The Crocotta Hunter

With my interest in fantastic creatures of legend, it’s kind of surprising I hadn’t come across the leucrota before reading Rick Riordan’s The Demigod Diaries. This monster is first mentioned in the work of Pliny the Elder in the first century, along with a similar animal called the crocotta. The latter was also listed by Strabo, who identified it as a cross between a dog and a wolf. Pliny, however, identified it as the offspring of a hyena and a lioness.

It lives in India or Ethiopia, both of which are common dwelling places for creatures made up by the Greeks. I guess those were the most exotic places they could think of. A crocotta has a bone ridge in its mouth, which is basically one continuous tooth. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the creature is that it can mimic human speech, which it does to catch its prey. Apparently this was a myth sometimes applied to regular hyenas as well, perhaps based on how spotted hyenas sometimes sound like they’re laughing (hence the term “laughing hyena”). The leucrota is a bit more complicated, described as being the size of a donkey with a body like a lion, a head like a horse, and a mouth that stretches from one ear to the other.

In addition to the ability to imitate human speech and sometimes other animal sounds, it is described as the fastest land animal. In the Middle Ages, some legends added that the eyes of a crocotta or leucrota were jewels that could be used for fortune telling. In Riordan’s story, the leucrotae basically conform to Pliny’s description. While it’s stated that they usually just use their human-like voices to lure prey, the ones in the tale have a mental collection to the demigod Halcyon Green that lets him speak through them.

This entry was posted in Animals, Authors, Greek Mythology, Heroes of Olympus, Monsters, Mythology, Rick Riordan and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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