Monday, September 20, 2010
In my post on Anthonie Knivet's account on tapirs in Patagonia, I mentioned the tapetywason he saw at the Strait of Magellan, which he likened to the "the beast which before I have told you of, called gumbe which is bigger than a horse" which he saw in Africa. The footnote by the editor states that "gumbe" is "undoubtedly a cow" and he is correct because the Swahili - English dictionary  in its entry for Cow uses the same sounding word ng'ombe.
This editor then adds that the Guarani in Brazil used the word tapyra to name any large animal. Hence cattle was known as tapyra sobay go ara or "foreign beasts" while the local tapir were named tapyra caapora.
I believe that he may be right, because the Guarani words "caá" means "plant" and "porá" means "ghost", so this would be a tapir of the "forest ghost" (a spirit that took care of the jungle animals". On the other hand, "sobayguará" derives from "sobay" (from in front, from the other side, that is, from abroad) and "guara" (native, indigenous): "native from Portugal". 
Yet Knivet named the animal "tapetywason" which is remarkably similar to the Guaraní name for the tapir.
So, what did he see, a tapir or a wild buffalo? There are no native bovids (according to our current knowledge) in Patagonia, though there may have been "prehispanic cattle in Patagonia".
A mystery. Worth looking into.
 Purchas S.,(1901). The strange adventures of Andrew Battell of Leigh, in Angola and the adjoining regions Hakluyt Society, London. pp. 95
 Arthur Cornwallis Madan,(2002)Madan's English-Swahili dictionary. Asian Educational Services, pp.122. (entry for Cow)
 José Gregório (irmão)(1980). Contribuição indígena ao Brasil: lendas e tradições, usos e costumes, fauna e flora, língua, raízes, toponímia, vocabulário, União Brasileira de Educação e Ensino Vol. 3, pp. 978
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall ©