The Leukrokottas

Faith M. Boughan at Fantasy Faction has the lowdown on the leukrokottas (or crocutta, corocutta, krokuta, etc.), an obscure creature from Classical mythology. I seem to remember the creature from D&D, and I know some of them show up in one of the Percy Jackson stories.

According to Pliny the Elder’s Natural Historyfrom the 1st-Century A. D., the Leukrokottas lives in Ethiopia and is about the size of a donkey, with the haunches of a stag, the breast/neck/tail of a lion, a badger’s head, cloven hooves, a mouth so enormous that it opens up all the way back to its ears, and bone ridges instead of teeth. In fact, he describes that the monster’s mouth is an unbroken ridge of bone in each jaw that forms a “continuous tooth without any gum” that is “shut up in a sort of case.” (And if you can make sense of that, you’ll be safer than the rest of us!)

It’s a quite obscure creature that doesn’t seem to figure at all in mythology. It’s just out there, apparently accepted as an ordinary—albeit terrifying—beast. Faith suggests the leukrokotta may be what happened when people saw a hyena for the first time and struggled to find words to describe it.