Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cisnal the mysterious Patagonian animal

I have previously posted on the Cisnal, a mythical animal, and mentioned it in detail in another post where I referred to the possible existence of woolly tapirs in Patagonia (Cisnam or Schenam). Today I will mention a small comment that I found in a book on the adventures of Argentine explorer, geographer and naturalist Francisco Pascasio Moreno, better known as the "Perito" Moreno. Which he wrote but did not publish (fortunately, his son edited it and had it published).

Moreno and the Cisnal

Moreno was captured by a native chief, Valentín Saihueque, in 1880 while he was exploring Lake Nahuel Huapi close to the current city of Bariloche. Taken to Saihueque's encampment on the Caleufu River, Moreno was tried and he spoke to a council of native chiefs in a successful attempt to save his life and the lives of his companions.

He and his group later managed to escape in a makeshift raft down the Caleufu, Collón Curá and Limay Rivers reaching an Argentine army outpost at what is now Cipolleti, where the Neuquén and Limay rivers meet to form the Negro River. They floated nearly 400 km (250 mi) in the very cold waters, evading the natives who were sent to find them.

During his defense, Moreno reminded Saihueque of an incident, in which he tried to point out that the natives were cowards while the Europeans weren't:

Do [...] remember the shirt of seven hides of Cisnal that the brave Chocorí, your father, threw way, when carrying you in his arms, fled from the Christians [White people] at the Río Negro [river] ? Do you remember it?; well, I have it in my home, it is white with red stripes. [1]

This event that Moreno narrated happened during a military campaign against the Indians by Juan Manuel de Rosas in 1833.

Chocorí (or Chocory) managed to escape from the Argentine troops who were homing in to his camp on Choele Choel Island, on the Negro River, and marched to more peaceful grounds, along the Caleufu River, close to the current towns of Junín and San Martín de los Andes (Neuquén, Argentina). However he returned in 1834 and was killed by Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Sosa. He was a Chilean "Pehuenche" (a branch of the Mapuche nation), but he did have contacts with the Tehuelche (his wife was a Tehuelche) natives.

He was later succeeded by his son Valentín Saihueque, as "Governor of the Country of the Apples" (Southern Neuquén) who was later captured by the Argentines during a second Military Campaign in the early 1880s, a few years after Moreno's escape.

The cisnal armour, according to Vignati [2] was a "long tunic with sleeves, made from overlapping guanaco skins"

Guanaco? or something else? Why would Moreno call it a Cisnal and not a Guanaco? (he knew what the guanaco was -he hunted them, saw them skinned and ate them quite often during his Patagonian expeditions. Furthermore, owning the armour, he would have known if it was made from Guanaco hides.

The red and white stripes were they painted on, or are they the natural fur color? }

I have not been able to find a photograph of it, so I guess I will have to drive down to the La Plata Museum and see for myself.


[1] Moreno, E., (1979). Reminiscencias de Francisco P. Moreno. B. Aires: Eudeba.
[2] Vignati, Milcíades, (1931). La Armadura de un Cacique Patagón. Notas preliminares del Museo de La Plata, Volume 1, Issue 3. Coni. pp 364

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

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