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 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

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