Friday, November 16, 2007

Shunka Wha??? A Cryptid Rediscovered

The best part of reading Cryptomundo is learning about some of the second string cryptids that, while they may not be as spectacular as Nessie or The Ropen, are perhaps more likely to be derived from unknown, real world animals.

One of these is surely the Shunka Warak’in. From wiki:

The Shunka Warakin (also shunka warak'in) is an American beast from cryptozoology and mythology that is said to resemble a wolf, a hyena or both. The first discussion and description of this cryptid was by Loren Coleman in his columns and articles throughout the 1980s, especially as formally recorded in Cryptozoology A to Z. It was reported from the Great Plains during pioneer days, by both white settlers and Native American tribes. The sightings have become much less common in the last century, causing most supporters to suggest the animal is now extinct.

Cryptozoologists have suggested several possibilities for the identity of The Shunka Warak'in, including hyaenodons, dire wolves, members of the subfamily Borophaginae (hyena-like dogs), or Chasmaporthetes (the only true American hyena). Unfortunately, the best piece of evidence for the existence of the animal, a wolf-like creature shot in 1886 by a Mormon settler named Israel Ammon (I.A.) Hutchins and then mounted (see picture above), disappeared shortly thereafter and was lost to Science.

Until now:

Now after 121 years, the taxidermy mount has been found. The creature that once spooked some of the Madison Valley’s first white settlers has come home.

“I never doubted the story,” said Jack Kirby, grandson of the settler who shot the animal.

After reading a Halloween-themed Chronicle story about local legends of strange creatures, Kirby tracked down the mount in the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello.

As several commentators at Cryptomundo noted, the animal appears quite wolf like, and one wondered if the original taxidermist might have manipulated the dead animal to make its mount look more spectacular, which prompted this response from Huntress re 19th century taxidermy practices:

Some or all of the skeleton could be under the skin [rather than the mount being skin stretched over a frame].

Smaller mammals were re articulated and covered in clay or wood wool was wrapped around forming the muscle structure. If the taxidermist was not very talented the underlying form could be misshapen.

The skull is almost certainly original and they can hopefully extract DNA from a tooth.

Caution should be taken by anyone handling these old mounts. Gloves and a respirator are recommended due to the arsenic used to tan hides back then.

Apparently, a lab in Maine has already agreed to do DNA testing.


Anonymous said...

I doubt that's a Marlin lever in .45-70, but it appears to have done the job.

bigcitylib said...

AS a matter of fact its a GW Morse, the origonal gun.

Raging Ranter said...

That's a wolf. A damn ugly wolf, but a wolf none-the-less. I would think the chances of it being a deformed wolf, either due to some hormonal imbalance like cretinism or just a really terrible taxidermist, is far greater than the chance that it is a member of some as-yet unidentified species.

bigcitylib said...


You don't see the same side view as the mount in the new photo , which seems to show a more hyena like shape, which is disappointing.

The other thing is, would a deformed wolf be fully functional? This thing grew to adulthood and killed a bunch of sheep, after all.

Raging Ranter said...

Could well be fully functional. Andre the Giant was a cretin, but he was fully functional. Well, 'til he died anyway.

Or, maybe it's a cross between a wolf and a humpback whale. Didn't think of that did you? Apparently their mating grounds overlap when the humpbacks spawn up the Missouri every spring.