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

"Trehuaco" the Mapuche water dog

Trehuaco is a Mapuche word, which in their language (Mapudungun) means “water dog” (“trehua” = dog and “” = water).

They are fierce, strong and big dog-like animals that live in lakes and rivers. Their dark fur is shiny and abundant and some believe that it was inspired by the Patagonian otter or huillin.



Folklorist Bertha Koessler-Ilg recounts a story about a “a strange dog” that some natives noticed:

swimming in the river […] that hunted fish and drove them to an opening in a rock that was placed above the river […] they had never seen a dog like that one […] it was a big ‘Trewa’”. When they tried to capture it and one Indian caught it by its foot, but the dog “bit him strongly and disappeared in the [deep] rapids

The unfortunate Indian later died from his wound.[1]

It was also called a river dog (“Leufu Trehua”) and known as “Ngaqiñ” in the north and “Ponono” in the south of Chile. Chilean folklorist Guevara described it as a mythical creature that snarled and barked, making a noise that sounded like “hera-cac”; it lived in underground caves close to the water.

Its bizarre appearance was, according to the Mapuche, “perimontun”; against the laws of nature.[2]

It was also seen in a lake by Yaldad, in the south of Chiloé Island, and described as a dark dog-like creature, with shiny hair and powerful muscles that came out of its aquatic domain to seduce and mate with the women who happened to come too close to the magic lake.[3]


[1] Koessler-Ilg, B., (2000). Cuentan los Araucanos: Mitos, leyendas y tradiciones. B. Aires: Del Nuevo Extremo. pp. 116.
[2] Guevara, T., (1925). Op. Cit. Chap. I.
[3] Cárdenas, R., (1978). Apuntes para un diccionario de Chiloé. Ediciones Aumen. pp. 85.
[4] Source Internet. Author, unknown.

Lea este post en español

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters


  1. What an interesting project!
    I am also a writer and was looking up mapuche legends when I came across your site.
    Are there any other sources you could recommend to read more about Trehuaco?

  2. sorry, should have said, sources in english... as I have only basic spanish language skills....

  3. Thank you for your comments. Yes, it is indeed a very interesting project. Mapuche legends are very interesting, and not only those compiled in Chile by Latcham, Lenz, Guevar or Vicuña Cifuentes. Try also Bertha Koessler Ilg, Gregorio Alvarez and Cesar Fernandez(in Argentina). They are all in Spanish, but perhaps there are German or English translations.
    Regarding Trehuaco, I have only found those stories shown above.
    All the Best

    1. Hi, avid enthusiast and all, but I have to ask: are you on the level or not? Because, I have searched all over the net trying to verify pretty much everything you've posted on your site, and so far have gotten little. Would help if you provided more info on hippos, water tigers and bulls, and so on. Thanks.

    2. I always provide my sources and references
      The net usually has poor data
      I also use spanish language sources as i am argentine y domino a la perfeccion el idioma espanol
      Thanks for your commenaustin

  4. According to wikipedia, "Water Dog" is a name used to refer to Gaint River Otters. Could the creatures described here have simply been Gaint Otters? They have dark colored fur and may look kind of dog-like to someone whose never seen an otter before.

    This close up of one with only its head out looks kind of dog-like in the face:

    And this one is a dark brown almost black color and looks kind of shiny:

    Vocalizations from wikipedia:
    "Quick HAH! barks or explosive snorts suggest immediate interest and possible danger...while a low growl is used for aggressive warning."

    So,they apparently make dog-like sounds.

    That would also explain why they were discovered as living partially in the water.

  5. Most people think that dogs have an undeveloped olfactory system and therefore a weaker vision.But it's not reasonable.

    Click here to know Can Dogs Tell the Difference Between Light and Dark?


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