What is a cryptid? It's an unknown animal, and cryptozoology is the study of such undiscovered creatures. The root of both words comes from the Greek word kriptos, meaning hidden.
Cryptozoology encompasses three fields of investigation. One is the search for still-living examples of animals generally thought to be extinct. For instance, stories of giant grizzly bears in northern regions have led some to theorize that there may be remnant populations of the giant short-faced bear – a creature that went extinct 12,500 years ago. In Africa’s Congo, stories of the mokele-mbeme appear to describe a species of dinosaur. And is the megalodon, a giant prehistoric shark, still swimming in the unexplored depths of our oceans?
The second area of cryptozoology concerns animals which are known to exist, but are being sighted in areas very far from their usual habitat. Are black panthers roaming the English countryside? And what about the stories of giant black cats in Illinois? In recent years, a few jaguars were confirmed to be present in Arizona and New Mexico – areas where the species once lived many years ago. (So far, however, the confirmed jaguars were all spotted, not black.)
The third area of cryptozoology, which tends to capture most of the media attention, concerns the search for animals which are alleged to exist but are not confirmed. We’ve all heard of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, but these cryptids are just the tip of the iceberg. The Beast of Bray Road is a werewolf-like creature reported to live in Wisconsin. The Ogopogo is a legendary lake monster in British Columbia, Canada. You may hear about the Chupacabra in Mexico, which allegedly drinks the blood of goats and other livestock. And if you’re really lucky, you might catch a whiff of the Skunk Ape of Florida.
My personal favorite? The Mongolian Death Worm. Who couldn’t love a title like that? Well, maybe the residents of the Gobi Desert – they consider it bad luck to even mention this large snakelike creature. Said to be attracted to the color yellow, the Death Worm itself is bright red and kills at a distance by spraying an acid-like venom. In some stories, it kills by electrocuting its victims!
Here are some links if you’d like to learn more about the world’s cryptids:
I’ve always been a huge fan of cryptozoology – it sparks both imagination and wonder. I like the idea that everything in our world hasn’t been documented and catalogued, that we don’t know everything there is to know about the creatures who share the planet with us. How about you?