Web Theoi
LEUKROKOTTAS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Λευκροκοττας
Λευκροκοτται
Leukrokottas
Leukrokottai
Leucrocotta Leucrocota
Leucrocottae
Yellow-white?
(leukos, krokôtos)
Leucrocota, Aberdeen Bestiary manuscript c. 1200, Aberdeen University Library
Leucrocota, Aberdeen Bestiary manuscript
c. 1200, Aberdeen University Library

THE LEUKROKOTTAS (or Leucrocotta, Corocotta) was a fantastic creature with the body of a stag, a lion's neck, cloven hooves, and a wide mouth with a sharp, bony ridge in place of teeth. It had the ability to imitate the voices of men to lure prey.

The creature was probably derived from travellers' accounts of a type of hyena.


Ctesias, Indica (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 72) (trans. Freese) (Greek historian C4th B.C.) :
"In Aithiopia (Ethiopia) there is an animal called Krokottas (Crocotta), vulgarly Kynolykos (Cynolycus, Dog-Wolf), of amazing strength. It is said to imitate the human voice, to call men by name at night, and to devour those who approach it. It is as brave as a lion, as swift as a horse, and as strong as a bull. It cannot be overcome by any weapon of steel."

Aelian, On Animals 7. 22 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"It seems that the Hyaina (Hyena) and the Korokottai (Corocottae), as they call it, are viciously clever animals. At any rate the Hyaina prowls about cattle-folds by night and imitates men vomiting. And at the sound dogs come up, thinking it is a man. Whereupon it seizes and devours them. I shall now relate the villainy of the Korokottai, of which I have actually heard. It conceals itself in thickets and then listens to woodcutters calling one another by name, and even to anything they say. And then it imitates their voices and speaks (though the story may be fabulous) with a voice that sounds human at any rate, calling out the name which it has heard. And the man who has been called approaches: the animal withdraws and calls again: the man follows the voice all the more. But when it has drawn him away from his fellow-workers and has got him alone, it seizes him and kills him and then makes a meal of him after luring him on with its call."

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 8. 72 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"Aethiopia (Ethiopia) produces . . . many monstrosities : . . . the Leucrocota, swiftest of wild beasts, about the size of an ass, with a stag's haunches, a lion's neck, tail and breast, badger's head, cloven hoof, mouth opening right back to the ears, and ridges of bone in place of rows of teeth--this animals is reported to imitate the voices of human beings."

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 8. 107 :
"When crossed with this race of animals [i.e. hyenas] the Aethiopian (Ethiopian) lioness gives birth to the Corocotta, that mimics the voices of men and cattle. It has an unbroken ridge of bone in each jaw, forming a continuous tooth without any gum, which to prevent its being blunted by contact with the opposite jaw is shut up in a sort of case. Juba states that in Aethiopia the Mantichora (Manticore) also mimics human speech."

There were numerous alternate spellings of the name of the beast which was also known as a Kynolykos (Dog-Wolf).

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Κοροκοττας
Κοροκοτται
Korokottas
Korokottai
Corocottas Corocotta
Corocottae
Saffron-coloured?
(krokôtos)
Κροκοττας
Κροκουτας
Κροκοτται
Krokottas
Krokoutas
Krokottai
Crocotta
Crocuta
Crocottae
Saffron-coloured?
(krokôtos)
Κυνολυκος
Κυνολυκοι
Kynolykos
Kynolykoi
Cynolycus
Cynolyci
Dog-Wolf
(kyôn, lykos)

Sources:

  • Ctesias, Indica - Greek History C5th B.C.
  • Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd A.D.
  • Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Natural History C1st A.D.
  • Photius, Myriobiblon - Byzantine Greek Scholar C9th A.D.