Falkner’s “Yaguarú”, a real “water tiger”. The water tiger myth is not unique to Patagonia; it permeates many American Indian cultures and, close to Patagonia, there was the Yaguarú (or ñaguarú) myth among the Guaraní Indians.
Father Falkner in his book about Patagonia mentioned the legend of the Yaguarú, a fearful beast that lived in northeastern Argentina and southern Paraguay in the Paraná River basin. It deserves to be fully quoted:
On my first trip to the Wood Coast in the year of 1752, on the Parana close to the shore they shouted yaguarú, and looking I saw a large animal as it threw itself into the water from the shore; but I did not have enough time to examine it with any degree of precision.
They call it yaguarú o yaguaruich, which in the language of that country means the water tiger. The Indians describe it as large as an ass, with the shape of a sea wolf or monstruous otter, with sharp claws and strong teeth, its legs short and thick, long coat, very hairy, with a tail that tapers towards its tip.
The Spaniards describe it in another manner: with a long head, sharp nose and straight like that of a wolf, and its ears straight […] perhaps there are two species of this animal […] it is found close to the river, lying on the sand, where hearing the slightest sound it throws itself immediately into the water.
It destroys the cattle that in large herds cross the Paraná every year, and once it has its prey, only the lungs and entrails of what it has caught can be seen floating soon on the water […] it sleeps in deep caves on the shore.
Falkner’s description is surprisingly similar to that of Iemisch; no wonder Musters quickly identified the Patagonian water tiger with it.
A Guaraní legend about Guarán, the native warrior who slayed Yaguarú, provides some interesting details; not only did it live in a cave by the river bank and had a strong tail and a taste for women’s flesh, it was also foul smelling just like several Patagonian mythical monsters (Ayayema, Kawtcho) and other South American cryptids like Mapinguary and the dwarfish Chupacabras. Why do these animals share the common trait of a fetid stench is a mystery.
 Falkner, T., (2008). Descripción de Patagonia y de las partes adyacentes de la América meridional. B. Aires: Continente. pp. 83+
 Montesino, J. Mitología Guaraní, Libro Quinto Crónica de los sitios geográficos reales en los que transcurren las acciones de los mitos y leyendas del Paraguay. Libro Online in Spanish: Here.
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©