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Cryptozoology

Updated on September 7, 2009

Cryptozoology literally means "study of hidden animals". It is the study of and search for animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological taxonomies. It consists of two primary fields of research:

* The search for living examples of animals taxonomically identified through fossil records, but which are believed to be extinct.

* The search for animals that fall outside of taxonomic records due to a lack of empirical evidence, but for which anecdotal evidence exists in the form of myths, legends, or undocumented sightings

There are currently 238 species of cryptids. This lens focuses on the fascinating subject of mythical creatures, legendary animals, and cryptids of all types.

If you like this lens, check out The best Fairy Lore Ever for a fascinating survey of the fae race.

The Okapai - Half Zebra, Half Giraffe, or African Unicorn?

Since ancient times, there lived a mythical creature known only to the Ituri rainforest dwellers. The creature's hearing was so acute and its camouflage so effective that it remained undetected by humans.

This creature later became known to the world as the okapi. The Okapai is a mammal living in the Ituri Rainforest in the north east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa. Although it bears striped markings reminiscent of the zebra, it is most closely related to the giraffe.

For years, the okapai was referred to as the African unicorn by Europeans. They were known by the locals to exist, but their fantastic description garnered them only mythological fame until their "discovery" by Europeans. Shortly after its discovery by Europeans, an ancient carved image of the animal was discovered in Egypt, which proved that the okapi was known to the ancient Egyptians.

The okapi was once considered a cryptid and now stands as the mascot for the International Society for Cryptozoology.

Okapai

Okapai
Okapai

Griffin or Gryphon

The griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Griffins are normally known for guarding treasure. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine.

Griffin

Griffin
Griffin

Opinicus

The opinicus is a heraldic beast that differs from the griffin principally in that all four of its legs are those of a lion. It is typically shown with the short tail of a camel and sometimes with a longer neck like a camel's (but still feathered). An heraldic opinicus is shown as a male creature, whereas the winged griffin is female.

Opinicus

Opinicus
Opinicus

The Yeti

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an apelike animal cryptid said to inhabit the Himalaya region of Nepal and Tibet. The names Yeti and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology. Nepalese have various names for Yeti like "Bonmanche" which means "wild man" or "Kanchanjunga rachyyas" which means "Kanchanjunga's demon."

Although the scientific community largely dismisses the Yeti as a fraud supported by legend and weak evidence, it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology, the study of unconfirmed animals. The Yeti can be considered a Himalayan parallel to the Sasquatch or man-beast.

Purported Yeti scalp at Khumjung monastery

Purported Yeti scalp at Khumjung monastery
Purported Yeti scalp at Khumjung monastery

The Devil Bird

The Devil Bird, also known as Ulama, is a cryptid of Sri Lanka said to emit bloodcurdling human sounding shrieks in the night from within the Ceylon jungles. In Sri Lankan folklore, it is believed that the cry of this bird is an omen that predicts death, similar to the banshee. Its precise identity is still a matter of debate although the Spot-bellied Eagle-owl matches the profile of Devil Bird to a large extent, according to a finding in the year 2001.

Photo of a Spot-bellied Eagle Owl from the Biligirirangan Hills, Dinesh Kannambadi, 2006

Sumerian serpent god Ningizzida accompanied by two gryphons

Sumerian serpent god Ningizzida accompanied by two gryphons
Sumerian serpent god Ningizzida accompanied by two gryphons

Tarpan, the Prehistoric Wild Horse


The Tarpan is an extinct subspecies of wild horse. The last individual of this subspecies died in captivity in Ukraine in 1876.

Beginning in the 1930s, several attempts have been made to re-create the tarpan through selective breeding. The breeds that resulted included the Heck horse, the Hegardt or Stroebel's horse, and a derivation of the Konik breed - all of which resembled the original tarpan, particularly in having the grullo coat color of the tarpan.

An attempt was made by the Polish government to save the Tarpan type by establishing a preserve for animals descended from the Tarpan in a forested area in Bialowieza. These descendents are today sometimes referred to as the Polish primitive horse.

Photo of Tarpan at the Moscow zoo. This male tarpan was then 18 years old, dark grey with white spot on front left tibia. Mane was very long; the tail was cut by keepers. The tarpan was caught in 1866 on Zagradovsk steppe and lived until 1880 in Novovorontsovka, until it reached Moscow zoo on May 29th 1884. He was castrated from 3 years of age, and possibly not a pure specimen. His height at withers was 133 cm.


Absolutely beautiful free-roaming horses, photo by Brackenheim licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany License.

Thylacine - AKA Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf


The Thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It had become extremely rare on the Australian mainland before European settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island state of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian Devil. Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributory factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat. Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported, though none proven.

Public domain photo of a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) photographed in cage with chicken by Henry Burrell, 1921.

Last Thylacine Yawning

Last Thylacine Yawning
Last Thylacine Yawning

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    • dannydeu profile image

      dannydeu 5 years ago

      Very good lens. Thank yopu for your hard work

    • FreakyV profile image

      FreakyV 5 years ago from Canada

      Love this info, thanks for writing it!

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      tealmermaid 6 years ago

      What a unique lens idea!