I have been asked if there is a "Bigfoot" in Patagonia.
The correct answer is: no. Bigfoot is a North American creature. But, Patagonia does have its share of strange beings (dwarfs, monsters, the gigantic "Patagons") and these include "wild men" or hominids.
In today's post we will look into the Patagonian "Bigfoot".
The Fuegian Yagans feared several man-like "ogres" that lived in the forests: the Selk'nam's one was Hashi, very similar to the Yagan's "Hannush", also known as "wild men".
Reverend Thomas Bridges described Hannush as:
a sort of demented or wild man of the forests […] similar to man in shape, living alone or in groups, but without wife or children; they were always stalking, trying to come upon men, women or children to kill them.
A very credible witness mentions them; English naturalist Charles Darwin (of evolutionary fame) who in 1833 visited Tierra del Fuego aboard Captain Robert FitzRoy’s H.M.S. “Beagle”. Darwin wrote:
What the "bad wild men" were, has always appeared to me most mysterious […] I should have thought that they were thieves who had been driven from their tribes; but other obscure speeches made me doubt this; I have sometimes imagined that the most probable explanation was that they were insane.
FitzRoy also wrote about the “wild men”, pointing out their “black” color: “A great black man is supposed to be always wandering about the woods and mountains […] who cannot be escaped”.
He also reported that among the Chono his pilot Mr. William Low recorded that: “[They] believe in an evil spirit, called Yaccy-ma, who they think is able to do all kinds of mischief, cause bad weather, famine, illness, &c.: he is supposed to be like an immense black man”.
Could these evil dark (i.e. black) men be some kind of fur clad hominid?
“Mwono” the southern abominable snow man.
The Yagan’s neighbors, the Alakaluf, feared Mwono, a “snow man”. Theirs was a land of jagged fjords and islands where the glaciers reach the sea calving icebergs into treacherous waters. Mwono reigned supreme inhabiting “the summits of the mountains and glaciers” where his tracks could be found.
Chilean ethnolinguist Oscar Aguilera believes that this “‘snow man’ is a fabulous and mythical animal that the [Alakaluf] say lives in the glaciers and whose footprints they say that they have seen”. What these prints look like, unfortunately, no one knows.
Potentially dangerous, its reclusive nature made it quite harmless; Mwono was a reclusive and peaceful being that would only hurt those who dared to enter his territory.
Further north, the Mapuche believed in several gigantic beings; one was the Trauko -do not mistake with Chiloé’s Trauco dwarf which we will describe in a future post- which dwelled along the banks of Collón Curá River -stone mask in Mapuche language- in Neuquén (40°00’ S, 70°49’ W). This was a monster, a “terrible giant, man eater” described as hairy and having “a very long beard and his hair that seemed like rush stalks were fire red color”.
Their myths also included the Chilludo, Carcancho and Huitanalhue.
The Chilludo is a very large and hairy creature. A bearded “bogey man”. Ape-like and covered with a long sheep-like fleece, it may be frightening, but is said to be harmless. It can be found in the isolated mountain regions of northern Patagonia in Chile and in western Neuquén province, Argentina.
The Carcancho. These hairy men led a solitary existence in the mountains and meadows feeding on tubers. They could measure up to 2 m (6 ft. 7 in.) tall in the mountains, but were dwarfish (1 m – 3.3 ft.) in the lowlands, where they lived burrowing underground. This may indicate that they were two different kinds of being or that perhaps they were not men but some kind of wild animal.
They walked in the snow and their large foot-prints were the only clues of their existence (exactly like the Mwono but 2.000 km further towards the north - 1,240 mi.).
Huitranalhue is a kind of undead, a zombie, described as a big man, which like a vampire attacked people to drink their blood or eat their flesh. Its name means “alien ghost” (huitran = stranger, alien; alhue = spirit, ghost).
This hermit carried a wooden sword (perhaps a club), and did not speak. It was easily concealed as it kept to the forest and was dressed in dark clothes (perhaps animal furs). Later the Mapuche would “Europeanize” it giving it the appearance of a well groomed Spaniard riding a horse.
I have already mentioned the "Tailed men" of Patagonia, which are another variety of "primitive men".
Wild men, what were they?
We could, as Darwin, believe that these “wild men” were just that, crazy wild men; it is also very plausible that the Hannush and the Hashi were simply “homeless” Yagans living alone in a very harsh environment or even displaced Selk’nam, Alakaluf or Haush who had wandered into their enemies’ territory and tried to remain concealed to avoid attack and if necessary for survival, murdered any potential threats.
Apes and Homo erectus
Another option, not as far-fetched as believing that wild men are enormous bipedal apes that evolved separately in America, involves our distant relative, Homo erectus, which became extinct worldwide when modern humans, Homo sapiens, moved out of Africa about 100,000 years ago.
Erectus moved out of Africa and spread into Asia about 1.2 million years ago. There are no traces of erectus in America, so we do not know if they reached this continent.
However, it may be possible (though this theory is unproven)that H. erectus, our distant ancestor, entered and settled in America, adapting to its particular environment and surviving there for 200,000 years in splendid isolation until the arrival of modern men. An event that would have sealed H. erectus fate as it did all over the world. Unable to compete with man they disappeared.
Club wielding, fur clad H. erectus, with perhaps a limited capability for vocalization could easily explain all of these mythical wild men (Chilludo, Carcancho, Huitranalhue, etc.), and account for the dark "black" wild men reported by FitzRoy and Darwin.
 Bridges, T., (1893). La Tierra del Fuego y sus habitantes. Informe de Thomas Bridges publicado por el Instituto Geográfico Argentino. B. Aires: Instituto Geográfico Argentino. 06-08.1893.
 Bridges, T., (1998). Los indios del último confin. Sus escritos para la South American Missionary Society. Ushuaia: Zaguier & Urruty Publications. pp. 152.
 Darwin, C., (1987). The Voyage of the Beagle. Ware: Woodsworth Editions. pp. 205.
 FitzRoy, R., (1839). Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836…. London: Henry Colburn. v. ii. pp. 180+ and pp. 191.
 Emperaire, J., (1963). Los Nómades del Mar. Santiago: Ediciones de la Universidad de Chile. pp. 156.
 Aguilera F., Lenguas y culturas de Chile – Kawéscar. Online.
 Grebe, M., (1974). La música alacalufe: aculturación y cambio estilístico. Revista musical chilena. Nº 126-127 pp. 80-111.
 Koessler-Ilg, B., (2000). Op Cit. pp. 71.
 Eberhart, G., (2002). Misterious Creatures: A guide to Cryptozoology. S. Barbara: ABC Clio. pp. 82.
 Batic, L., (2005). Seres mitológicos argentinos. Diario 1. Patagonia. B. Aires: Ed. Albatros. pp. 119.
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©