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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Two-headed Patagon Giant


While researching on Mapuche sculptures for my post on "Fake" Patagonian Plesiosaur stone carving, I came across a very interesting "two headed" man.

It is on display at the Bullock Dillman Museum in Angol, Chile.

American naturalist, Dillman Samuel Bullock Lytle (1878-1971), excavated in that part of Chile (Arauco) during the mid XXth century and uncovered funerary urns that were different to those used by the local Mapuche people (Huilliche) and whose size indicated a very small race. An adult’s mummy, five hundred years old recently found in Angol was barely 1,30 m tall (4.2 ft.).[1]

These findings led Bullock to believe that the Mapuche were not the area’s original inhabitants. He assumed that they had originated in the Argentine Pampas and then migrated into Chile. When they arrived there they came across a race of “small people”, which he named Kofkeche. Perhaps the two-headed statue was made by the Kofkeche instead of the Mapuche? I do not know.

Below is an image of the statue:

Bicephalic Mapuche statue

Detail of "Museo Naturalista Dillman Bullock, Angol". Copyright ©katyta.liraz.[2]

This statue (which may be two people hugging instead of a bicephalic person) reminded me of something that I had read and discarded as a hoax. But now it seems interesting so, let me share it with you.

The article which was published in the ForteanTimes as "The two-headed giant" [3] tells about a giant Patagon with two heads that was captured by the Spaniards in the late 1600s. He killed himself after murdering four of his captors.
He was 3.7 m tall [12 ft.] and, was known as kap dwa which is Malay for "two heads". Why a Patagon ended up with a Malaysian name is a mystery. Somehow he arrived in England in the 1800s and was a fairground attraction since then.
In the 1930s, two doctors and a radiologist inspected it in Weston and found “no perceptual evidence of its being a fake”. Their guess was that the man was a pair of conjoined twins (i.e. "Siamese twins").

He was last seen at Newcastle in 1999. Fake or hoax? that is not known.[3]

The article that I reviewed, included some photographs, one of which I reproduce below (and which seems to depict an African and not a Patagon):

two headed giant

Two Headed Patagon Giant. From [3]. See Footnote [*]

There is another virtually identical mummified Patagon (or was it the same one?), "King Mac-A-Dula", he was " nine feet high, had two heads, was as strong as an elephant, and a great warrior who led his tribe to many victories, and that after one great battle he disappeared and was never seen or heard of again".

His mummy (a natural process acording to the pamphlet we are quoting) "was found in a cave in Patagonia. South America, by a party of English miners, while prospecting for gold". Apparently it was exhibited by the Nelson Supply House at South Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. It was under lease from England, so perhaps it was the same being.

It seems however that Mr. Nelson made his fake mummies out of papier-maché and sold them to anyone willing to display them.[5]

Two-headed creatures have existed as "curios" since time immemorial. See This image of some strange creatures, among which is a two-headed dwarf.

Patagonia also has myths about a condor with two heads and an enigmatic two-headed guanaco, which was a bad omen, a "forerunner of sickness"[6].


[1] Aburto, M., (2005). Vaca arqueóloga. Encontró esqueleto humano de más de 500 años en Angol. Las Últimas Noticias. Santiago, Chile. 27.06.2005.
[2] Katyta.liraz. Flickr posting. 01.10.2008 Museo Naturalista Dillman Bullock, Angol.
[3] Fortean Times. The Two-Headed Giant.
[4] Sideshow World. Special Attraction King Mac-A-Dula. The Two-Headed Patagonian Giant. Lecture on the Two-headed Giant.
[5] Show History. The Nelson Supply House.
[6] Musters, C. (1873). At home with the Patagonians: a year's wanderings over untrodden ground from the straits of Magellan to the Rio Negro. J. Murray. pp.192.

[*] Footnote.
Legal stuff:
Regarding Copyright of third parties, please see my FAIR USE NOTICE (items 13.a and 13.b) at our Terms and Conditions page. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Fake" Patagonian Plesiosaur stone carving


Plesiosaur fossils are found all over Patagonia, from its northern reaches[1] to its southernmost areas[2]. They have been dead for roughly 65 million years so they can't[*] be related to the "creatures" reported in several Patagonian lakes (i.e. Nahuelito, and the "Plesiosaur Lake creature").

[*]The long dead Plesiosaurs were sea monsters. The Patagonian lakes are freshwater lakes. These lakes were carved quite recently by the glaciers during the last Ice Ages.
For plesiosaurs to live in them we would have to explain how they survived in the oceans for millions of years and then, suddenly -the glaciers melted about 10,000 years ago- opted to live in cold land-locked lakes.
Why did they swim up the long Negro and Limay rivers from the Atlantic to set up their home in a mountain lake?
The mesozoic reptile theory is too flimsy and should be dismissed.

Today I came across an incredible piece of evidently "fake evidence" regarding Nahuelito. It is an article Other Strange Sea Creatures,which in good faith includes the following image assuming it to be true:

fake Nahuelito

Alleged "Ancient Carving of Nahuelito". From: [3]

The text that includes the photograph refers to different "Sea Monsters" and includes Nahuelito, it repeats the usual brief comments on the 1922 Plesiosaur expedition and Garrett's 1910 "sighting".

But the most surprising part of the article is the following, which refers to the above image:

To the left is a depiction of an ancient carving of Nahuelito showing a horned reptilian form (from Eggleton & Suckling, The Book of Sea Monsters, 1998, p. 90.)

In other words we must believe that the local Tehuelche (Poya) or Mapuche people carved that amazingly oriental dragon head in rock!

There are no known comparable or similar carvings by these people. And this one seems to be Chinese, but not native American.

Below is a great book on Mapuche art, compare the style of wood carvings (totems) which they called rehue shown on the cover with the "stone reptile" shown above. Absolutely no similarity. Here is another example, notice how coarse it is in comparison to the dragon.

You can read more about the Mapuche's sculptures Here.

Mapuche art

"Mapuche Art (wood carvings). From: [4]

How come I have never seen it in all the years I have spent in Bariloche? It would be a top tourist attraction. I must somehow find the location of the ledge, cliff or cave where this sculpture is and organize tours (I may make a fortune).

I have not been able to check the original source[3], but please do it for me and let me know if the image really appears there, and what is the text that goes with it.


[1] Salgado, Leonardo, Parras, Ana y Gasparini, Zulma. Un plesiosaurio de cuello corto (Plesiosauroidea, Polycotylidae) del Cretácico Superior del norte de Patagonia. Ameghiniana. [online]. abr./jun. 2007, vol.44, no.2, p.349-358. ISSN 0002-7014.
[2] Otero, Rodrigo A; Suarez, Mario E; LE ROUX, Jacobus P. First record of Elasmosaurid Plesiosaurs (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria) in upper levels of the Dorotea Formation, Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian), Puerto Natales, Chilean Patagonia. AndGeo, Santiago, v. 36, n. 2, jul. 2009. doi: 10.4067/S0718-71062009000200008.
[3] Suckling, Nigel and Eggleton, Bob. (1998). The book of sea monsters. Overlook Press.
[4] Molina, Joaquin. (2007) Mapuche: arte de los pueblos del sur.Fundación Nicolás García Uriburu.

Legal stuff: Regarding Links to other sites, Non endorsement, Brand Names and trademarks and Other products and vendors, such as The Book of sea monsters or Mapuche: arte de los pueblos del sur, please see our Terms and Conditions.
Regarding Copyright of third parties, please see my FAIR USE NOTICE (items 13.a and 13.b) at our Terms and Conditions page. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Southern Tierra del Fuego Map


Tierra del Fuego map

Map of Southern Tierra del Fuego. Beagle Channel. See Footnote [*]

Map showing Beagle Channel and Lake Fagnano area of Tierra del Fuego Island.

I include it because in a previous post I mentioned Hoste and Gable islands (the first is at the bottom left side of the map, the second is in Beagle Channel right beside Harberton -the home of the Bridges family, the first settlers in Tierra del Fuego).

In future posts we will mention Yosi, a horrid Fuegian dwarf, who lived by Lake Fagnano, which is also home to Fañanito.

[*] Footnote.
Map adapted from: Nuevo Atlas de la Argentina © Cases i Associats S.A. 1995. Published by Clarin. Edición especial para la Secretaría de Turismo de la Nación 1996. ISBN 987 9153 00 6.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Deformed dwarves


Close to Llaima volcano, in Chile, lives a creature known as Quetronamun (“duck legs” in Mapudungun).[1] It is described as a dwarfish human with only one foot; it is somewhat penguin-like. Its foot is turned backwards, just like a Guaraní[*] creature, the Corupira which is a dwarf the size of a child.

[*]There are several myths in Patagonia that hint at some kind of connection or relationship between the Paraguayan Guaraní people. A connection that the Mapuche dislike, because it may imply that they migrated to Chile from the southern Amazon jungle. We have look into these myths and this connection between both native groups Here.

By the way, Llaima was also home to a dinosaur-like monster (see our post on it Here).

This hideous Quetronamun may be related to the Invunche (meaning in Mapudungun “monster person”), which was a “deformed and misshapen being, that has its face turned towards its back and that moves around on one leg because the other one is stuck to its neck or nape”. It is fed on flesh of newly born babies, lives in a cave and yells like a goat terrifying the neighbors.[2]

The Chiloé natives believed them to be created by wizards.[3]

There is evidence that links both Quetronamun and Invunche to acculturation of the natives and exposure to European myths for there is a similar weird dwarf mentioned by Roman naturalist the Elder Pliny.

deformed dwarf
Medieval European monsters. Note the deformed one-footed dwarf on the left.
From: [1] Münster, S., Monstra humana. pp. 1080.

He mentioned a creature that was found close to Mount Imavus in a region called Abarimon, in Asia, where “wild men of the woods whose feet are turned back to front. They run very fast and roam abroad with the wild beasts”.[4]

It is very likely that the Spaniards introduced these myths into Chile during the conquest.


[1] Guevara, T., (1925). Historia de Chile: Chile prehispano. Santiago: Balcells.
[2] Cavada, F., (1914). Chiloé y los Chilotes. Santiago: Imprenta Universitaria. pp. 99+
[3] Vicuña Cifuentes, J., (1915). Estudios de Folklore chileno. Mitos y supersticiones recogidos de la tradición oral chilena, con referencias comparativas á los de otros países latinos. Santiago: Imp. universitaria. pp 70.
[4] Pliny, the Elder, (2005). On the Human Animal: Natural History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. vii:61

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Map of Lake Del Toro (Bull Lake)


Map Lago del Toro and Puerto Natales. See Footnote [*].

Iposted about this lake and mentioned a stange lake bull that is said to live there.

I am including a map of the general area, where you can also see Puerto Natales, close to which is the mylodon cave.

[*] Footnote.
Map adapted from: Nuevo Atlas de la Argentina © Cases i Associats S.A. 1995. Published by Clarin. Edición especial para la Secretaría de Turismo de la Nación 1996. ISBN 987 9153 00 6.

Legal stuff:
Regarding Copyright of third parties, please see my FAIR USE NOTICE (items 13.a and 13.b) at our Terms and Conditions page. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lake La Plata – lake of the week

lake of the week

Lake La Plata is located well inside the Argentine Andean forests (44°52’ S, 71°48’ W) and has a surface area of 76 km2 (29.3 sq. mi.). It drains into Lake Fontana, and frome there, through the Senguer River towards the Atlantic. See map below (the lake is in the center of the map).

Lake La Plata

Map of Lake La Plata area. See Footnote[*].

Here, local people “saw animals coming out of the lake” but when they tried to approach them, “they rushed and back into the lake again”. At night they heard “horses neighing, bulls bellowing and all kinds of animals bleating in the lake”. They were frightened because these “lake animals want[ed] to take” their cattle into the lake. It seems that they were carnivores.[1]

This “kidnapping” or “cattle rustling” behavior by the “lake monsters” is a common feature found in many other Patagonian lakes: we have seen it happen at Lago del Toro (Bull Lake).


[1] Vidal de Battini, B. E., (1980). Cuentos y leyendas populares de la Argentina. B. Aires: Ediciones Culturales Argentinas v.7. pp. 307.

Map adapted from: Nuevo Atlas de la Argentina © Cases i Associats S.A. 1995. Published by Clarin. Edición especial para la Secretaría de Turismo de la Nación 1996. ISBN 987 9153 00 6.

Legal stuff:
Regarding Copyright of third parties, please see my FAIR USE NOTICE (items 13.a and 13.b) at our Terms and Conditions page. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Patagonian Bigfoot?


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.[1][2]

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.[3]

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”.[4]

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”.[4]

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.[5]

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”.[6] 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.[7]

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”.[8]

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.[9]

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.).[10]

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.[11] 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.


[1] 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.
[2] Bridges, T., (1998). Los indios del último confin. Sus escritos para la South American Missionary Society. Ushuaia: Zaguier & Urruty Publications. pp. 152.
[3] Darwin, C., (1987). The Voyage of the Beagle. Ware: Woodsworth Editions. pp. 205.
[4] 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.
[5] Emperaire, J., (1963). Los Nómades del Mar. Santiago: Ediciones de la Universidad de Chile. pp. 156.
[6] Aguilera F., Lenguas y culturas de Chile – Kawéscar. Online.
[7] Grebe, M., (1974). La música alacalufe: aculturación y cambio estilístico. Revista musical chilena. Nº 126-127 pp. 80-111.
[8] Koessler-Ilg, B., (2000). Op Cit. pp. 71.
[9] Eberhart, G., (2002). Misterious Creatures: A guide to Cryptozoology. S. Barbara: ABC Clio. pp. 82.
[10] Batic, L., (2005). Seres mitológicos argentinos. Diario 1. Patagonia. B. Aires: Ed. Albatros. pp. 119.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Monsters: Goshg-e, Oókempam and Elëngassën


Today's post is about some Patagonian monsters,Goshg-e, Oókempam and Elëngassën

Argentine explorer Ramón Lista compiled some Aonikenk legends in the 1890s, while there were still living in their original territory before being overtaken by Western “civilization”, and wrote about a strange gigantic monster: Goshg-e:

Goshg-e, sows terror and despair. Every night a child disappears; the monster also devours the stray hunters. El-lal [sic] goes after it and finds it at the edge of the forest […] but the giant is invulnerable […] the hero’s arrows splinter or bounce […] off the creature.[1]

Ramón Lista (1856-1897). Argentine explorer, military and scientist. He explored Patagonia between 1877 and 1887, and also governor of the National Territory of Santa Cruz between 1887 and 1892, where he wed an Aonikenk who gave him a daughter. He died at the hands of his guides while exploring the tropical Chaco jungles in northern Argentina.

Elal, was the Aonikenk’s (Southern Tehuelche) hero and demigod. He was the son of Teo, a cloud, and the enormous monster Nosjthej who raped her and later finding her pregnant tore her belly open to devour the baby. Fortunately Terr-werr, a field mouse who was Elal’s grandmother, saved the baby boy and hid him in her burrow.

Elal grew into a fine strong fellow who invented the bow and arrow, hunting, fire and cooking. All of which he taught to men, civilizing them in a Promethian manner. He thus assumed a leading role in their religion replacing Kooch, the creator of the Universe.

He would bring peace to Patagonia and confronting Nosjthej like Zeus did with Chronos, he killed him. His work done, he flew away on a swan to Paradise.[1]

Elal was also a Patagonian “monster slayer” a hunter of megafauna whose tent was covered with trophies including “the shells of gigantic armadillos”, but Gosgh-e proved difficult to kill.[1]

We find reference to a similar creature in the Aonikenk’s oral tradition regarding Oókempam, a monster that was:

the shape and size of the […] it walked on four legs and was covered by a thick and very hard carapace, which was not pierced by arrows or the sharp claws of the puma.[2]

Its only weak spots were its unprotected ankles, an Achilles-like feature that it shared with the Fuegian monsters.

Both Goshg-e and Oókempam were wild man-eating, child abducting, arrow-proof devils, shrouded by a tough armadillo like shell.

This last feature (the armadillo shell) is shared by another monster, Elëngassën . The first one to report it was a Swiss rancher and naturalist, Jorge Claraz (1832-1930), who in 1866 set out to explore the interior of the territories of Rio Negro and Chubut. In his diary he rendered the natives, their language, and their customs. He also mentioned an “Elengassem[*] cave” close to Segunda Angostura, the second “narrows” of the Negro River, near to what is now the town of Guardia Mitre in Rio Negro province, Argentina.

This cave was once inhabited by a strange creature, the Elëngassën, which he described as:

An animal similar to a man -it has a human figure- but is very big. It has hands, big legs, it walks like a man and is covered like a peludo[#] with an enormous hard shell -which is of stone- these beings existed before, but now they are extinct. They were harmless and never attacked. But when one came near them -especially at dusk- they threw stones. These strange beings lived in caves.[3]

[*] Claraz wrote indistinctively Elemgassen, Éllengassen and Elemgassem. We will spell it Elëngassën.
[#]“Peludo” is one of the armadillos that live in Argentina. The defining feature of armadillos is their “shell”, a series of bands of keratinous (horny) plates interspaced with flexible skin. These cover the animal’s back and head. The Patagonian species is the “pichi” (Zaedyus pichiy) or dwarf armadillo.

He visited the site, but it had caved in and was filled with debris. He could not verify if it held any bones or native paintings. It was set in a very strategic location, in the narrows, above a “very ancient road, that was abandoned because of Elemgassen. It was not possible to pass along it at night […] without being bothered terribly by the animal that threw stones, which is why they made a road above it.”[4]

Ten years later old Tehuelche chief Sinchel showed Francisco Moreno this cave stating that it was the “lair of one of these monsters”, and he too noted that “to avoid meeting it they had made a very difficult road with a detour of nearly one league [5 km or 3.1 mi.] over a hill”.[5] The new path was made by “the women […] who were afraid of the animal because it threw stones at them and it ‘growled ugly’ insulting them.”[6]

Francisco Pascasio Moreno (1852-1919). Argentine scientist. He explored the Patagonia several times in the 1870s, being named in 1877 Director of the Buenos Aires Anthropological Museum, which in 1884 became the La Plata Natural History Museum. He is usually known as “Perito” Moreno (Perito means "specialist, expert") for his key role during the border conflict between Argentina and Chile from 1892 to 1902 which defused an inevitable war. He donated a vast tract of land that the Argentine government gave him as a reward for his services and formed Argentina’s first National Park. He served as a member of Congress.

This was not the only one; the beast had lived in several places. Claraz mentioned that “Éllengassen’s most beautiful home”[7] was located at Yaulemtzca –close to current Llama Niyeo (41°54’ S, 68°24’ W). He visited it and dug there finding some bones and ancient rock art.[8] Moreno also found many other caves that the natives believed were “anciently inhabited by the Elengassen.”[6]

Identifying the beast

Claraz was persuaded by its appearance that this gigantic armadillo-shaped being was the extinct glyptodon; a Pleistocene creature had a tough bony plated shell the size of a small car and weighed up to two tons.

They thrived until about 11,000 years ago when, at the end of the Ice Age, they suddenly became extinct.

He believed that it was man-eating and wrote that “the large extant species […] the Paraguayan “tatú”[*] […] feeds on cattle […] I myself saw two peludos devour a human corpse close the sea coast”.[9]

[*] Tatú is the Guaraní name for the largest existing armadillo, the Giant Tatú or Tatú Carreta (Priodontes maximus) which can weigh up to 60 kg (130 lb.) and measure 1,5 m long (5 ft.).

Moreno described them as “human monsters (Ellengassen) covered with a shell like the tatú”.[10] The creature was:

covered with an enormous shell, very thick, similar to that of the current armadillos, probably a glyptodon […] it according to some, it had a human face and according to others it was a man of gigantic size, with its back covered with a shield, so it could only be wounded on its belly.[6]

So both Moreno and Claraz believed it to be a glyptodon.


Poor candidates for monsters. Glyptodons were not blood thirsty predators, but placid grazing herbivores that spent their lives munching the tough steppe grass. The Glyptodontidae family comprised many similar species, all related to current anteaters, sloths and armadillos.

The doedicurus for instance, whose remains have been found in Patagonia, measured 4 m (13 ft.) long and 1,5 m (5 ft.) high. It had clawed paws and was covered by a dome-shaped bony body armor. Like all Glyptodontidae it had short yet strong jaws with rear grinding teeth.

The smaller -2,5 m (8.2 ft.) long- Pampatheium typum lived in the open grasslands and weighed 225 kg (496 lb.).

Similar to those of armadillos, its shell consisted of tough bands. It burrowed in deep tunnels and may have eaten worms, eggs and carrion.

Glyptodons, like all the megafauna, lived in the open grasslands of the then not so arid Patagonian steppe; and though some had a mace like tail, they were not dangerous. Their claws were probably used to dig up roots or tubers, and their teeth did not have fangs. Being vegetarian they were more likely preys than predators. They must have huddled up inside the safety of their shells when attacked.

Humans interacted with them and depicted them in their rock art, and even Moreno discovered a painting resembling “the glyptodon.”

These hefty armored animals were definitively not dangerous man-eating monsters. We can only wonder which was the beast that instilled fear into the minds of the Fuegians and the Aonikenk. The beast that inspired the myths of Kawtcho, Ayayema, Shoort, Elëngassën , Cushpij, Goshg-e and Oókempam.

A mystery lost in the dawn of time.


[1] Lista, R., (2006). Viaje a la Patagonia Austral (1879). Los indios tehuelches. Una raza que desaparece (1894). B. Aires: Continente-Pax. pp. 91 –4.
[2] Baleta, M., (2002). Cuentan Los Chonkes - Leyendas de la Patagonia Tehuelche. B. Aires: Zagier & Urruty. pp. 27.
[3] Hux, M., and; Casamiquela, R. (1988). Jorge Claraz. Diario De Viaje De Exploracion Al Chubut, 1865-1866. B. Aires: Ediciones Marymar.
[4] Claraz, G., (2008). Viaje al rio Chubut: Aspectos naturalísticos y etnológicos (1865-1866). B. Aires: Continente. pp. 173.
[5] Moreno, F., (1876). Viaje a la Patagonia Septentrional. [Conference]. B. Aires, Anales de la Sociedad Científica Argentina I.
[6] Moreno, E., (1979). Reminiscencias de Francisco P. Moreno. B. Aires: Eudeba.
pp. 105 and 129.
[7] Claraz, G., (2008). pp. 102.
[8] Ibid. pp. 157+
[9] Ibid. pp. 212.
[10] Papp, C. (2002). Die Tehuelche. Ein Ethnohistorischer Beitrag zu einer jahrhundertelangen Nicht-Begegnung. [Dissertation] Universitãt Wien. pp. 77. Citing: Moreno, F., (1882) Recuerdos de Viage en Patagonia. Montevideo.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fuegian Beasts - Part 2


Yagan's “Cushpij”

The second group of Fuegians, the Yagan boat people also had their own “clawed” beasts stalking them; they believed in the aggressive Kíshpix (or Cushpij), a “spirit” that was “evil and with a horrible shape”[1] and which, according to Lucas Bridges, “terrified them”.[2]

Besides Cushpij, there were other monsters such as the one that lived in a cave on Gable Island, the largest in the Beagle Channel [54°53’ S, 67°29’ W]. It was “a monster, a sea lion or seal that attacked anyone who came close to the island, sinking their canoes and eating those on board”; it was finally slayed by a young Yagan hero named Umoara.[3]

He also killed another monster, a cruel giant that kidnapped women (this seemed to have been a common trait among the Patagonian monsters) and lived on Hoste Island; its only weak spot was its ankle.[3] This Achillean ankle is a remarkable coincidence, identical to that of another monster, feared by the Aonikenk of southern Patagonia: Oókempam, of whom we will about in our next post, tomorrow.

See map here with Gable and Host islands.

Alakaluf: “Ayayema” and “Kawtcho

The Alakaluf boat men of the western coast of Tierra del Fuego and southern Chile also had their own monstrous beings. Besides their relatively benign “snow man” Mwono, there were others not so harmless.

One of them was Ayayema that hunted prowling in the night; during daytime it lived in a bog called “Papi” and emerged when darkness fell stalking along the shore concealed by the gloomy thick forests. It also had a horrid stench, smelling like rot.[4]

Another beast was Kawtcho; a nocturnal spirit that also had a putrid smell that was so strong that it awoke the dogs and made them howl. It was like a very tall man with a gigantic brawny body and sharp claws. Its head was covered with “hair hard and straight as nails”.[4] During the day, just like the Mapuche’s evil púlli fucha, it walked under the ground -a cave perhaps or a burrowing creature?- and at night, like Ayayema, it would lurk along the beaches, coming upon its solitary victims from behind (it only attacked from the rear) emptying their eyes out of their sockets and killing them.

They Alakaluf avoided lighting fires in the open at night not to disclose the location of their campsites to both Kawtcho and Ayayema and only dared to do so inside their huts, to keep the beasts out, because both feared light.[4]

These mythical Fuegian creatures share many similarities with those of the mainland’s Tehuelche people, as we will see in the next post: they were large, dangerous, man-eating, arrow-proof; they were fearsome creatures.


[1] Orquera, L. and Piana, E., (2003). Yáana Canoeros marinos de Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia. Museo del Fin del Mundo, Biblioteca Virtual.
[2] Bridges, L., (2008). Op. Cit. pp. 159.
[3] Martial, L., (2005). Mision al Cabo de Hornos, la expedición científica francesa en la Romanche Julio de 1882 a setiembre de 1883. Ushuaia: Zaguier & Urruty Publications. pp.245-246.
[4] Emperaire, J. and Oyarzún, L., (2002). Los nomades del mar. Santiago: Lom Ed. pp. 299-300 & 305.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fuegian Beasts - Part 1


Part 1. The Selk’nam people’s monsters

All three nations of Fuegian natives feared monstrous clawed beings; in today’s post we will look into the beasts that terrified the Selk’nam people.

The Selk’nam were frightened of an evil female[*] spirit, the dreadful Halpen or Xalpen, virtually identical to the Tehuelche’s Ajchum, the “leader of devils”.[1][2]

[*] Fuegian males had a fixation with women’s liberty and they went to extremes to subjugate them. Their myths indicate that in the past men were under female domination until they revolted and adopted initiation rites in which they donned costumes and masks and impersonated evil spirits to instill fear and keep their women subdued. This may explain why females are associated with evil monsters in their culture.

She had a peculiar shout, a very shrilly “wa” and was escorted by her partner, Shoort. Both he and Halpen lived underground.[3]

Despite their fear, the natives enacted Halpen and Shoort during their “Hain”, a rite of passage into manhood, where she was the centerpiece.

Two principal Shoorts of the 1923 Hain. Left, north sky. Right, south sky. From [3] pp. 102.

Shoort’s role was to terrify the young men, who were told that he haunted the woods, was invulnerable to their arrows and that “if they met such a creature they were to take refuge in a tree, for the spirit was not accustomed to climbing trees”.[4]

Lucas Bridges, the first white man to be born in Tierra del Fuego, took part in a Hain and gives a good idea of what Halpen looked like; he tells of a young boy named Tinis who was dressed to represent her; he was covered with guanaco skins until:

overwhelmed, could barely walk, having lost all human appearance […] These furs, with the hair inwards and whitened with lime on the outside, hung down to his feet, and on top of all this they fastened a wrapping that resembled a short and stocky fish, with something like a human face painted on the front […] The slow pace of Halpen, his occasional stops […] made it a threatening appearance, in accordance to its sinister fame.[4]

He added that Halpen could also be a swift creature and had a long sharp nail on its middle finger and used it to attack humans.

Salesian Father Gusinde described her as living underground and being not only dangerous but also irritable and whimsical. At a Hain ceremony he saw her represented with several hides placed on the floor of the hut that created a bulky cylinder roughly 6 m (20 ft.) long.

These eye-witness accounts indicate that Halpen was a large bulky furry creature, which was agile and also dangerous; with her claws she “open[ed] the bodies of [men] […] because she could hurt, destroy and even eat” them.[5]

Besides Halpen, the Selk’nam also had two other gigantic non-human monsters, Chémene and Siaskel.

Chémene or CheEnèm was another female monster that guarded a watering hole at Oixe by Cape Peñas. She was a terrifying “ogress”; a gigantic woman with large claws, who killed and ate the brave hunters who dared to venture close to her lair.[6][7] What became of her is not known. There are no accounts about her being killed. Perhaps she still hides by the spring.

Siaskel or Chaskel was a male monster, a giant that lived at the dawn of time, during the mythical era of the “Hoowin”, the legendary ancestors of the Selk’nam. During the time of the Hoowin lived a Selk’nam hero named Kwanyip; he had taught men how to build fires, hunt, make bows and arrows, canoes, and also, as a real hero, he slayed monsters.[8]

Siaskel, was a gigantic creature that ate humans -preferring children and women. His blood was poisonous and he, like Shoort and Halpen lived underground (some kind of burrowing monster?). Chilean folklorist Carlos Keller (1898-1974), described Siaskel as having dark disheveled hair and a cape that deflected the arrows shot at it (which, as we will see in future posts, was a feature that many Patagonian monsters shared).[9]

These defenses made him a formidable creature. But Kwanyip was forced to attack the monster to rescue his two young nephews who had been taken by Siaskel and enslaved by him. After a formidable battle, he slayed the beast.

In our next post we will look at the Yagan people’s “Cushpij” and the Alakaluf’s “Ayayema” and “Kawtcho” all of which are very similar to the Selk’nam’s monsters. We will also look for some reasonable explanation for these mythical creatures.


[1] Baleta, M., (2002). Cuentan Los Chonkes - Leyendas de la Patagonia Tehuelche. B. Aires: Zagier & Urruty. pp. 27.
[2] Prieto, A., (1992). Arte Primitivo. Fuentes Decorativas, Punta Arenas. Año 3. N° 32. 05-1992.
[3] Chapman, A. (1982). Drama and power in a hunting society: The Selk'nam of Tierra del Fuego. Cambridge: Cambridge: University Press. pp. 100 and 102
[4] Bridges, L., (2008). El último confín de la tierra. B. Aires: Editorial Sudamericana. pp. 407-9.
[5] Penazzo, N. and Tercero G., (1992). Los dos primeros Kloket'n cuando el Loro anuncia la estación. Impactos, Punta Arenas. Año 3, N° 32. 05-1992
[6] Penazzo, N. and Tercero G., (1991). Impactos, Punta Arenas, Año 2, N° 21. 06-1991.
[7] Molina, M., (1976). Patagónica: Prehistoria, tradiciones y mitologías. Roma: Ed. LAS. pp. 167.
[8] Carbonell, B. (2003). Cosmología y chamanismo en Patagonia. Gazeta de Antropología. Nº 19, 19-09.
[9] Keller, C., (1947). Dios en Tierra del Fuego; Mitos y cuentos de los Sélcnam. Santiago: Zig-Zag. pp. 67.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lake Llanquihue - lake of the week

lake of the week

Lake Llanquihue.

Our lake of the week. Every week I will post about a different Patagonian lake.

This lake is located at the foot of Osorno Volcano (41°09’ S, 72°47’ W), is Chile’s second largest lake with a surface area of 860 km2 [332 sq. mi.]. It is 70 m [229 ft.] above sea level and is 350 m [1,147 ft.] deep, so the lake's bottom is well below sea level.

Its Monster

We have only found one reference published in 1999 regarding “a strange aquatic monster” which was seen by Puerto Varas and Ensenada; it had “a long neck, similar to an anaconda, with the back of a pachyderm and nine meters long”. This being has a “plesiosaur” appearance.[1]

See it on our MAP


[1] Badal, G. and Coloane, F., (2005). Chile: país oceánico. Santiago: Ocho Libros Edit. pp. 44. Citing: Ampuero R., (1999). ¿Un monstruo en elLago Llanquihue? Diario Austral. Temuco, Chile. 10.01.1999.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

1421 China discovered Patagonia and its "mylodons"


Book review

Book Cover. 1421 The year China discovered the World.

Photograph of the book cover from my personal library.

Gavin Menzies' book "1421 The year China discovered the World"[1] proposes a highly imaginative and improbable theory by which a fleet of junks that set sail in 1421 (hence the name of the book), navigated around the globe exploring it thoroughly.

He states that they mapped the world and that the Portuguese and Spanish navigators who would later sail around Africa and discover America used these maps. Additionally they collected specimens of plants and animals taking them back to China. Some of their junks capsized and the shipwrecked survivors peopled different spots around the globe with ethnic Chinese and their domestic animals (dogs, otters, chickens).

Far fetched? In my personal opinion, Yes!!

I base this opinion on what Menzies wrote about Patagonia. First of all he calls the Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) Huemil, spelling it incorrectly. Then he contends that an animal depicted on Piri Reis 1513 World Map is a mylodon (see my post on this map). Adding that:

It would strip the [trees] branches bare of fruit before lumbering off to demolish the next tree. The animal was said to reach three metres, sometimes even more, in height and slept for most of the time. The native people of Patagonia harnessed these 'harmless souls' in caves during the winter, taking them out to graze in summer; their meat apparently tasted like bland mutton.[2]

Amazing creativity and distortion of scientifically established facts:

1. He is repeating something that is known to be untrue. Tehuelche and mylodons co-existing:
- The remains of mylodon found in Patagonia at least 10,400 years old. So nobody could record what their meat tasted like. (Bland mutton? why not tough moose meat or pungent gnu steaks?).
2. Grazing in summer, enclosed in winter? Based on what proof? We know that these creatures were never domesticated.
3. Furthermore, the native people of Patagonia (Paleo-Indians and their Tehuelche descendants) were hunters and gatherers. They never bred or raised cattle.
4. Fruit from trees? The Patagonian forest is made up of “Southern Beeches” (Nothofagus) species like the ñire, lenga and coihue. None of which have juicy or edible fruits. The mylodon would have eaten their leaves not their fruits.

See my post "The Mylodon Saga" for the real accurate facts regarding Patagonian mylodons.

Menzies then says that the Chinese loaded some specimens on their junks to take them back to the Emperor's zoo in Beijing.

Of course there is no proof that there were ever any mylodon at Beijing.

To add even more incredible "facts" to this fantastic tale, he states that in 1831, at Dusky Sound, New Zealand, two sailors "saw a strange animal perching at the edge of the bush and nibbling the foliage", it had a thick an pointed tail, stood nine meters tall. It chomped on the leaves of big branches that it pulled down quite easily. This is not too unusual, it may be the description of some cryptid. But then, he adds:

The animal described corresponds in size, posture and eating habits with the mylodons the Chinese could have taken aboard in Patagonia. Perhaps a pair escped from the [junk] wreck, survived and bred in similar conditions to their home territory in Patagonia - the latitudes are the same.[3]

The only accurate statement in the parragraph is that New Zealand and Patagonia are located at the same latitude (also, there are some Nothofagus species there, similar to the Patagonian ones - a fact Menzies overlooked).

So in other words, we are asked to believe that: in 1421 a group of Chinese explorers [of an unproved voyage] after discovering America [no proof of that either], took mylodons [which were then extinct] from Patagonia and transported them to New Zealand which, by the way they also discovered [unproved]. These mylodons somehow swam ashore after a shipwreck at New Zealand, where they bred and survived [at least four hundred years - because they have not been seen since 1831].

Can anyone top that as the most amazing tale ever told?

If the other "proof" given in the rest of the book is as tenuous and unfounded as this, then I seriously doubt that the Chinese discovered the world in 1421.


[1] Menzies, G., (2003). 1421 The year China discovered the World. London: Bantam Press.
[2] Ibid. pp. 150+
[3] Ibid. pp. 209.

Legal stuff: Regarding Links to other sites, Non endorsement, Brand Names and trademarks and Other products and vendors, such as 1421 The year China discovered the World, please see our Terms and Conditions.
Regarding Copyright of third parties, please see my FAIR USE NOTICE (items 13.a and 13.b) at our Terms and Conditions page. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Lake Todos los Santos creature


map lakes chile

Lakes in Los Lagos, Chile. Copyright © 2009 by Austin Whittall

in the 1956 yearbook of the Chilean Mountaineering Federation (Federacion de Andinismo y Excursionismo de Chile), we have found another "lake monster" at Lago Todos Los Santos.

Set in the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, east of Lake Llanquihue (this Lake of the week - see left sidebar and map above) it flows into Reloncavi Fjord. It is surrounded by three volcanos: Osorno (2.652 m - 8,695 ft.), Puntiagudo (2.190 m - 7,180 ft.) and, on the border between Argentina and Chile, Mount Tronador (3.354 m - 11,652 ft. in Argentina, the International peak is slightly lower at 3.478 m).

Lago Todos los Santos (Lake of All Saints) also known due to its color as Esmeralda (Emerald), has a surface of 178 km2 (69 sq. mi) is 337 m (1,104 ft.) deep and 198 m (650 ft.) above sea level.

It is described as "a monster" having "a long tail that ends in a spear head which is in some way related to the monster Pillán of Osorno volcano, which the natives believed was the lair of demons and monsters.

This monster is also known by the name of "Hueñauca".


Grupo de Montaña Perros Alpinos. Citing: Federacion de Andinismo y Excursionismo de Chile "anuario de montaña" 1956 Santiago

Lea este post en español

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

River Plate sea serpent (ca. 1830s)


Titus Coan

Text quoted below. Page 242 of [1]

Two North American Protestant ministers were sent by the ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) in 1833 to Patagonia.

They were to stay among the native Patagonians and study the feasibility of setting up a mission there.

Their original plan was to land on the Chilean coast south of Chiloé, but lack of transportation made them change their plans and land at the Strait of Magellan, at Gregory Bay. There they stayed with a group of Southern Tehuelche natives.

These two brave (and I would add, reckless) men were William Arms and Titus Coan.

Both managed to survive where others had been taken captive and after three very difficult months, they reembarked back to the U.S.

The ABCFM after receiving their report decided not to establish any missions in Patagonia.

Neither of them reported any strange beings or cryptids during their stay in Patagonia, however, Arms' diary has a strange remark which I quote below.

It happened in the Atlantic Ocean, close to the coast of Buenos Aires, north of Patagonia, some parts of the text are, regrettably illegible but they seem to indicate some kind of "sea monster".

I have translated it from Spanish into English:

That afternoon [Captain Benjamin Pendleton of the "Hamilton"] described an [illegible] that he saw in the waters off the River Plate, saying that in total it was ten meters [33 ft.] above the water, nearly round and some twenty meters [66 ft.] from its tail to its head; it had long arms like fins with spines 50 cm [20 in.] all above its back. Algae had grown on it up to a great height.[1]

Could it have been an Oarfish a "sea serpent" (actually a fish that looks like one)?


[1] Titus Coan (2006). Aventuras en Patagonia. Un viaje de exploración de dos misioneros norteamericanos. Noviembre 1833 - Marzo 1834. B. Aires: Zagier & Urruty Publ. pp. 242

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dog-headed monsters


Piri Reis map and the dog-headed Patagons.

dog headed man
Medieval monsters. Note the cynocephali on the right.
From: [1] Münster, S., Monstra humana. pp. 1080.

Detail of Piri Reis 1513 World Map.
From: [2]. Piri Reis. The World Map. Library of Topkapi Palace Museum.

There is evidence regarding dog-headed creatures in an early map of Patagonia dating to six years before Magellan’s official discovery; it was drawn in 1513 by Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis who compiled it based on information garnered from Portuguese sailors.[3][4]

The South American coast though distorted is shown to a latitude beyond 50°S; a fact that, though disputed by some scholars, is taken as proof that Magellan was not the first European to sail along the Patagonian coast and that a covert Portuguese expedition had been there before him.

A mid sized bipedal animal is depicted close to the Patagonian Andes in Piri Reis’ map. It is dancing, clasping hands, with a monkey (see image above). It appears to be the rendering of a “dog-headed” being, a cynocephalus (Greek for “dog head”). It may have been drawn just to embellish the map, or it may represent some unknown Patagonian animal.

It is a remarkable coincidence that Magellan named the native Patagons after a fictional dog-headed monster "Patagón" (see my post on the origin of the name Patagonia Here).

Also see my other posts on Piri Reis map Here (Unicorns) and Here (Giant snakes).

Perhaps he had also seen the original Portuguese charts on which Reis based his map, and noticed the dog-headed monsters years before he embarked on his circumnavigation voyage.

The map is not our only source on these beings, cynocephalic giants were sighted in Patagonia in 1592 by John Davis (a member of Cavendish’s expedition) who fought at Puerto Deseado with “a great multitude of Salvages [sic] […] leaping and running like brute beasts, having vizards on their faces like dogs faces, or else their faces are dogs faces indeed”.[5]


[1] Münster, S., (1552). Monstra Humana. [Engraving] Cosmographia. Book V.Basel: Heinrich-Petri. pp. 1080.
[2] Piri Reis. The World Map (1513) [Map]. Library of Topkapi Palace Museum. No. H. 1824.
[3] Leman Yolaç, Ayşe Afetinan (1954). Life and Works of the Turkish Admiral Pirî Reis: The Oldest Map of America. Ankara. pp. 28-34.
[4] Dutch, S., (1997). The Piri Reis Map. Online.
[5] Davys, J., (1970). The voyages and works of John Davis, the navigator. New York: B. Franklin. pp. 121.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Fuegian “dog”


weird but real animals

Another incredible and real creature was the Fuegian or Yagán “dog”. It was a small fox-sized “dog”, which is now extinct but, and this is the only case in the whole world, this “dog” resulted from the domesticaton of the culpeo; a type of South American fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus).

All other dogs around the world descend from domesticated wolves dating back several thousand years ago, the Fuegian case is different, they descend not from wolves but from foxes.

Lucas Bridges described them as “a very stunted cross between an Alsatian police dog and a wolf”.[1]

In the words of French Captain Marital who headed the 1883 scientific expedition to Cape Horn, it was “ugly, with long tawny hair and a sharp snout, it looks quite like the fox […] mainly when hunting otters is where this dog is very useful to its master”.[2]

They were big dogs, and weighed up to 35kg (77 lb).[3]

Fuegian dog

Stuffed Fuegian dog. At the Museo Mayorino Borgatello, Punta Arenas, Chile.[6]

Julius Popper –infamous for his massacres of Selk’nam people (at that time known as Ona), said that it had upright ears and thick tail, looking quite like the fox, although its color is sometimes totally white”.[4]

He pointed out its lack of loyalty to men “I never saw them, no matter how large their number, take an aggressive attitude or defend their masters when these were in danger”.[4]

He also noted that they were useless to hunt guanaco. Yet, he thought that he had found their usefulness:

the dogs placed themselves in a group around the small Onas, taking the shape of a kind of wrapping […] my opinion is that the fuegian dogs are only useful to complete the defective garment of the Indian, or better, as the Ona’s heating furniture.[4]

When Salesian father Gusinde began visiting the Yagans in 1919 their dogs had disappeared, they had been exterminated because they “were dangerous to men and cattle”.[5]

Their fierce nature had also been noticed by Reverend Thomas Bridges in the 1880s, who wrote that they attacked his Mission’s goats.[5]


[1] Bridges, L., (2008). Op. Cit. pp.97.
[2] Martial, L., (2005). Mision al Cabo de Hornos, la expedición científica francesa en la Romanche Julio de 1882 a setiembre de 1883. Ushuaia: Zaguier & Urruty Publications . pp. 225.
[3] Emperaire, J., and Oyarzún, L., (2002). Los nomades del mar. Santiago: Lom Ediciones. pp. 195
[4] Popper, J., (1887). Expedición Popper. [Conferencia]. Instituto Geográfico Militar. 05.03.1887. Museo del Fin del Mundo, Biblioteca Virtual.
[5] Orquera, L. and Piana, E. (1999). La vida material y social de los Yámana. B. Aires: EUDEBA. pp 178-180.
[6] El diario de Camilongo. Online.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

"Monster" at Valdés Peninsula


chupacabras at Valdes Peninsula
Roberto Gómez, a country man of the south and his strange finding.
Five more photographs Here.
Copyright © 2007 MDZ Diario de Mendoza.[1] Photograph: Maxi Jonas.

Below I quote and translate the main part of the article published in MDZ Diario de Mendoza Online on November 6, 2008.

The article mentions a "Chupacabras" corpse that appeared at Valdés Peninsula (42°29'S, 63°54'W). Map of the area Here, where the Peninsula can be seen immediately above Golfo Nuevo.

Several fishermen in the northeastern region of Chubut [province] had reported about attacks from a "Chupacabras", a strante being -some say is like a humanoid- that feeds on the blood of cows, sheep, goats, and even horses; and that -they say- when is very hungry is capable of attacking a human being.
The people are shaken by this finding.
The animal, which seems to be a mutation of a lamb but with feline fur and one unique and enormous eye in its forehead, and with the appearance of a "pup", turned up dead yesterday morning on an estancia [cattle ranch] on the Peninsula. It was found immediately by Roberto Gómez, a neighbor [...] he skinned it to keep it from decomposing and took it to town.
The remains were taken to the laboratory of the Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT) [...] for analysis.[1]

In my opinion it is a malformed lamb or kid. Just a practical joke for the media.

Cyclops (one eyed) sheep are not uncommon and the defect can be caused by a poison contained in certain plants. For instance in the U.S., corn lilies have a substance named cyclopamine that stunts developing lamb embryos causing them to be born with only one eye. [2]


[1] Diario Mendoza. Aparece un "monstruo" en Península Valdés. 06.11.2008
[2] Forbes. Technology. The Curious Case of The One-Eyed Sheep. 28.11.2005

Legal stuff: Regarding Links to other sites, Non endorsement, Brand Names and trademarks and Other products and vendors, such as MDZ Diario Mendoza Online, please see our Terms and Conditions.
Regarding Copyright of third parties, please see my FAIR USE NOTICE (items 13.a and 13.b) at our Terms and Conditions page. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Intriguing "Ohi"


The Fuegian Selk’nam told Lucas Bridges[*] about a strange creature, the Ohi, that was half guanaco and half bird.

Ohi, was a strange hybrid, as it combined avian features with those of the guanaco. Its hind legs were like those of a guanaco yet it had wings. It could not fly, but it ran faster than a dog.

[*] Stephen Lucas Bridges (1874-1949). was the third son of English Anglican missionary Thomas Bridges. Lucas was the first European to be born in Tierra del Fuego. He grew up among the Yagans and learnt their language and customs. He moved from Ushuaia to Harberton in 1887, where his father established a ranch (“estancia”) after retiring from mission work. In 1902 he set up his own ranch at Viamonte, where he would meet and befriend the Selk’nam. His autobiographic book Uttermost Part of the Earth (1948) is a valuable source on Fuegian anthropology.

The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is the ancestor of the llama, alpaca and vicuña. It is a hoofed ruminant (cud-chewing) mammal distantly related to the camel family (it is a camelid). Abundant in Patagonia, its habitat extends north through Argentina up to Peru and Bolivia. It was the staple diet of the Patagonian natives. It is also found in Tierra del Fuego Island.

rhea pennata or Patagonian ñandu
Lesser rhea (Rhea pennata). Author's photograph at Rio Pinturas, Santa Cruz province, Argentina. Two well camouflaged "ñandú" can be seen in the central part of the image.
Copyright 2007 by Austin Whittall

rhea darwinii or Patagonian ñandu
Lesser rhea (Rhea darwinii) Illustration by John Gould, from Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (Plate XLVII page 122).

Bridges was sure that it was the description of a ñandú, but these do not live in Tierra del Fuego (and perhaps never did, though there is some evidence that they may have; see my post on this new evidence Here).

Furthermore, his Selk’nam informants had never left the island so they never had the chance to meet a ñandú.

This led Bridges to believe that they had brought the notion of Ohi from Patagonia before the end of the last Ice Age cut them off from the mainland when the Strait of Magellan flooded and filled with sea water isolating the Selk'nam in Tierra del Fuego.[1]

The Patagonian ñandú or choique, also known as Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata), is a flightless bird similar to an ostrich. It is 1 m (3.3 ft.) tall and weighs 20 kg (44 lb.). It can run at speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph). Like the Australian Emu, it has three toes on its feet (Ostriches only have two).

Darwin had heard from the local gauchos that the Patagonian variety of ñandú was shorter and smaller than the one found in the Pampas, he confirmed this during his voyage by Patagonia. In 1837 naturalist John Gould described the animal and named it Rhea Darwinii after Darwin. But, the first European to report this animal was French naturalist Alcide D'Orbigny, who in 1834 had seen the bird and named it Rhea pennata.

The myth may also indicate that some other kind of flightless bird managed to survive the megafaunal extinctions during deglaciation and lived isolated in Tierra del Fuego until it was hunted to death by the natives. However there is no proof of any other flightless bird in Patagonia beyond the Lesser rhea.


[1] Bridges, L., (2008). El último confín de la tierra. B. Aires: Editorial Sudamericana. pp. 432.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tailed Men in Patagonia


tailed men

Part of my book. The image shows “Tailed Man”. Detail of Ovalle’s 1646 map. [1].
Copyright © 2007 by Austin Whittall

Patagonia was at one time considered home to one of the strangest hominids ever described: tailed men.

Their existence was put forward by Father Alonso de Ovalle (1603-1651) in the map of Chile Tabula Geográfica Regini Chile, part of his book Histórica Relación Del Reyno De Chile (1646). The map shows on Tierra del Fuego Island, a man with a short tail sprouting from the small of his back, with the Latin caption “Caudati homines hic” [men with tails live here].[1]

Ovalle based his map on one now lost, drawn by Father Gregorio de León which showed a Rio de los Rabudos (Tailed people River) named “after a nation of Indians, that they say are born there with a tail”.[1]

Historian Diego de Rosales wrote in 1674 about these Rabudos stating that they were:

Puelche Indians with tails, that are at war with these others and when they fight or want to attack, they show the tail and shake it threatening and despising the enemy. And at Chalipen, in a fight that the Puelches had with our Indian friends, among them remained a dead Indian with a tail, as was told to me by Lieutenant Manuel Méndez.[2]

After Ovalle’s map, a river now named Aysén, which flows into the South Pacific at roughly 45°S, became known as Rio de los Rabudos;[3] and the region between 45° and 47°S was known as “Potrero de Rabudos” (Empty land of the tailed men).[4]

Nearly three centuries later, Father Beauvoir incorrectly wrote that Charles Darwin had seen in Tierra del Fuego “hairy men that still had part of their tails”.[5]

Darwin did not believe in such follies though he did think that the Fuegians were cannibals and ate their old women in times of famine.

Could there have been men with tails in Patagonia?

Beauvoir, trying to provide an explanation, wrote that in Tierra del Fuego he had seen “these coludos [Spanish synonym for tailed men] surprising them on a return trip from Rio Grande to San Sebastián, who when spotted, took off, showing me, running against the wind, the tails of the guanaco skins with which they covered themselves”.[5]

So it was the furs they dressed in that seemed like tails to the unwary explorers. This seems the most plausible explanation, however on the other hand, they could be something else: American apes.

At Madagascar Island, the tiny “lesser Primates” or Lemurids evolved just before the arrival of man 2,000 years ago into large semi-terrestrial ape-like creatures resembling gorillas which disappeared when humans arrived.[6]

Perhaps American Primates may have evolved, just like the Lemurids of Madagascar did, into a local variety of hominid-like apes that later became extinct. Could the American monkeys with prehensile tails have evolved into a larger sized tailed “wild man”? The chances for this are extremely slim, but not impossible.


[1] De Ovalle, A., (1646). Histórica Relación del Reyno de Chile…. Roma: Francisco Caballo. Tabula geográfica Regini Chile. pp. 521.
[2] De Rosales, D., (1877). Historia general de el Reyno de Chile. Valparaiso: El Mercurio. v. i, ii. pp. 277.
[3] Steffen, H., (1910). Viajes de Esploracion I Estudio en la Patagonia Occidental 1892-1902. Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes. v. II, pp. 74.
[4] Ortega Parada H. and Brüning Lalut, A., (2004). Aisen Panorama Histórico y Cultural de la XI Región. Santiago: Fondo Regional de las Artes y la Cultura. LOM Ediciones. part 3.5. pp. 9.
[5] Beauvoir, J., (2005). Aborígenes de la Patagonia. Los Onas. Tradiciones costumbres y lengua. B. Aires: Continente. pp. 128 - 129.
[6] Orlando, L. et al., (2008). DNA from extinct giant lemurs links archaeolemurids to extant indriids. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:121.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters



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.[1]

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,[2] 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.


[1] Falkner, T., (2008). Descripción de Patagonia y de las partes adyacentes de la América meridional. B. Aires: Continente. pp. 83+
[2] 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 ©

Patagonian Monsters

The water tiger


As mentioned in a previous post, Ameghino also called the Iemisch a “water tiger”; which, unlike the Iemisch, is mentioned in several native’s myths.

The first European to report the creature was George Musters, who heard about it while crossing Patagonia from south to north, in 1870 with a group of natives.

George Chaworth Musters (1841-1879). A British sailor and explorer, he traveled in 1869 to the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands and from there set out in 1870 to trek Patagonia with a group of natives. His book At home with the Patagonians[1] details his journey. He attempted another expedition in 1873 but the Mapuche turned him back.

Though he did not manage to see one, he was baffled by the native’s description of the creature.

At the place the Indians called Senguel, on what is now Senguer River -where Ameghino reported the Hompen-Iemisch encounter- close to what is now the town of Alto Rio Senguer in Argentina (45°02’ S, 70°50’ W), Musters wrote that:

we proceeded to the wooded river […] and then forded the stream, which is of considerable width and very rapid. The Indians declared that it was impossible for any man to swim across the river in the deeper portion below the ford, on account of some ferocious beasts which they termed water tigers – ‘Tigres de l’agua’ - which would certainly attack and devour any one in the water. They described them as yellow quadrupeds, larger than puma.[1]

He then mentioned that they had left two ñandú (South American ostriches) carcasses on the river bank and discovered them:

the following day in the shallow water, torn and half- devoured, and the tracks of an animal resembling those of a large puma were plainly visible leading down to the water ; but a puma invariably drags its prey to a bush ; and, though jaguar will take the water readily, I have never known one devour its prey except on land, nor, as far as I know, are they found so far south.[1]

He thus discarded that the animal was a puma; and regarding jaguars, Musters was correct, they are strong and can drag their prey long distances: one of them once dragged a horse 80 meters (88 yards) to a river, and then crossed it with its prey, others have seen a cow dragged one mile (1,6 km).[2]

He may have been mistaken about their geographic range because there had been jaguars in Patagonia, but they were probably extinct when he visited the area.

Seeking an answer to the riddle and having thrust aside the puma and the jaguar, Musters also discarded the aguará guazú (Chrysocyon brachyurus) or maned wolf, of which he had seen a hide in Carmen de Patagones at the end of his journey, because its habitat did not extend into Patagonia.[1]

Lacking other options he recalled Father Falkner’s Yaguarú,[3] a legendary creature which is not Patagonian but which may shed some light on the mysterious water tiger.

Thomas Falkner (1707-1784). English Jesuit priest who lived in what is now Argentina at several Jesuit missions in close contact with natives of different Patagonian tribes from 1730 until 1767 when the Spanish crown expelled the Jesuit order from South America. Upon returning to Britain (1774) he wrote his Description of Patagonia and the adjoining parts of South America[3] detailing his first hand knowledge on the region.


[1] Musters, G., (2007). Vida entre los Patagones: un año de excursiones desde el estrecho de Magallanes hasta el río Negro: 1869-1870. B. Aires: Continente-Pax.
pp. 104 and ff.
[2] Cabrera, A. and Yepes, J., (1960). Mamíferos sudamericanos. Mexico: Ediar S.A.
[3] Falkner, T., (2008). Descripción de Patagonia y de las partes adyacentes de la América meridional. B. Aires: Continente. pp. 83+

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters
Hits since Sept. 2009:
Copyright © 2009-2018 by Austin Victor Whittall.
Todos los derechos reservados por Austin Whittall para esta edición en idioma español y / o inglés. No se permite la reproducción parcial o total, el almacenamiento, el alquiler, la transmisión o la transformación de este libro, en cualquier forma o por cualquier medio, sea electrónico o mecánico, mediante fotocopias, digitalización u otros métodos, sin el permiso previo y escrito del autor, excepto por un periodista, quien puede tomar cortos pasajes para ser usados en un comentario sobre esta obra para ser publicado en una revista o periódico. Su infracción está penada por las leyes 11.723 y 25.446.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other - except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without prior written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

Please read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy before accessing this blog.

Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy

Patagonian Monsters -