Delphos Hyena

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 1st, 2007

Shunka Warakin

The following report recalls the historical stories of the Shunka Warak’in of Montana, as represented in the now missing taxidermy example above.

Delphos, O., July 31. – Considerable excitement was created here yesterday when Isaac Good, who lives on the Noah Miller farm in Marion township, about a mile east of Delphos, came into town and reported that he had seen in the Pohlman woods, near the W. C. Baxter farm, between 8 and 9 a.m., a strange looking wild animal that had all the appearance of being a hyena.

Mr. Good first saw the animal in the woods. It was sitting back on its haunches and licking its front paws much in the same manner as a cat or dog would. Mr. Good was quite near the animal before he saw it, or before it saw him. After starting at him for a few moments, Mr. Good says[,] the animal ran rapidly toward a cornfield and disappeared. His description of the strange beast left no doubt that it was a wild animal, that it was a hyena. Mr. Good remained about the vicinity for some time, hoping to get another glimpse of the animal, but was unable to do so.

He was on his way to Delphos to work, but after seeing the strange intruder in the woods, he gave up the idea of work for the day, and came to Delphos and endeavored to organize a number of armed men and procure dogs to chase the animal down. No reports had previously been heard concerning such an animal being seen in this part of the country, but Mr. Good’s word is not doubted.

The animal may have escaped from a circus.“Hyena in Woods Near to Delphos; The Beast Is Thought to Be One That Escaped from Show – Yet at Large,” Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 3, 1910.

Thanks for this historical item from

Jerome Clark.

Circus escapee is the standard folk explanation for reports of extraordinary or out-of-place animals. — J. Clark.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Delphos Hyena”

  1. deejay responds:

    Nothing says “good family fun” like watching the Hyenas perform at the circus. Seriously, some of those circus excuses are lame. Cool story, thanks for posting.

  2. shumway10973 responds:

    ok, so what if North America has or had our own version of a hyena? We have had other critters with close African cousins–in the distant past, though.

  3. dogu4 responds:

    Ah, one of those peculiarities of history. If only the very first people into North America were biologists instead of illiterate, pre-scientific hunters, we might have seen that remnants of the pleistocene inventory of mega-fauna existing in regugias and lingering in niches that somehow managed hang on. For all of nature’s efficiency, it rarely wipes everyting out entirely at one fell swoop. It takes a human’s short-sighted mentality to purposefully do that.
    As for old world animals which originated here in North America; the cheetah, the horse, and the llama/camelids come to mind.
    Along that line, I have read some early accounts of horsemen crossing the great plains encountering a race of “wolves” that the early writers described as relatively slow and big which seemed to have been adapted to hunting bison and consequently were easy to ride up next to and dispatch with a blow to the head while running along side the animals.
    I wonder if North America were to be examined with the kind of human eye that Europe has over the last few hundred years if we too wouldn’t find the less consopicous fossils that might illuminate the not too distant past as the holocene superceded the pleistocene.

  4. sschaper responds:

    Some of the early explorers were men of science, as it was practiced then. The monks with the Spaniards, Audubon, the Lewis and Clarke expedition, etc. In particular, the American and Canadian explorers of the early 19th century had strong scientific interests, though natural philosophy was still largely a gentleman’s hobby. I’m sure that many here recall Jefferson’s interest in the mastodon.

    I would tend to think that large animals that were in abundance, would not have been missed. Even some that were not in abundance (Stellar’s Sea Eagle, Stellar’s Sea Cow (Stellar’s Jay is of course, still very common).

    But even a large animal, if in a niche, and close to extinction, much in the manner of the giant panda, such might escape notice and cataloging, known only in a few tales.

  5. dogu4 responds:

    I would venture to say that for every Georg Steller there were thousands upon thousands of fulltime and occasional professional commecial hunters with the sole intent of taking all that nature’s bounty provided in seemingly endless amounts so they could buy the manufactured goods (including more guns and ammo) that preceded the appearance of anyone with even a relatively informed naturalists appreciation for what they were seeing. The panda is noteworthy as an example of how even the relentless commercial hunters would sometimes find the effort to get the very last ones just too much bother.
    Think of the list of the ones that became extinct that we know of, and realize that those extinct populations we know about represent only a small percentage of the species that we’ll never really know anything about. This become increasingly apparent when we apply the modern criteria for species. For example, would the millions of eastern bison that were harvested (now extinct without so much as an untanned hide in existence) up until they became extinct in first half of the 19th century nowadays be considered a seperate population and therefor considered a species by modern taxonomists? Probably.

  6. bill green responds:

    hey loren & everyone great new article about a delphos hyena. very interesting indeed.. 🙂 thanks bill green

  7. Tengu responds:

    Were giant pandas ever hunted? I thought they were pretty much ignored untill the toy manufacturers found them

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    Tengu, you may wish to research that assumption a bit. It’s the other way around. Giant pandas were hunted, giant pandas were killed, giant pandas were caught alive, and then the Panda bear toys were created. Quite similar in evolution to the origins of that of the “Teddy bears.”

  9. Bob K. responds:

    While I’m sure that the “escaped circus animal” explanation has been trotted out as a convenient catch-all, it remains that traveling circuses/fairs have lost and abandoned animals even into more modern times. Having lived in eastern NJ until recently, I was an occasional visitor to the unique “Popcorn Park Zoo”, a unique Zoo that was established in 1977 as a refuge for wildlife, exotic and farm animals that were abused, ill, injured, handicapped, elderly or exploited. It’s located in Forked River, in the northeastern Pine Barrens. About 15-20 years ago, I remember that animals were sheltered at Popcorn Park that had been taken from a small traveling circus which had actually been abandoned by the roadside. Among the animals recovered and housed at the zoo was a hyena!

  10. Harpo responds:

    Very interesting. A few years ago I posted on the FT website about an experience I had seeing a similiar animal. I’m about 20 minutes west of Fort Wayne. If anyone’s interested, I’ll post the link to that entry.

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