Digger & Daisy

Spotted hyenas Digger and Daisy did their part to change people’s opinion about their species.
  • 1940s

Thought at the time to be “uncouth and disagreeable” and  “loathsome creatures,” it was a good thing that hyenas had Digger and Daisy as goodwill ambassadors. Daisy had no interest in emitting the laughing “maniacal cackle” often associated with the species, so when a visiting sailor expressed disappointment at her unwillingness to share so much as a chuckle, her keeper bribed her with food to elicit a ladylike giggle.

Her mate, Digger, hardly a bloodthirsty beast, was reported by one keeper to “coax for patting, putting his ear to the bars and elaborately turning his mouth away to show he had no intention of biting me. He yawns frequently while I pat him and gets tears in his big brown eyes.” In choosing his name, Digger’s keepers were able recognize both the rather gruesome but necessary role hyenas, as scavengers, play in Nature’s food chain, as well as his amiable personality. He was named for Digger O’Dell—the friendly undertaker in “The Life of Riley,” a popular ‘40s radio show that later would be adapted as a movie and TV series.

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