The witch might wear the hide or skin of the animal identity it wants to assume, and when the transformation is complete, the human witch inherits the speed, strength, or cunning of the animal whose shape it has taken.
We tend to think werewolves are a purely European or American phenomenon. Those with an interest in the subject know that the concept of a human being transforming into a beast is universal to all cultures and predates recorded history. Only the animal into which the malefactor changes is different; usually this honor is assigned to the most prevalent predator in that particular area. American Indians have their own version of the myth, believing that a “skinwalker” can transform not just into a wolf, but into any animal he chooses. More than this—to the Indians of the southwest, skinwalkers are real.
Despite centuries of alcoholism and poverty (introduced to the indigenous cultures by European “settlers,” by the way), many modern Indians still hold to strong spiritual beliefs. There are witches, and those practicing witchcraft are said to possess abilities which they use for evil. Skinwalkers are as feared today as they ever were, figuring into court cases, murders, and everyday life. Most of those who believe don’t like to talk about them. Speak of the devil and up he pops, and all that. Are there any readers of Native descent who’d like to elaborate? (If you aren’t afraid to, that is.)