The crocotta (or corocotta, crocuta, or yena), is a mythical dog-wolf of India or Ethiopia, said to be a deadly enemy of men and dogs.
This beast was first written about by Pliny in his work Natural History (book VIII, chapter 30). He simply described the crocotta as a combination between dog and wolf with impossibly strong teeth and instant digestion. Other mythologies have described the crocotta as a gluttonous beast that digs up the buried dead and prowls around farms at night. It was said that the crocotta would lure dogs to their death by imitating the sound of a man in distress.
When the dogs heard the cry they would follow the sound, only to be attacked and devoured. The beast was also said to occasionally hide in bushes at the edge of the forest listening to the farmers talking and calling each other by name. The crocotta would then repeat one of the names to lure the person into the woods. When the man approached, it would draw back into the brush and speak his name again. As the man followed, the creature would continue to draw deeper into the woods. When the victim was beyond help, the animal would leap upon him and devour him. Other legends ascribed the crocotta with the ability to change its color or gender at will. Some legends said that animals that attempted to stalk it would freeze in their own tracks. The eyes of a slain crocotta were said to be striped gems that would give the possessor oracular powers when placed under the tongue.
Pliny said that the offspring of a crocotta and a lion was the leucrota (or leucrocuta, leucrocotta, or leocrocotta), which could imitate the sound of a human voice. This was no doubt the source of the later, similar claims for the abilities of the crocotta itself. The leucrota was said to be a cloven hooved animal the size of a male donkey, yet swift and fierce. Described as having the haunches of a stag; the tail, chest, and neck of a lion; and the head of a badger, its mouth was said to open back as far as its ears. Instead of teeth it had ridges of bone that could crush anything. It was said to never close its eyes and its backbone was said to be so rigid that it had to turn around to see what was behind it.
The dog-wolf crocotta and the antelope-like leucrota were clearly meant to be two different types of animals, but because of their alleged blood relation, the similarity of their names, and their supposed ability to speak with a human voice, the authors of bestiaries often mistook one for another. This is likely the source of many of the later conflations of their reputed characteristics.
Many classicists believe that the source of Pliny's description was Ctesias' description of the cynolycus. Others believe that he may have been repeating a mangled description of the hyena.