Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo, Hokkaido was the scene of awkwardness when it was learned that two spotted hyenas slated for making babies were actually both males. At first this might seem like a major oversight of really basic biology, but in the unique case of the spotted hyena it’s actually fairly understandable.
Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo said it had been given the spotted hyenas, Kami and Kamutori, as a “male and female pair” as part of an exchange with a South Korean zoo in 2010. In the ensuing years things looked promising, as the two young animals could be seen frolicking and cuddling together. It looked like a match made in heaven.
Then around the end of 2012 relations between Kamutori and Kami soured. The two began fighting each other and grew increasingly hostile. This behavior continued until recently when the fighting got so bad that the “couple” needed to be put in separate cages.
The results confimed that Kami, the now five-year-old “female”, was actually a male. A truly unique characteristic of the spotted hyena is that females have a “pseudo-ᴘᴇɴɪs.” This means that their ᴄʟɪᴛᴏʀɪs is nearly the same size of a male hyena’s ᴘᴇɴɪs and can even become ᴇʀᴇᴄᴛ in the same way. In addition the female spotted hyena’s ʟᴀʙɪᴀ are closed and take the form of a sᴄʀᴏᴛᴜᴍ. I would make a diagram but I promised my wife I would quit drawing ᴘᴇɴɪses after getting married.
As a result, ᴍᴀᴛɪɴɢ involved the male having to enter the female through her pseudo-ᴘᴇɴɪs to access the actual ᴠᴀɢɪɴᴀ. This is extremely troublesome for the males attempting ɪɴᴛᴇʀᴄᴏᴜʀsᴇ, the females giving birth, and for zoologists trying to identify the animals’ genders. For example, we occasionally get zoos spending years trying to get two guys to make babies.
It’s just like my fifth grade shop teacher always said: Never judge a spotted hyena by its ᴘᴇɴɪs…
There are now plans to find an authentic female to breed with either Kami or Kamutori.