Member of The Crypto Crew:

Please Also Visit our Sister Blog, Frontiers of Anthropology:

And the new group for trying out fictional projects (Includes Cryptofiction Projects):

And Kyle Germann's Blog

And Jay's Blog, Bizarre Zoology

Friday, 25 February 2011

Looking at the Mapinguari (CFZ Blog 2009 REPRINT)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
DALE DRINNON: Looking at the MapinguariDale started at IUPUI hoping for a degree in Biology before changing to Anthropology and as a result, has a very diverse background in Geology, Zoology, Paleontology, Anatomy, Archaeology, Psychology, Sociology, Literature, Latin, Popular Culture, Film criticism, Mythology and Folklore, and various individual human cultures especially mentioning those of the Pacific and the Americas. He has a working knowledge of every human fossil find up until 2000 and every important cryptozoological sighting up to that point. He has been an amateur along on archaeological excavations in Indiana as well as doing some local tracking of Bigfoot there. Now he is on the CFZ bloggo....

My personal contributions to the matter stem from a 1971 letter sent to SAGA magazine after a cover story on the discovery of tracks attributed to the orang dalam. The letter described a creature seen in parts of Brazil and called Capelobo [= Pelobo]; basically a version of the Mapinguari and describing it as looking like an upright tail-less howler monkey the size of a man (height of a short man, but weighing about 250 pounds). I immediately recognised this as a version of the Mapinguari or Pe-de-Garrafa as described in Bernard Heuvelmans's book On the Track of Unknown Animals. Heuvelmans mentions that it is said to leave a track like the bottom of a bottle and later on mentions this is something like the shape of an orangutan's track [this begins from the oldest editions of the book, from 1955].

The same description is mentioned as the characteristic description of the mono rei or king monkey in the 2001 book The Monster of the Madidi by Simon Chapman. From this it seems the mono rei and the mono grande (big monkey) are two distinctly different things. That would seem to correspond to the reported footprints since the mono grande's 'Hand-like' tracks do not agree with the 'Bottle foot.' Something like the 'Bottle foot' tracks were also reported from Honduras and British Honduras at least as far back as the 1930s, and Eberhart mentions this.

There has been much discussion of the theory that the Mapinguari represents a surviving ground sloth in more recent years. The giant ground sloth does seem to correspond to a cryptid reported in those same areas, but the key difference is that the Mapinguari types are described as being tailless monkeys or apes, often walking upright. The part about them being tailless probably invalidates the suspected ground sloth candidacy. On the other hand, the clawed yehos or yahos ('Devils') of the West Indies could possibly be smallish surviving ground sloths, about chimp-sized.

[Above, Standing Orangutan, and for comparison, Mapinguari statue from Belem]

Going back to the theory that the Mapinguaris are usually arboreal apes that leave ring-shaped (orangutan-like) footprints on the ground, it is noteworthy to look at some traditional depictions of them as posted on the internet (the photos come from internet sources and no attempt to defraud the owners is intended. The reproduction of the photos as educational materials is protected under international copyright law).

It seems that the Mapinguari is regularly depicted as a cyclops and furthermore that the head is barely distinct from the body. Furthermore, the mouth is large and fanged but does not seem to bear any direct placement on the head. It arises from below the level of the shoulders. Some acounts also say that the mouth is protruberant, like the nose end of a horse's snout and shows round nostrils pointing forwards. This does not say that the face is horse-like, the mouth part is described as being distinct from the indistinct head. Furthermore, the entire body is covered with a long and coarse coat of hair. The hair is usually reddish but may be darker.

Looking at an orangutan's head it is possible to see how some of these descriptions might come about. First of all the head of an orangutan is rather bizzare and in some cases barely presents any aspect that would normally register as a face. The mouth area is distinct from the rest of the face and a beard sometimes accentuates the distinction. The eyes are set very close together and the eyelids can be lighter than the rest of the face. In several higher primates this is a warning sign; the mouth is opened and the eyelids dropped as a threat. Looking at the close-set eyes with pale lids and the darker strip between them, it is possible to see how that might look like a single eye from a distance. And the stances and limb proportions are shown as being pretty much like an orangutan as well.

I also include Ivan Sanderson's reproduction of the orangutan foot extended and the track, and the adjoining footprint by contrast would be more like the 'Hand-like' track of the Mono grande (as opposed to the Mono rey). The other foot shown at Right on Sanderson's chart is a gibbon's foot, which corresponds to other tracks seen elsewhere in South America and attributed to the Mono Grande or Didi.

So this brings us to the map that explains the hypothesis. Most apes do not have much of an identifiable fossil ancestry. Orangutans are an exception, 'Pongo' (orangutan) fossils are well known from mainland Asia, especially in China. But this brings up another problem. The fossils clearly belong to larger ground-living apes and modern orangutans of the proper genus pongo have a large number of very specific and very peculiar adaptations to life in the trees. They cannot be the same. Therefore I had proposed the name 'protopongo' for the fossil ground-living ancestors to the modern tree-living pongo. There follows the suggestion (including by Heuvelmans) that the classical abominable snowman or yeti represents a survival of these fossil apes, and a further suggestion implied by Coleman and others that the apes crossed the Behring land bridge and remnants had been reported in modern times (the name 'Hesperopithecus' [?] is on the map because there remains the possibility that some alleged dental fossils and alleged associated 'cultural' bone-cracking remains unaccounted for by the decision that all of the later fossils ascribed to this genus were pig's teeth).

And so there remains the possibility as indicated on the chart that the South American forms described as Mapinguari are parallel-evolved arboreal apes descended from the same generalised ground-living ancestors. At the time in question there was very much demonstrable faunal exchange between East Asia, North America and then South America in turn. And in order to indicate the possibility that the South American apes are separate parallel-evolved arboreal forms out of the same ground-living ancestors, I have given them the tenative name 'parapongo' ('Like an orangutan'). I do not insist that this name necessarily become official if this is proven to be the case; what I am doing is simply showing how these forms must be related to while also being distinct from one another. The actual honour of naming the creatures should go to their official discoverers, whomever they turn out to be.


[You are supposed to click on the smaller version of the chart to get the larger size. I have had some complaints about the link not working and so I also post the larger version below]

And of course any professional anthropologists or primatologists can feel free to say that the whole idea is daft up until such a time that actually happens.

In part this material was submitted to the SITU for publication in 1990-91, together with several other articles of a similar nature. Unfortunately, the journal PURSUIT folded shortly after that point.

Posted by Jon Downes at 12:32 AM
Labels: dale drinnon, MYSTERY PRIMATE
shiva said...
Very interesting theory. The resemblance of that orangutan photo to the Mapinguari depictions is certainly compelling - in particular, it really is easy to "see" the half-closed eyes as a single, large, almost cartoonish eye.

However, IIRC it's only older male orangutans that have such an extremely odd-looking facial appearance (in particular those huge, wide cheek flanges which help to make the head look indistinct in shape from the body). Younger and female orangutans have a much more easily discernible "normal" ape/monkey face, so if there were a population of orangutan-like apes, then there would be reports of both the freaky one-eyed "Mapinguari"-type and more "conventional" cryptid apes from the same areas (whereas, as i understand it, the Mapinguari is seen as quite distinct from the more ordinary "big monkey" cryptids, and found in different habitat).

I'm also not sure about orang-like apes having got to South America via the Bering land bridge and North America - would the land bridges both across the Bering Strait and between North and South America have existed at the same time, or at convenient times for such apes to have got from one rainforest region to the other? They would have had to range through a vast variety of different climates and habitats, and i'm not sure why they would have (nonhuman apes seeming to lack the peculiarly human desire to explore and/or "conquer" new habitats and unknown regions). Also, if "Parapongo" evolved or re-evolved forest-living adaptations convergently, it would have changed very substantially from orangutan ancestors. Would it have retained the peculiar facial features of the mature male "true Pongo"?

I'd be more inclined to investigate the possibility that orangutans could have been brought to South America much more recently by transpacific Chinese or SE Asian travellers, as there is evidence from distribution of cultivated plants that such contact and trade occurred well before the "Age of Exploration". (The transport by modern, but pre-colonial-era, humans of either orangutans or a Homo erectus/Homo floresiensis type hominid from SE Asia to Australia is also a possible explanation for the Yowie.)

2:35 PM
anna lee said...
This is really good stuff! But now why oh why doesnt some one find something!

Mind you I am respectively hoping for a lot from you with your credentials!

I did respond to your posting about neandertal man here (x2) hoping for enlightenment as I am sceptical about some aspects of the official views and wondered if you could help?

3:34 PM

Dale Drinnon said...
I DO Hope somehow you shall find out that I answered your comments on the blog. I only just happened to come back to this blog to get another copy.

First, please allow me to explain that Jon Downes posts my stuff on his blog. I have no control of the comments and in fact ordinarily I never evenSEE any comments unless I make a special effort to look back again.

Now as a matter of fact my theory WAS that it is the big males that are being seen and identified as Mapinguaris: and at the same time you are incorrect that "Bigmonkey" females and children are not reported in the same areas. They frequently ARE but frequently given different names. And the descriptions of creatures in the "Mapinguari" category are not unified, they are highly diverse-some Mapinguari reports are ALREADY "Bigmonkey" reports. I indicated that on the blog already when I mentioned the Capelobo being described as looking like a large tailless howler monkey, the exact same description given for the Mono rey in Monster of the Madidi.
Now as a matter of fact your arguments about the landbridges not being open to traffic by ancient apes, that is a false argument. The landbridges were certainly there and certainly open when fossil apes were present. There are ecological reasons why there SHOULD have been a Sivapithecine-type ape present in North America during the Pliocene or late Miocene when other elements of the exact same biome were present in Eastern Asia at the same time, including such apes.
And you did not understand my outline of the theory: I was saying that orangutans and 'Parapongo' were evolving in parallel, not that the recent specializations of Pongo were ancestral conditions reacquired by 'Parapongo'-quite the reverse, The ancestral condition was something more like a chimpanzee and had none of the special features of the orangutan. It is simply that the New World apes would have developed similar adaptations to a similar environment. And I was not saying that Mapinguaris had the SAME facial pads as orangutans, only something else rather similar independantly evolved. I do not think that what is being described in South America is exactly the same as the Indonesian orangutans and I do not think that introducing Indonesian orangutans would result in exactly the same sort of reports.

As for Anna Lee, I AM sorry but I have no idea what you mean re:Neanderthalers. And unfortunately I also do not know how to reach you other than sending this reply to this blog in hopes you are subscribed to it.

I also never get any email notices when I am subscribed to these blogs myself, unfortunately.

Thursday, December 17, 2009
DALE DRINNON: Some Further notes about the Mapinguari


First Mapinguari Expedition

Paulo Aníbal G. Mesquita was the first to enter the interior of the Amazon region with the knowledge of the Mapinguari legend and the intent to investigate the possibility that this cryptid still exists—perhaps the last representative of the megafauna of the Brazilian Amazon. Bolivian folklore in the more mountainous areas includes a bipedal creature called the Jucucu (who COO coo), which may have some connection. [=Ucu, Ucumar-DD]

Mesquita's group investigated reports of the 'mapi' in some remote points of the Amazonian bush in the states of Amazon, Rondônia, Pará and Mato Grosso. In the latter they collected many stories of the indigenous people, some gold panners and others who reported observing this beast during the night. The stories were similar in several distinct points.

Witnesses affirmed that when they startled a Mapinguari, the mapi assumed a threatening position, rearing up and showing its robust claws. Some natives told of it emitting an extremely foul odour from its belly. The mapi possessed long brownish to dark brown fur, and some still claimed that its skin was similar to that of the Caiman. It was said to possess a flat snout and normally it was quadrupedal. The group was given to understand that a mapinguari violently attacked a landlord one night in a village in the extreme north of Mato Grosso, and that he was now missing.

The flat-ended but prominent snout or 'Pig's nose' is stated in other sources. The bad smell comes out of its mouth, assumed to be attached to the body rather than to its head. It seems to be belching up stomach gas that smells bad: incidentally the Mapinguari seems to have throat pouches like an orangutan from other sources. These seem to be sound amplifiers and make the roaring sound louder, in this case the creature (The Mono Rey, sometimes also called Ucu) is compared to a much larger version of a howler monkey.

It is the threatening stance that drew my attention this time: when the Mapinguari raises up and waves its hands over its head, the effect is exactly like a chimpanzee or an orangutan and it is holding its hands up exactly the same way Cheetah used to do in the Tarzan movies. The Mapinguari is holding its hands in exactly the same way, and the 'claws' look exactly like the ape's hooked fingers. I would suspect from this much alone that the Mapinguari is ordinarily a large arboreal ape; its tracks seem to indicate that it does not ordinarily walk on the ground or the sole would lie flat rather than on-edge.

I also include a groundsloth track for reference, please note that it is a composite track including both the fore and hind footprints.

I also re-checked Sanderson's mention of Mapinguari, which he only spoke of as something that left 20-inch long tracks and ripped the tongues out of cattle. The missing tongues are merely another cattle-mutilation feature common the world over, and probably eaten away by feral dogs. So that part carries no weight. The 20-inch long tracks are something different, and are possibly Sasquatch-like tracks (neither Sanderson nor I had any good photos or even drawings of these tracks.)

The creatures that left the big footprints in this case were called neither Mapinguari or Ucumar, and Eberhart lists them separately. It might even be possible that the tracks (in this case only, and only the tracks) could refer to the alleged surviving groundsloth in a forest adaptation. Throughout Latin America ground sloths seem to be called 'hairy cows' because they are about the same size as ordinary cattle. Heuvelmans records the name 'Lobo-toro' and Sanderson recorded 'Cave Cows' in Central America.

[Pliocene Map Showing Broad Connection Beringia Landbridge]


  1. I reprint the blog entries as they were before-I only found out I had comments much later and I did my best to answer them at that point.

    The situation has changed now and I am now putting up my own blogs. The important change that makes is that I catch every communication now, whereas before I would MISS nearly every comment posted to my blogs. And I can see what problems Jon had with the photos before-these blogs are crazy with how they handle the photos and I'm not quite 100% with that yet!

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. comment about my recent testimony book of the cryptid mapinguary and expeditions.tipic taxon lazurus,group xenarthrans pilosa,family megalonychidae,genre megalonyx and posible wheatley specie.
    please,visit my blog
    greetings friend

  3. Thank you for your input

    As you can see from the material above, the basic creature being called a Mapinguari is NOT any sort of Xenarthran and yet more specifically NOT a groundsloth of any type, It has no tail and it has not only the limb proportions of an ape, the limbs are jointed on in the same way an ape's limbs are. Furthermore the ground sloth theoru does not begin to account for the peculiarly-described head and face. An ape like an orangutan would, and not very many other things would fit the descriptions so well.

    Having said that, I am quite certain of the survival of at least three distinct ground sloths into modern times from the reports including both South America and the Antilles: a smaller one comparable in size to a chimpanzee, but with claws; a medium-sized one comparable in size to a bear, but with a tail; and then the larger-sized one often said to be the size of a cow but dressed up in a wolf's pelt. That implies a shaggy tail as well. There is some confusion between the Mapinguari and one of the other of these because we are mostly talking about witnesses with only a vague idea of what they are seeing. BUT the ground sloths are NOT the ones making "bottlefoot" tracks or described with one eye or a mouth coming out of the body with no head discernable. Those are the "Classic" features of the Mapinguari and those are the reports of the Apelike series.

    There are several other names which are used for the ground sloth forms. I have more recently even heard that "Sucarrath" is still being used.

    I am at your disposal if you wish to discuss this matter any further because I think a lot of damage has been done by the press which has carelessly confused reports of quite distinctive types of animals.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  4. Estimated
    I can assure you that there is no better witness that I, I saw these animals for 20 nights and perfectly to what I shoot, I look and I look for in the Amazon. 4 expeditions and informed him that David Oren datos.las today share my images spread on the Internet are unreal and uncertain.
    please visit my blog
    a respectful greeting
    Jorge Luis Salinas

  5. Thank you for your comment. I am familiar with the work of David Oren and I have visited your blog.

    The central matter is that there is not only one thing that witnesses are seeing and calling a Mapinguari. There is not only one thing that witnesses are seeing and calling a Bigfoot and there is not only one thing that witnesses are seeing and calling a Loch Ness Monster, either. All of the Cryptid categories are one thing and made up of many individual witness' impressions; the individual witness' impressions are another. Because of that you can argue, if you have a witness that sees Bigfoot and he is describing a bear, you can truthfully state "Bigfoot witnesses are describing a bear." It would be true in the cited instance BUT not necessarily so for any of the other witness' sightings. A witness can say he saw the Loch Ness Monster and describe a big fish, and the collector of reports is justified in saying "The Loch Ness Monster as described is a big fish." That of course would do nothing to describe the reports which are NOT big fishes and which show a long neck.

    In the case of the Mapinguari, it is even more complicated than that. there are dozens of local names and traditions which are lumped in together and all called Mapinguari. Heuvelmans lists Mapinguari, Pelobo and Pe-de- Garrafa and gives a description which is obviously a sort of an ape. In the letter to ARGOSY I cited above, the name given is Capelobo and the description exactly coincides with the Mono Rey, as a gigantic red howler monkey standing upright and without any tail And the "Bottlefoot" creature is NOT the same as the one which leave footprints like a large human foot (backwards or not). The "Bottlefoot" creature is an Ape, as explained above, and the description does NOT match Groundsloth tracks (which are known as fossils, see above)

    The problem is not at the witness' level it is at the classification level by the gatherers of reports. Now in the case of the NAME 'Capelobo', it means plainly and obviously "Wolfskin" and is the exact equivalent of the Patagonian legendary beast Lobo-toro which Heuvelmans lists in his next-previous chapter on the Groundsloth, and yet the description as given in the letter to SAGA magazine obviously does not go with that tradition, it is a large ape like an Orangutan

    In the original article and in my replies to you I have repeatedl;y emphasized the fact that while I see this Mapinguari as an ape (as Loren Coleman does likewise), I also do NOT say there are no Surviving Groundsloths. The simple ways you can tell are:
    Appearance of a single eye in the middle=Ape
    Tailless= Ape
    "Headless" appearance, "Mouth Coming out of the body"=Ape
    Large mouth full of large fangs=Ape
    Arms that can be held above the head=Ape

    Quadruped, shuffling stance=Possible Groundsloth
    Large claws on feet=Probable Groundsloth
    Distinct head with elongated snout=Groundsloth
    "Size of a bull, Hide of a Wolf"=Groundsloth
    Long tail which drags on the ground=Groundsloth.

    Keeping these things firmly in mind so that we know what we are talking about is so much better than saying "NAME means THIS or NAME means THAT"
    Think of the NAMES as being arbitrary, which they are. Nobody ever sees ANY Cryptid with a plainly labelled sign hanging around its neck so that you could know at an instant what it is. The NAMES are frequently what all the shouting is about and the NAMES are only important to the makers of newspapers, indexes and catalogues.

    Once again thank you again for taking the time to comment and should you talk to David Oren again, by all means refer him to this discussion so tht he will know exactly what we are talking about as well.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  6. This is one of the older blogs which had been plagued by buggy HTML accretion. I have no explanation as to how such a thing can even happen in the first place, but I have gone through and cut out all the garbage html which was interfering with the proper display of the article.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.


This blog does NOT allow anonymous comments. All comments are moderated to filter out abusive and vulgar language and any posts indulging in abusive and insulting language shall be deleted without any further discussion.