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

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Awurwur - ostrich men

Today, as promised, a new post, on the mysterious awurwurs, the ostrich men.

ostrich skeleton
Ostrich Skeleton, the "knee" is actually the "ankle".

Mateo Martinic in his book on the Aonikenk natives of Southern Patagonia [1] wrote about the awurwur as follows (bold mine):

The Patagonian hunters' mythology transmitted by tradition and compiled by some informants and modern & contemporary austors, mentions a "semi-legendary aboriginal group", as Escalada defined it, known under different names such as agongures, agougures, awurwur, aawurwur or auwurwan, aire or airre. They ,according to a legendary aboriginal belief (accepted by authors such as Francisco P. Moreno and Thomas Hrrington), a "Fuegian" group (occidental boat men or kawéskar) settled on the mainland of oriental Patagonia in the southern sector comprising the regions of Santa Cruz and the Strait of Magellan, whose distinctive features were that its members were very fast, because they had their knees facing backwards, like those of ostriches, and they used a tail of feathers

This is very interesting indeed, however I must point out, as you can see in the image above, the things that point backwards are not the bird's knees, they are its ankles!.

The question of the awurwurs is treated by Martinic in a very scholarly manner, and he, of course sets the bird-men aside and goes on to analyze the fuegian boat men.
However, in this blog we can afford to be a bit more extremist, and propose outlandish ideas such as the following:

Could the awurwur myth go back to the days of terror-birds? Do they embody fearful monstrous man eating predators? After all, a ñandú or South American ostrich is a very harmless creature that hides from sight camouflaged by its brown speckled feathers, which blend it into the steppe's vegetation, and its tail is not all that memorable. But what about a gigantic terror bird? (see my posts on them:
Terror birds and some images).

Could this hint at a relatively recent extinction of these giant carnivore birds?

Ok, enough for today! but it is an interesting thought isn't it?


[1] Martinic, Mateo, (1995). Los Aonikenk, Historia y Cultura. Ediciones Universidad de Magallanes. pp. 93

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


  1. When is your book coming out? I really want to read it.

  2. I think you need to first consider the more direct explanation, ie. that this is really a type of human/hominid and not a bird. Apparently, there are reports all round the world of a type of small wild hairy human that has its feet pointing backwards. For instance, the Orang Pendek which lives in Sumatra (and is the wild human closest being scientifically recognised), is described by the locals as having its feet pointing backwards.

    The link below gives many other examples from South America:

    Mapinguari (Amazonian Brazil and Bolivia): "a large foul smelling nocturnal animal, covered in red hair and with a frightful screaming cry. This other version of the legendary creature is supposedly a strict vegetarian, with feet that are turned backwards."

    Cipitio (El Salvador): "was condemned by Tlaloc to live for ever as a 10 year old boy with his feet in backwards position, as a reminder of the wicked love of his mother"

    Curupira (Brazil, in Tupi "rough skin"): "a spirit of nature and protector of the forests. It is a boy with red hairs who makes the men who wants to kill the animals confused and lost, because they follow the Caipora's footprints, but his feet are turned backwards, which means that the hunters are thinking that they are going to the place where he is going, but in fact are going to the place where he came from."

    Matuyus and Curupiras (Brazil): "wild men with their feet pointing backwards, which supposedly help the wild animals and are defenders of nature and ecology"

    El Sisimito (Belize, corresponding to sisimite/chichimite lore elsewhere in Central America): "a very short but very strong man that was hairy and looked like a gorilla. El Sisimito was said to have his feet backwards"

    Duennes (Trinidad; probable cognate to duende, Spanish for hobgoblin or fairy, as reported from Mexico, Guatemala, and South America): "are sexless, their feet are turned backwards and they have no faces (although they do have small round mouths)."

    "In addition, the Arawaks of South America attach this feature to their legendary men-beasts."

  3. Dear Austin,
    Would you please clarify the source of the ostrich skeleton sketch in your post about "Awurwur - ostrich men"? Is it from the book by Martinec or elsewhere?

  4. Hellow, no, it is not from Martinic's book I took it from the world wide web to illustrate the rear pointing knee matter. If I am not mistaken it is a public domain image.
    thanks for writing.


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