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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Patagonian wolves?


We have already mentioned the "warrah" or Malvinas-Falklands fox-wolf and the "wolfish" appearance of the Fuegian dogs.

Could there have been other warrah-like ‘wolves’ in Patagonia?

Perhaps. Magellan’s chronicler, Pigafetta mentions the word wolf (“ani”) in his vocabulary of Patagon (Tehuelche) words recorded at San Julián. Did he mean a sea wolf or a real wolf (i.e. warrah)?

Captain FitzRoy (who sailed around the world in the 1830s taking Charles Darwin with hm) was intrigued too; he wrote “what the Patagonian animal is which the Blanco Bay people called ‘wolf’, […] I cannot say: I was inclined to suspect an equivoque arising out of the word ‘lobo’, which means seal as well as wolf; but Lieut. Wickham says he saw a wolf near the Colorado River”.[1]

What Wickham probably saw was an aguará guazú whose habitat in those days extended well into northern Patagonia. Though, there is the intriguing possibility that the cryptid Andean wolf may have lived in Patagonia.

The Andean wolf

This creature was described based only on one skin found by a German named Lorenz Hagenbeck in 1927. Inspected in 1940 by Dr. Ingo Krumbiegel, he at first though it was a domestic dog gone wild, but later, after relating it to some large canid skulls that he had examined, became convinced that it was some kind of wolf so he published a paper naming it the Andean wolf (Dasycyon hagenbecki).

Below is a copy of Hagenbeck's book in which he describes his discovery:[7]

Discovery of andean wolf

The thick and long fur, its large size and short legs were very unlike those of a dog or an aguará guazú.[2] It seemed an animal adapted to live in cold and extreme environments, could it have moved down the Cordillera into Patagonia? Could it be related to the warrah?

Read more on the Andean wolf and see a photograph of its pelt in my post on Punalka.

De la Cruz, who crossed Patagonia in 1806 from Concepción in Chile, to Buenos Aires in Argentina, recorded that in Neuquén the native Peguenches [sic] told him that “there are other animals they call oop, whose body is shaped like a dog, which it resembles with its head, snout, legs and tail and with the ears of a cow; they state that the wool that covers it is like that of a sheep, a span or more in length, very soft and of a bright yellow color”.[3] It was named after its high-pitched yell –perhaps the howling of a wolf.

Regarding this creature, Argentine naturalist Estanislao Zeballos writing about it in 1870, called it “huamil” (did he mean huemul which is a variety of deer that lives in Patagonia?) and said that it had a “mysterious shout that sounded oop, name by which it was known by some Indians and under which they professed a religious respect”.[4]

Nowadays there are no wolves in Patagonia, only foxes. Furthermore, the "Andean wolf" should not be mistaken for the "Lobo Andino" (Spanish for "Andean wolf"), which is a species of fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus) whose geographic range extends from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego along the Andes and is also known as "Red fox" or "Andean fox". See photograph below.[5][6]

Andean fox

Pseudalopex culpaeus. From: [6] Copyright © Fiona Reid


[1] FitzRoy, R. Op. Cit. vii. pp. 251.
[2] Krumbiegel, I., (1950). Von neuen und unendeckten Tierarten. Stuttgart: Franckh.
[3] De la Cruz, L. (1835). Descripción de la naturaleza de los terrenos que se comprenden en los Andes, poseídos por los peguenches… B. Aires: Imprenta del Estado. pp. 25-26.
[4] Zeballos, E., (1958). La Conquista de quince mil leguas. B. Aires: Hachette. pp.230-231.
[5] The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Online Here.
[6] Sistema de Información de la Biodiversidad, which displays an image from: Redford, K., H. and Eisemberg, J., F., (1992). Mammals of the Neotropics. The southern cone. Vol. 2. Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
[7] Hagenbeck, L., (1956). Animals Are My Life London: The Bodley Head. pp. 126.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

1 comment:

  1. I live here in Patagonia and one day I was walking down on the Patagonia train track trail and our dogs started barking and started to run off. I looked up and right there in front of us was a Mexican grey wolf. it was one of the amazing things I have ever seen. it ran off right after of course because of our dogs. but just that one glimpse of it was just so amazing and I really hope that the Mexican grey wolf comes back to our area.


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