presumably becoming a Kishi or Bouda). Only gnolls can survive the werehyena infection unscathed, and even then, most of them die shortly after being bitten. Curing werehyena infection is much harder than normal, due to its fiendish origins; to cure the infectee, a fiend must be summoned and then killed in the infectee's presence, and the infectee must then drink the fiend's ichor as part of the ritual to cleanse their spirit.
Kishis are demons who appear as handsome men with the head of a hyena growing out of the backs of their skulls. They are charming and seductive, but driven by uncontrollable carnal appetites. They typically prey on young women, luring them into seclusion before raping, killing and eating them - in that order, if the woman is lucky. They often skin their victims and make keepsakes out of the skin.
Boudas are shapeshifting fiends who can take the forms of humanoids, giant hyenas, and oversized, monstrous-looking gnolls at will. They are known for their voracious appetites for flesh in general and carrion in particular, to the point they have trouble not stopping in the middle of a fight to feast on the slain. If driven away from their meals, they have a vindictive streak that causes them to basically seek vengeance forever.
|The Therianthropes of Dungeons & Dragons|
|Laridian - Loup-garou - Loup du Noir - Lythari - Red Falcon - Seawolf - Selkie - Shifter - Swanmay - Thebestyn - Vodoni - Werebaboon - Werebadger - Werebat - Werebear - Wereboar - Werecat - Werecrocodile - Werefox - Werehyena - Werejackal - Werejaguar - Wereleopard - Werelion - Werepanther - Wererat - Wereraven - Wereray - Wereseal - Weresnake - Wereshark - Werespider - Wereswine - Weretiger - Werewolf|
|Antherions: Aranea - Song Dragon - Jackalwere - Wolfwere|
|Third Party: Werealligator - Wereanaconda - Werebunny - Werecheetah - Werecobra - Weremustela - Werepossum - Wereraccoon - Werestag - Werewolverine|