Leopard Society

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The Leopard Society, also called Anyoto Aniota, was a West African secret society active in the early- to mid-20th century that practiced cannibalism.[1] They were centred in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, and Nigeria.


Members would dress in leopard skins, waylaying travelers with sharp claw-like weapons in the form of leopards' claws and teeth. The victims' flesh would be cut from their bodies and distributed to members of the secret society. According to their beliefs, the ritual cannibalism would strengthen both members of the secret society as well as their entire tribe.

According to scholar Stephen Ellis:

These were exclusive groups of people who were believe to be liable to possession by the spirits of carnivorous animals such as leopards and crocodiles, and who carried out ritual killings while in a state of possession. During the course of the twentieth century, the Liberian government outlawed these societies, but some of the nevertheless continued to function clandestinely...[2]

Encounters with what is believed to be a survival of The Leopard Society into the post-colonial era are described by Donald MacIntosh[3] and Beryl Bellman.[4]

In fiction[edit]

Fictionalized versions of the Leopard Society feature in the Tarzan novel Tarzan and the Leopard Men, in Willard Price's African Adventure, in Tintin au Congo and in Hugo Pratt's Le etiopiche.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Leopard Society - Africa in the mid 1900s". Retrieved 3 April 2008. 
  2. ^ Stephen Ellis (1999, 2006) The Mask of Anarchy. The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War. New York University Press, p. 222
  3. ^ Travels in the White Man's Grave: Memoirs from West and Central Africa, by Donald MacIntosh, 1998
  4. ^ Beryl L. Bellman (1986). The Language of Secrecy. Symbols and Metaphors in Poro Ritual. Rutgers University Press, p. 47
  • The International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies & Fraternal Orders, Alan Axelrod, 1997, Checkmark Books
  • Pratten, David (2007). The Man-Leopard Murders: History and Society in Colonial Nigeria. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34956-7. 
  • Poore Sheehan, Perley (2007). The Leopard Man and Other Stories. Pulpville Press. ISBN 1-936-72002-7. 

External links[edit]