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What is Cryptozoology? Examples of Cryptids.

Updated on October 23, 2016
This is a contemporary depiction of The Kraken, a mythological sea creature said to have dwelt off of the norse coast.
This is a contemporary depiction of The Kraken, a mythological sea creature said to have dwelt off of the norse coast. | Source

Ancient Tales of Cryptids

The field of cryptozoology has been inspired by many ancient tales of monsters and sea serpents.

A sea serpent, 45 feet long and 15 inches in diameter, was reported off the coast of Maine by Captain George Little in 1780:

"I was lying in Round Pond, in Broad Bay, in a public armed ship. At sunrise, I discovered a large serpent, or sea monster, coming down the bay. It was on the surface of the water. The cutter was manned and armed. I went myself in the boat. We proceeded after the serpent. When within a hundred feet, the mariners were ordered to fire on him. Before they could make ready, the serpent dove."[1]

“A U.S. Navy nuclear submarine left its home port to start its patrol. Mysteriously the boat's delicate sonar mechanism failed without warning only a few days into the voyage. The sonar was so critical to the sub's operations that the boat was forced to return to port for repairs.

Examination of the sonar revealed that the rubber-like outer cover of the device had been torn off. Embedded in the tattered remains were enormous hooks. Scientists determined that these hooks, several times larger than had ever been seen before, were from a giant squid that had apparently attacked the sub, thinking it was a whale.”[2]

What is Cryptozoology?

The word cryptozoology comes from two words:

  • The Greek word kryptos meaning ‘hidden’,
  • Zoology meaning the study of animals.

Literally, then cryptozoology refers to the study of hidden animals. Cryptozoologists study animals whose existence is not yet proven. It is not a recognized branch of zoology and by many it is regarded as a pseudoscience because it relies primarily on anecdotal evidence, stories and alleged sightings.

Jersey Devil strip from 1909.
Jersey Devil strip from 1909. | Source

Creatures Cryptobiologists Search For

Cryptozoologists often justify their field as legitimate by referring to cases of animals whose existence was initially considered a hoax, superstition or misinterpretation and that are now accepted by the scientific community:

  • Okapi (confirmed in 1901)
  • Mountain Gorilla (confirmed in 1902)
  • Giant Squid (confirmed in the 1870’s)
  • Hoan Kiem Turtle (confirmed in March 24, 1998)

Cryptozoologists primarily focus their efforts on proving the existence of the following types of unknown creatures:

  1. Living fossils or prehistoric survivors of the past.
  • The Tasmanian tiger and woolly mammoth did at one time exist.
  • The Loch ness Monster and Giant Vampire Bats may very well exist having escaped the radar of conventional scientists.

2. Legendary creatures and oddities (fringe creatures):

  • The Jersey devil and Mothman are fringe creatures spoken about as urban legends and found in local folklore but their existence is highly questionable.

How Cryptobiologists Justify their field as a Scientific Pursuit

Seventy species of primate have been discovered in the last 20 years including a Vietnamese gibbon, and a big, sub-species of chimp in the Congo known as the Bili Ape. Mainstream scientists are finding new and very often odd creatures often during deep ocean exploration. “Clearly nature is far from being fully understood by science, and yet some sceptics persist in contemptuously sneering at almost everything outside of their immediate knowledge. With their high-systemised inability to tolerate newness, they stymie open scientific debate, bully original thinkers and drive away those with fascinating new data on unknown species.”[3] Because some larger species are still being found, it lends credence to the cryptozoologist philosophy that some other more mysterious creatures like Nessie and the Bigfoot may still be found.

In December of 2010, an amateur video, shot in Tasmania showed blurry footage of a long-tailed mammal trotting across a meadow. The film-maker, Murray McAllister, was convinced the animal was a Tasmanian Tiger (thylacine). This wolf-sized marsupial has been classified as extinct since 1936; yet, hundreds of sightings, many from credible observers continue to be recorded. McAllister’s thylacine was later confirmed to be a red fox through DNA analysis of a fecal sample. He has been searching for the thylacine since 1998.[4] Although he may not consider himself a cryptozoologist, he does fit the profile. These hunters of unconfirmed creatures are a diverse group. Their lot includes conventional scientists and the unusual eccentric. They all, however, share the dream of finding that illusive creature and gaining instant fame.

An Okapi. Taken at Disney's Animal Kingdom by Raul654 on January 16, 2005
An Okapi. Taken at Disney's Animal Kingdom by Raul654 on January 16, 2005 | Source
Female Western Lowland Gorilla
Female Western Lowland Gorilla | Source

Cryptids that Turned out to be Real

  1. Kangaroo: Early Australian explorers described bizarre creatures with deer-like heads that hopped like frogs and stood upright like man. Sometimes they were seen to have two heads, one of which sprouted from their stomach. In the 1770’s, a dead specimen of this creature was displayed in England and later became known as the kangaroo!
  2. Sea Serpent: This elusive creature has been the subject of eyewitness accounts and sea-faring legend for centuries. It is speculated that many misidentified creatures many be responsible for these legends but one rarely sighted creature is a likely source of many serpent sightings. The oarfish (ribbonfish) is a huge creature found world-wide. It is the longest recorded bony fish, the largest recorded being 56 feet long. Normally a deep-sea fish, the oarfish sometimes washes ashore, occasionally lingering near death.
  3. Mountain Gorilla: Tales of large ape-men have captivated explorers for centuries. Tribal legends abound of strong, hairy men that capture and consume humans. Finally, in 1902, a German officer shot one of these ‘ape-men’ which was classified as a new species of ape, the Mountain Gorilla.
  4. Okapi: A bizarre creature was described by ancient Egyptians as a cross between a zebra, donkey and giraffe. It was rejected by Western science despite numerous descriptions and skins provided by explorers. Finally, in 1901, with the capture of a live specimen, the okapi was recognized by scientists as Okapia johnstoni, the only living relative of the giraffe.
  5. The Kraken: There are numerous tales of giant squid devouring ships whole in sea-faring legend. The legend of Lusca in the Caribbean, Scylla of Ancient Greece and the sea monk of medieval Europe describe dangerous, oceanic creatures. The most famous legendary squid is the Norse Kraken , a monstrous squid, described to be as large as an island and capable of devouring ships whole. The existence of a giant squid, probably the source of these legends, was confirmed in the 1870’s when several carcasses were washed ashore in Labrador and Newfoundland. In 2004, footage of a live specimen of the deep sea giant squid was captured by Japanese scientists.

Mongolian death worm Olghoi on graffiti. Kharkov, 2009
Mongolian death worm Olghoi on graffiti. Kharkov, 2009 | Source

Cryptids Actively being Pursued

  1. Ahool: Giant bats reported in a region of western Java.
  2. Bergman’s Bear: A species of giant bear reported to still roam Eastern Asia.
  3. Chupacabras: Bizarre Caribbean and South American cryptids. They are reported to be about five foot tall bipeds that drain the blood of livestock through throat punctures.
  4. Ebu Gogo: On the island of Flores, Indonesia, three foot tall, hairy people with long arms have been sighted. It is said that the females have long, swinging breasts.
  5. Jersey Devil: Creatures that have been haunting the New Jersey Pineland forest have been described as flying bipeds with hooves.
  6. Mongolian Death Worm: Natives of the Gobi Desert of Mongolia report giant snakes or worms as killing livestock and people with their toxic breath.
  7. Mothman: These giant owl-like creatures have been sighted for over 100 years mainly in the West Virginia-Ohio area.
  8. Skunk Ape: These chimpanzee-like primates have been sighted in central and south Florida.
  9. Yeren: Reddish, semi-bipedal wildmen reported by Chinese locals often along rural roads.
  10. Yowie: Tall hairy hominoids sighted in several remote areas of Australia.

Wooden Yowie statue in Kilcoy, Queensland, Australia.
Wooden Yowie statue in Kilcoy, Queensland, Australia. | Source

Notable Cryptozoologists

Notable Cryptozoologists include the following. Check out their philosophies and areas of expertise on their webpages.

Choose the cryptid would least likely want to meet on a dark evening.

See results

Works Cited

[1] Sea Monster Tales. The Unmuseum: Cryptozoology. March 10,2012

[2] Sea Monster Tales. The Unmuseum: Cryptozoology. March 10,2012

[3] Notes and Theories: Dispatch from the Science Desk.The Guardian.

[4] The call of the weird:In praise of cryptobiologists.New


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    • profile image

      Moral Man 11 months ago

      Africa has more large cryptids than any other continent. The Dinosaur-like Mokele-Mbembe lives in the Likouala Swamp and Lake Tele, which is very remote and almost inaccessible. The flora and fauna of this place is not well known. Mokele-mbembe is a herbivore, semi aquatic, with a long neck, four legs, an elephant like body, and a long tail. Its said to be 20 feet to 35 feet long. Its mean tempered, and is known to kill any humans who approach it.

      Lake Victoria and some other lakes and rivers in East Africa around Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania have a monster called the Lukwata. The European Sir Clement Hill saw one in 1900 as it tried to grab a man on his boat, while the explorer W. Grant once sailed across Lake Victoria and encountered one of these animals. The monster killed and ate one of the men on his boat. The most recent Lukwata sighting I know of was in 1959 when T.E. Cox and his wife saw a long neck animal with two humps on its back swimming near the shore. The animal made no attempt to attack them this time because the couple were safely out of reach on dry land. Lukwatas are strictly aquatic and unable to leave the water. The couple were lucky they werent in the water for they would have been attacked by this monster.

      What exactly is the Lukwata and what exactly do they look like are mysteries no one really knows. We can make guesses. Its known to make bellowing roars, it kills and eats large crocodiles and any other animal it can catch, and is a mankiller and maneater. Its size is 20 feet to 30 feet long, although some sources say its up to a hundred feet long. It has a long, snake like neck with a fish like head. An eel, a giant Pinniped or seal, a cetacean(dolphin or whale),or some kind of snake with vocal cords, or a Plesiosaur are some of the possibilities. Or maybe is an unknown Mammal in an order of its own, or an unknown Reptile in an order of its own, or an unknown Amphibian or an unknown fish. Most likely its some kind oc aberrant dolphin or whale living in freshwater. The extinct Zeugludons were whales with snake like bodies. Its not impossible for a dolphin or whale to have a long neck. The Lukwata is also said to chase fish into the nets of fishermen and attempts to overturn boats and canoes. These animals are very dangerous. Its not recommended for anyone to try and photograph these animals. Scientists could just place underwater cameras in Lake Victoria and whatever is there can be photographed. It would be impossible to trap and bring such a huge dangerous animal in captivity. Its possible a baby could be trapped and taken to captivity and kept there and studied temporarily. Lukwatas are among the mysteries of Africa.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Glad I could help a grateful reader.

    • profile image

      a greatful reader 4 years ago

      this helped quite a bit with my science fair project...thanks!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Glad to hear of your interest in the weird and unusual. I love people who keep an open mind.

    • profile image

      Dalton Barber 4 years ago

      I may be only 13, but I love cryptids. I want to be a cryptozoologist when I grow up. Loren Coleman is my hero. My favorite cryptid is Altamaha-ha.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Chupacabras are either an unknown species of canine or they could be a biological experiment released from a laboratory. Some people say it has wings snd can fly and some say it looks like a kangaroo and a monkey hybrid.Something or someone is killing livestock in many parts of the world.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Cryptids are fascinating. Africa may have the most numerous cryptids and a few of them might be living Dinosaurs such as the Brontosaurus-like Mokele-mbembe. In Lake Victoria the Lukwata lurks. It overturns canoes and slaughters the people in it. It makes loud bellowing roars. It kills and eats large Crocodiles. Its either a fish or a snake or a dolphin or whale. Some believe it's a Plesiosaur as it has a long neck. The snake-like Lau is a similar animal and a maneater. The Dingonek, the Nandi-Bear, the Mngwa, the Emela-nTouka, the Pongo, the Kongamato, etc also reside in Africa. Ogopogo in Canada and Champ in Lake Champlain are famous lake monsters in North America. The oceans of the world have monstrous unidentified animals. One identity of lake monsters and sea serpents maybe the Zeuglodon or Basilosaurus which lived tens of millions of years ago. Its a whale with a streamlined snake like body. They may still survive in lakes and oceans. Pterodaurs or flying reptiles are said to still exist in many parts of the world such as Africa, South America, New Guinea, and in Texas and Montana in North America. The sinister Earth-Hound is a weasel like cryptid in Scotland which lives underground and eats dead human bodies. The Jersey Devil is a total mystery. No one knows what it is. There are Bigfoot in every state of North America and in Canada. There are man apes that are similar to Bigfoot but not actually Bigfoot such as the Skunk Ape of Florida, the Honey Island Swamp Monster of Louisiana, and the Fouke Monster of Arkansas. The heaviest concentration of Bigfoot are in the Northwest from Northern California, Oregon, Washington state, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island. Biologist Grover Krantz and authir Loren Coleman are experts on Bigfoot. In South America there are reports of bipedal primates called Mono-Grande. One famous photo of an unknown primate was taken by Francois de Loy and is called Deloy's Ape. Some say its just a Spider Monkey with the tail cut off or hidden. The Roger Patterson phit of Bigfoot taken in Northern California could be either a man in a costume or the real thing. Whatever it is or whoever it is in the photo is roughly 7 feet tall and 500 pounds with a powerful physique. It looks like its as strong or stronger than a Gorilla. A creature as powerful and as intelligent as this is impressive. These human like animals survive in bitter cold and snow and the summers can be as hot as 100 degrees in Washington state. Bigfoot can survive -50 below zero and 100 degreesF. That's incredible. And they don't have heaters and they don't have air conditioners like humans. How can a primate survive in such temperature extremes? Bigfoot would have to be an omnivore. It would have to be partial to eating meat and fish as well as plants and it would have to spend all waking hours eating and searching for food to sustain its bulk which is anywhere from 6 feet tall and 300 pounds to 9 feet tall and 800 pounds. Bigfoot are said to be superstrong being able to lift bulldozer tires and being able to rip up small trees. Authors Bernard Heuvelmans, Loren Coleman, Karl Shuker, Roy Mackal, Jerome Clark, George Eberhart, and Michael Newton have interesting books about Cryptids. Read Fate and Fortean Times magazines as they also have interesting subjects. Read the Hubsite African Cryptids by Cryptid/Hub page.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Awesome Larry. I can't wait to read it. I hope to do some hubs on this topic as well in the future. It is a fascinating subject.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Yes, I did enjoy it. Voted up and more. Your hub has inspired me to attempt one of my own on the same subject, but from a different perspective.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Fantastic story Larry. I will love retelling it! Hope you enjoyed the hub!

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Teresa. Speaking of kangaroos, there's a funny story about how they were given their current name. Way back when, a European settler in Australia was chatting with his Aboriginal friend, when he spotted a 'roo. When asked what he called these extraordinary animals, the Aborigine attempted to give a humorous reply: "Kangaroo." In his now-extinct language, it meant, "I don't know."

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      CR, thanks for the enthusiastic comment. I have to agree with you on the weird stuff but there are many cryptids being discovered that are weird but true! That is part of the fascination for me. Thanks for stopping by!!!!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Awesome hub! I love this stuff. IMO, cryptozoologists (and other paranormal researchers) make a mistake by trying to get the imprimatur of mainstream science. While many use good scientific techniques for tracking the animals, gathering evidence, and (hopefully) viewing them, it is clear that some of these animals are also deeply rooted in legend and supernatural phenomena and that that might be a crucial aspect. Science has been the only game in town for far too long. Bring on the weird stuff (and don't throw away the stories)! Thanks, this was fun. :)

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree Doc Sonic. I guess maybe it is the far out more mythical creatures some cryptozoologists are traditionally known for hunting that has given everyone in the field a bad rep!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Happy to oblige clevercat. It was so very fun to research and create!

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 6 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Nice discussion of this subject. I've never understood why cryptozoology is dismissed or ridiculed by some people when so many new species continue to be discovered.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Oooohhh, love it! I just love reading about this sort of stuff and was so pleasantly surprised to see this Hub! Very pretty and easy to read as well. Got my up vote and interesting, too.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Pannonica, thank-you for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for checking in Goodlady. Glad you liked my tale!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Robin, glad you liked the hub. Can't say I disagree with you but North America still has vast forests and mountain ranges so.....maybe......

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have to agree Sandy. I'm one of those who love the mysteries presented in shows like the X-Files and Fringe. I believe there is a lot we don't know about our world. Maybe some 'monsters' are real!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      cclitgirl, I have to agree with you about these large cryptids but with so much wilderness and so many reported is remotely possible. It's fun to speculate and wonder nonetheless!

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 6 years ago from San Francisco

      It is amazing how many of the cryptids you mentioned were in the U.S. I can understand countries like Australia where there is a lot of land that is uninhabited or in the depths of the ocean which I'm sure has thousands of species that we haven't yet discovered, but it's hard to believe an animal would go unidentified in the U.S. Very interesting Hub, thanks!

    • SandyMcCollum profile image

      SandyMcCollum 6 years ago

      As long as they stay a mystery, these critters and creatures will always be sought out by 'hunters'. I believe in Sasquatch, I think.....

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 6 years ago from Western NC

      My husband and I go back and forth about the chupacabra and sasquatch. Hehe. While I DO think these things could be real, with so many people living on the planet, I would tend to think that nowadays, the likelihood of the "undiscovered" cryptids is less likely. But, I'm open to the possibility - never say never! :D I learned a lot in this hub. I didn't even know that cryptobiology was a science! Voted up/A/I/U

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Fascinating read!

      Thanks so much.

      Love a good story and here there were so many.

      Bookmarked, voted interesting etc.

    • Pannonica profile image

      Pannonica 6 years ago

      Thank you Teresa for presenting quite an involved subject so clearly. Your easy to read style kept me hooked to the last word. Fascinating.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Glad you enjoyed it buckleupdorothy!

    • buckleupdorothy profile image

      buckleupdorothy 6 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      I love this stuff - great to see it so clearly summarized here. Thanks!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks amymarie 5 for your lovely comment. Glad you liked the hub and I also think it would be an incredibly fun field of inquiry.

    • amymarie_5 profile image

      amymarie_5 6 years ago from Chicago IL

      How interesting. I would love to get into this field of zoology. This is a very thorough and well researched hub. Rated up, interesting and shared!


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