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

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Tlingit Sea-Wolf Design

Irish Dobhar-Chu, Water Hound or Otherwise, the Master-Otter

Monday, November 09, 2009
DALE DRINNON: The Master Otter

I had sent Jon some information about the Irish master otter on the grounds that the creature that was seen and filmed in the Killarney Lakes would have been about in the right size range for that sort of a creature. What is generally not noted about the category is that similar sightings are seen in North America, on both coasts, and in both freshwater and saltwater.
BTW, one of the types of sightings associated with giant otter types is the fact that they will come out on land and then sit back on their hind legs, making them stand up about as tall as a human being (more usually a small human being of course, but tradition exaggerates). You get that all along the Western coast of North America and you get that rarely in the "Master-otter" lake reports in Ireland and in Scotland. One of Costello's reports was a 'THING sitting up on a rock' evidently as tall as a human, only Costello seems to have missed the importance of that . That would more likely be one of the giant otter types than a long-necked sea lion. This is from In Search of Lake Monsters pages 181-182; Costello says it is like a seal, but it has a tail distinctly mentioned, and it resembled a monkey when sitting up and a crocodile when stretched out at length. The Irish reports specify a very reasonable length of 8 to 12 feet for it, probably only a little exaggerated, but the corresponding McDuff Morag sighting (p.150) and the 1923 sighting by Alfred Cruikshank ashore at Loch Ness (p122) guess the length as 20 feet; 20 feet seems a common exaggeration. In both of these cases, the creature was NOT reported as long-necked and in fact in both cases the animal had clawed, webbed feet and not flippers. And despite Costello, long tails.

Mishipizhw or Water-Panther. The "Piasa Bird" Petroglyph was a variation of this common design and there are also Water Panther Effigy Mounds.

Sea Wolf in the North Sea, 1550

[at bottom, with ears down]

Master-Otters, Sea Wolf, Waterdogs Map

Here is the new revised map for the theory. This version makes a discrimination between recent historical and legendary refernces to the giant otters (of the Holarctic sort) and the more current monster reports, meaning the actually recorded reports from the 1920s on, plus strongly suspected rumours in the same areas. There is traditional material from the Hudson's Bay area and what used to be Canada's NWT, but I don't think that comes as close as saying actual reports since the 1920s or so. And the Greenland traditions were evidently already of an extinct version at the time the tradition was recorded. The midwestern U.S. water panthers (Mishipizhiws) may well have persisted until colonial times but there is nothing to connect them to more recent monster reports. Almost all locations on this map are only tenative at this point, but there is some strong suspicion that some of the creatures have been video-taped in recent years.

The gist of the matter is rather simple: at one point, group member Dave F. was considering that Steller's reported sea ape was a giant otter and I did a comparison of the description with the Irish master otter, and found that the description of the pointed nose and pricked ears matched. I also found ample evidence for a cryptid called the sea wolf off the northwest coast area to Alaska, and thought that the descriptions matched better than Mackal's hypothetical eared-earless seal. So I made the construction that the two were possibly the same based on that, and other traditional reports filled in from Greenland, the Hudson's Bay area, the Mound-culture area of the USA, Iceland, Scandinavia, Far-Eastern Siberia and Japan. When I had done my water monsters survey and statistical analysis for the SITU in the late 1970s (with revisions up until the early 1980s), I had noted that there was a distinctive series of reports at Lochs Ness and Morar that did not conform to the pattern of a long-necked plesiosaur-like creature, that it had a shorter neck and clawed feet with webbed digits, and that it seemed to be the same as the Irish Master-otter going by Costello's In Search of Lake Monsters.

Dale Drinnon's Composite Reconstruction for the Master Otter=Sea Wolf

When the discussion got to this point, I mentioned that the master otter had the "Greyhound"-like head mentioned in later lake monster reports such as at Glenderry Lough, and in fact that the 1527 report by Sir Duncan Campbell (Costello's version of this differs somewhat in the wording). The Irish reports specify something ordinarily in the range of six to twelve feet long but there is another series of such reports that estimates the size range as double that. The 1923 land sighting at Loch Ness by Alfred Cruikshank is one of the short-necked creatures supposedly in the realm of 20-24 feet long, but seen only briefly in bad lighting at night and Costello assumes that the length must have been doubled. The similar creature seen through clear water at Loch Morar might also have had its length misjudged if it had not actually have been sitting on the bottom. And Costello's composite creature has a large ear seen in several sightings, sometimes flopped down (at Loch Ness in 1954, according to In Search of Lake Monsters p.81) and at Lake Storsjon. Costello himself suggests that there might be both a giant seal and a giant otter involved - citing Burton's theory - but eventually settles on the seal. There could very well actually be two separate creatures that his composite runs together, one a type of otter that has the ears and the other the more usual longer-necked creature.

Megalenhydris Fossils

At the Frontiers-of-Zoology group, mention was made of the fossil giant otter Megalenhydris and it was suggested as a candidate. The species is represented by fragmentary remains in an ambiguous context at Corsica: it could have been saltwater or freshwater, late-Pleistocene or more recent: it is permissible to say ALL of these are possible. It was a giant otter larger than the present giant otter in South America, with a similar flattened tail, and I said there was a good chance that it represented Burton's giant otter (NOT that such a creature would account for the rarer reports of a plesiosaurian or eel-like creature, either one of which Burton had also supported earlier). Unfortunately, the parts of the face that would have been diagnostic for the reports are missing from the skull, and things like pricked ears and a pointed nose do not preserve anyway.
It is only fair to say that after Dave was satisfied with this much of the theory, he withdrew his suggestion that the Steller sighting involved a giant otter and began working on the suggestion that it was merely an ordinary river otter washed out to sea.

There is actually quite a bit more of this at the FOZ and actually I was trying to market the suggestion of a book on the matter, but nothing ever came of it.

I also include some of the photos from the group in the sea wolves and sea apes photo album, concerning giant unknown otters, possible surviving Megalenhydris. This includes my reconstruction from the sightings as I mentioned last time, the one that Karl Shuker had seen. Unfortunately the skull material left cannot determine if the fossil genus had the characteristic pointed snout and upstanding ears, and so the identification must remain open to some doubt. If the reports are any indication, it is both amphibious and able to tolerate both saltwater and fresh, it is basically a fish- and shellfish-eater but will sometimes attack land animals (including humans) - possibly as males defending their territory.

The fossil Megalenhydris is tantalisingly incomplete but it was a giant otter larger than the current South American giant otter; but from the remains (one individual, an incomplete skeleton) we do not know for certain if it was Pleistocene or recent, marine or freshwater; possibly it was all of these.

There are also other reports of possibly unknown giant otters in the tropics but the feeling at FOZ is that these reports would not be referring to creatures closely related to the master-otters.

Posted by Jon Downes at 12:23 AM 4 comments Labels: dale drinnon, master otter
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Retrieverman said...
On Newfoundland, Sir Humphrey Gilbert described a strange "fyshe like a greyhound" that may have been of a similar animal, although it may have been a sea mink.

6:16 AM

Retrieverman said...
BTW, can someone tell me how to pronounce this word: dobhar-chú?

I'm too Germanic to pronounce anything properly in Irish or Gaelic.

6:20 AM

Darren Naish said...
Gary Cunningham pronounces it something like 'doo-var koo'. And on Megalenhydris, I take it you've seen this article. {Yes, and I recomend it-DD]
9:29 AM

shiva said...
I have often wondered why people propose bizarre and unlikely identities (like Ambulocetus, or even some sort of crocodilian) for the dobhar-cu, when surely a much more logical explanation for a cryptid described as a giant otter is... a giant otter...

Not sure about Megalenhydris tho, as IIRC it was confined to the Mediterranean and probably needed a warmer climate than that of most areas dobhar-cu type cryptids are reported from. I wonder if perhaps an Atlantic species of sea-otter (Enhydra) - which is heavier, although not longer due to its short tail, than Pteronura, making it the heaviest mustelid - might have existed.[The Atlantic Sea Otter, if it existed, would most likely be synonymous with Megalenhydris. Furthermore the fossil found in the Mediterranean was presumably of Ice-age date and thus the creature should be adapted to a cooler climate-DD]Another possibility could have been an OOP otariid. There was a (Steller's?) sea lion who somehow ended up in Cornwall for several years, IIRC. As otariids resemble land carnivores, especially in locomotion, a lot more than phocid seals do, they could possibly be thought of as more akin to otters by people used only to phocid seals... [Except that the Master-Otter has a tail]

3:22 PM

Lake Monsters at Lake Storsjon, from Eberhart Mysterious Creatures. Costello's composite Lake Monster got its large ears primarily from reports in this lake-but the reports instead seem to go with a more otterlike animal depicted as coming asore in this illustration.

DALE DRINNON: Comparative water monster reconstructions [CFZ Repost]

I was just looking at my copy of Roy Mackal's Monsters of Loch Ness, in particular at his reconstructions of his theoretical long-necked newt candidate. It struck me that the overall proportions of his creature corresponded fairly well with those of the known giant otter of South America, and that could be a significant component out of the sightings averaged out into his reconstruction. Conversely, if you left the tail off, the front part could be a good representation of the Hoy-type long-necked sea lion with the adustment made for the given measurements not matching the drawing. The neck might well be somewhat longer than Mackal's reconstruction and evidently he was assuming a high back fin on the creature. The overall length of the Long-necked seal and the master-otter could be similar. and when I checked my redrawn versions the heads of both were in good proportion to the relative proportions of each. Checking this against the statistical average for long-necked sea serpents, the length of the neck is about equivalent to the entire length of the other creatures but the neck was very much thinner and the head very much smaller in absolute measurements according to the reports. A length of over ten feet with a thickness of one foot is typical for the long-necker reports, although only the first half of that might be visible: the head is just about absolutely the same size as the giant otter's head, half in all dimensions from the long-necked sea lion. The shape of the head is also different: it is flatter on top with a smaller brain case relatively, and usually compared to a snake's head. This would also correspond to Mackal's reconstruction reversing the proportions of the head-neck and tail relative to the length: Mackal admitted to doing exactly that with several of the reports.

The giant eel reconstruction also in Mackal's book is probably misleading because it does not match verifiable giant eel reports. The giant eels seen in freshwater are about the same length as given for the Plesiosaurian long-necks (both average sizes drastically less than the corresponding saltwater report average dimensions) which is usually given as 20-30; more rarely 40 feet long. At this length the eel types are markedly different in shape, being a more uniform over all width per length, and the forepart is very much thicker than the corresponding long-necker's periscope. The head is easily the biggest out of all of these types, and probably 20 times the long-necker's head for the same length (The long-necked sea lion has a much larger head and a much shorter length over all than the typical long-necked sea serpent. At perhaps 15 feet long, not counting the hind flippers, its head is probably ten times the size of the 30-foot-long Plesiosaurian long-necker, by the statistics) A 30-foot-long giant eel can typically be a yard thick, and its head easily 4 feet wide by 5 feet long. It is described as a truly frightening sight by witnesses close up.

And then again, a great many reports of heads like horses, cows, sheep and goats can most often be put down to sightings of moose heads outside of the antler-bearing season. The head of the long-necked sea lion (at probably 15 feet long average, about walrus-length) is also said to be about the same absolute size as a horse's or cow's head but shaped very differently: when the same is said of the long-necked sea serpent types, they are otherwise stated to be at a significantly larger size over all, in the range of 40 to 50 feet long, which in turn agrees with Oudemans's tables counting a shortened tail.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

P.S. The statistical extractions are all my own estimates based on my own assessment of the reports. This has so far gone unpublished despite several firm offers to publish the data made to me in the past. They all fell through.
Posted by Jon Downes at 3:41 AM 2 comments Labels: dale drinnon

bkstiff said...
There are reports of additional plesiosaurs type creatures seen in the Congo. It is odd how these reports sound similar but are hundred of miles apart. If these things were real they'd have to be breeding which means there would be more than 1 in a confined area.

6:24 PM

Dale Drinnon said...
You are correct, and some of the sightings used to illustrate the "Surviving Sauropod" theory actually sound more like Plesiosaurs. One of the early issuses of PURSUIT contained a report of a "Water Elephant" which was actually a fish-eating, longnecked, lizardheaded animal with flippers and named "Moke Nbe". It was evidently called "Water Elephant" as an indication of the size and not the shape.

But these "Congo Dragon" Plesiosaurs are also on the typical pattern: inwater by reason of travelling along rivers casually, and intermittent rather than being permanent inhabitants.

9:52 AM

Excerpt from Cryptozoological Checklist project:

Giant Beavers and Otters, Saltwater/Freshwater division

After some discussion wuth members in my Cryptozoology discussion group, we feel that Steller's Sea Ape is actually the same as the mythical animal more usually called the Sea Wolf and that it can ascend into freshwater rivers: further discussion on the matter made us feel certain that it is the same as the Water Panther of the Eastern USA and the Dobar-Chu or Master-otter of Ireland. This makes it a good candidate for Burton's giant otter version of the Loch Ness Monster and in fact sightings of this type were definitely made of such a creature entering the River Ness early in 1932 and then going out the other end into Loch Oich by 1936. This even seems to be the same animal on both occasions because the reported sizes match. The group further came up with a fossil candidate forerunner for it: a fragmentary fossil named Megalenhydris, a fossil otter even larger than the current sea otter and with the giant otter's peculiar tail. It also seems to be reported in far Eastern Siberia and Japan.

Freshwater Division

Heuvelmans on his checklist mentions reported Giant beavers in the USA and then discounts those reports. Newer evidence indicates that this was very likely the wrong decision. At least two separate water monsters mentioned in Keel's Strange Creatures from Time and Space seem to fall into this category, Coleman's Field guide reports others and includes the Bear Lake Monster and even the Okanagon "Manatee" might have been a corpse of one of them. This type appears to be the one ordinarily reported in the Ohio River and in adjoining states.

News Account of a Master-Otter Sighted in Pennsylvania.

August 21, 1998
The Dobhar Chu - A Very Strange Lake Monster
Posted by daev

Due to many Blatherskite excursions around Ireland, and expeditionary forays into the National Library, many odd and unexpected phenomena have raised their serpentine or furry heads.

Last summer, following an appeal for information in his Alien Zoo column which can be found in Fortean Times, Blather got in touch with cryptozoologist Karl Shuker, to swop information pertaining to the Dobhar-chú (a.k.a. the Water Hound or Master Otter), and in particular, allegations concerning the demise of a Co. Leitrim woman in 1722, supposedly mauled by such a beast. Sligo fortean Joe Harte managed to track down her grave, in Glenade, on the north side of Ben Bulben mountain, and this writer managed to get hold of a copy of the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 78, (1948), where was found, on pages 127-129, The Dobhar-Chú Tombstones of Glenade, Co. Leitrim by Patrick Tohall. Later on, last September -- as mentioned in an earlier Blather Joe and I visited the grave.

Get dobhar Dobhar-chú photographs from »

The matter of the Dobhar-chú is certainly a curious one, even in the ranks of the world's lake monster lore, due to their relative recent history combined with the unsavoury habit of killing, or at least attempting to kill humans. In A Description of West or H-lar Connaught (1684) by Roderick O'Flaherty, we come across this story from Lough Mask:

'There is one rarity more, which we may term the Irish crocodile, whereof one, as yet living, about ten years ago (1674) had sad experience. The man was passing the shore just by the waterside, and spyed far off the head of a beast swimming, which he took to be an otter, and took no more notice of it; but the beast it seems lifted up his head, to discern whereabouts the man was; then diving swam under the water till he struck ground: whereupon he run out of the water suddenly and took the man by the elbow whereby the man stooped down, and the beast fastened his teeth in his pate, and dragged him into the water; where the man took hold of a stone by chance in his way, and calling to mind he had a knife in his jacket, took it out and gave a thrust of it to the beast, which thereupon got away from him into the lake. The water about him was all bloody, whether from the beast's blood, or his own, or from both he knows not. It was the pitch of an ordinary greyhound, of a black slimey skin, without hair as he imagines. Old men acquainted with the lake do tell there is such a beast in it, and that a stout fellow with a wolf dog along with him met the like there once; which after a long struggling went away in spite of the man and his dog, and was a long time after found rotten in a rocky cave of the lake when the waters decreased. The like they say is seen in other lakes in Ireland, they call it Doyarchu, i.e. water-dog, or anchu which is the same.'

Our Leitrim lady, however, seems to have had a less fortunate fate. On her headstone is a raised illustration of what appears to be, for all intents and purposes, a stylised otter impaled by spear, held in a disembodied hand. The deceased name appears to have been Grace, but her surname is indecipherable - possibly McGlone. Tohall, who had 50 years less weathering to deal with, found that:

'Line by Line the text reads: --(1) (Illegible), (2) ??ODY OF (3) GRACE CON (4) N?Y WIFE (5) TO TER MAC (6) LOGHLIN WHO (7) DYD 7BER (8) THE 24TH (9) ANN DMI (10) MDCCXXII. Points of note are: (a) The woman is still spoken of as "Grainne " (not "Grace") around her home; (b) The name "Ter" is obviously a contraction for "Terence", the modern baptismal name adopted to supplant the traditional "Toirdhealbhach." Only recently has the spoken language surrendered to the change, as down to our own time those who signed "Terence" were called "T'ruílach" in this locality. I have heard it so pronounced, exactly as John O'Donovan did here about 1835, when he wrote the names as "T'raolach";(c) Adherence to contemporary classical forms: the contraction "7ber," for September and the use of the "Possessive Dative" case; (d) the Gaelic custom of a married woman keeping her maiden name -- incongruous in the English text.'

According to Tohall, there are two different main versions of on the death of a women washing clothes in Glenade Lake. A second tombstone at the south end of the lake was also connected to the tale, but has since vanished. The two accounts seem to have defaulted to the remaining stone, with 'strong, local tradition' preferring to connect the more interesting of the two versions.
'A woman named Grainne, wife of a man of the McLoghlins, who lived with her husband in the townland of Creevelea at the north-west corner of Glenade Lake, took some clothes down to the lakeshore to wash them. As she did not return her husband went to look for her and found her bloody body by the lakeside with the Dobhar-chú asleep on her breast.

Returning to the house for his dagger he stole silently on the Dobhar-chú and drove the knife into its breast. Before it died, however, it whistled to call its fellow; and the old people of the place, who knew the ways of the animals, warned McLoghlin to fly for his life. He took to horse, another mounted man accompanying him. The second Dobhar-chú came swimming from the lake and pursued the pair. Realising that they could not shake it off they stopped near some old walls and drew their horses across a door ope. The Dobhar-chú rushed under the horses' legs to attack the men, but as it emerged from beneath them one of the men stabbed and killed it.'

The second version describes the killing by a Dobhar-chú of another woman engaged in washing newly-woven cloth in Glenade lake when she was attacked. The boundary of the townland of Srath-cloichrín (Sracleighreen) and Gob-an-ghé (Gubinea) is the alleged location of this bloodshed (I emphasise the word 'boundary', as it denotes a place of liminal status -- akin to the traditional importance of such places as crossroads). Yet another variant tells how the avenger Dobhar-chú had a single horn in the centre of its forehead, which it gored the horses with.

Tohall sees the Congbháil monument as being 'the only tangible evidence' for the idea of the 'King Dobhar-chú,' or Killer-Dobharcú.

'Lexicographers of both districts record two meanings for Dobhar-chú (derived from Dobhar, water, and cú, hound): (a) the common otter (Lutra Lutra ) a term now superseded by Mada-uisge in Northern Ireland and Scotland; (b) 'a mythical animal like an otter' (Dineen). In Co. Leitrim the latter tradition survives strongly: 'a kind of witch that ruled all the other water-animals' (Patrick Travers, Derrinvoney); or used jocularly to a boy along Lough Allen,"Hurry back from your errand before dark, or mind would the Dobhar-choin of Glenade come out of the water and grab you." The best summary of the idea is set out in the records of the Coimisiun le Béaloideas by Seán ó h-Eochaidh, of Teidhlinn, Co. Donegal, in a phrase which he heard in the Gaeltacht: 'the Dobharchú is the seventh cub of the common otter' (mada-uisge): the Dobhar-chú was thus a super otter.'

It seems to this writer that the identification of the Dobharchú with the fairly shy otter (which can be found at lengths of over 5'6" (1.67m) including the tail) seems to be by default -- no other known Irish water creature comes as close to a rational zoological explanation. Is the Dobhar-chú some hungry lake serpent manifestation which grows legs occasionally when it feels like eating? It's a matter that Blather is having grave difficulty providing hypothetical explanations for.

Dave (daev) Walsh
21st August 1998

Karl Shuker's Blog article excerpted:

Sunday, 20 February 2011


Reports of a creature similar to Ireland’s master otter have also emerged occasionally from mainland Scotland, but these have attracted scant cryptozoological attention. One such report is a very noteworthy but little-publicised excerpt from The History of the Scots From Their First Origin by Hector Boece (1575), which was very kindly brought to my attention yesterday by correspondent Leslie Thomson. (A somewhat different version of it, oddly, was published in Peter Costello's book In Search of Lake Monsters, 1974, but without comment, and only in relation to Nessie.) This excerpt reads as follows:

"...on the summer solstice of the year 1510 some kind of beast the size of a mastiff emerged at dawn from one of those lochs, named Gairloch, having feet like a goose, that without any difficulty knocked down great oak trees with the lashings of its tail. It quickly ran up to the huntsmen and laid low three of them with three blows, the remainder making their escape among the trees. Then, without any hesitation, it immediately returned into the loch. Men think that when this monster appears it portends great evil for the realm, for otherwise it is rarely seen."

Loch Gairloch is a sea loch on Scotland’s northwest coast; it measures approximately 6 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. As for the creature that emerged from it, I think it safe to assume that its tail’s oak-felling prowess owes more to literary exaggeration than to anatomical accuracy. Conversely, the likening of its feet to those of a goose probably indicated merely that they were webbed. Overall, therefore, the mastiff-sized, web-toed, fleet-footed, quadrupedal water monster of Gairloch does recall the master otter of Glenade Lake, but its taxonomic identity, as with the latter beast’s, remains unresolved.

Could the explanation simply be an extra-large version of the common otter Lutra lutra? Or are the master otter’s lengthier limbs and other morphological differences evidence that it was – or is - an entirely separate, zoologically-undescribed otter species? Interestingly, back in the early 1960s this latter identity was suggested for an even more famous aquatic mystery beast of Scotland, the Loch Ness monster, by zoologist Dr Maurice Burton within his book The Elusive Monster (1961).


Dale Drinnon said...
Hello Karl!
As you know this is also a matter which has interested me deeply and that my researches done independantly of yours tend to reinforce your findings to a remarkable degree. However there are a couple of comments I should like to make.
First off, the selection from the History of the Scots has been printed many times before but identified as pertaining to Loch Ness. Costello mentions it, Holiday mentions it and so on. However I entirely concur with your identification of it as a Master-Otter. Costello was not too clear on the point but some passages of In Search of Lake Monsters do give evidence for two sorts of British freshwater monsters-the one a longnecked seal but the other more like a very large otter: he identified the latter as the Master-Otter but also mentioned that Maurice Burton's version of the Loch Ness Monster was very similar. And indeed SOME of the sightings at and around Loch Ness could sound like the same sort, and particularly some of the sightings on land.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, there has been sporadic talk of the Master-Otter inhabiting the Eastern USA and Canada, and it also corresponds to some native traditions of "Underwater Panthers" or Mishipizhws. and then again you get the same sorts of reports possibly in Japan, Manchuria, Siberia, Alaska and the Northwest Coast area down to Northern California, usually calling them Waterdogs or Sea Wolves. They seem to be able saltwater or freshwater as well as sometimes being amphibious on land and sometimes sitting up on their tails (as in "Land-otter-men")


23 February 2011 21:23
Anonymous said...
Here's a linink to wikipedia's entry for the Sea Mink, which seems to indicate that a creature like the large 'master otter' existed until only recently, though never described by modern science. Nice link to a modern sculpture of it, very much resembling a panther approaching its prey...maybe the equally extinct Labradore Duck.

18 March 2011 17:46
Dr Karl Shuker said...
Thanks for this. I documented the sea mink Neovison (=Mustela) macrodon in my books The Lost Ark (1993) and The New Zoo (2002) dealing with new and rediscovered animals, as it was not formally described by science until the early years of the 20th Century, by which time it had already become extinct. It was a little otter-like, and was certainly much bigger than normal mink species. I hadn't seen the sculpture before - that is beautiful. If only I had $6,100 to spare!

18 March 2011 18:42
Anonymous said...
Why have I never thought of it? The Loch Ness Monster = the Master Otter! Say - maybe this could explain reports of black dogs too! For example, "A giant water dog (aka otter) leapt from the water and dissapeared into the mist" could become "A giant dog leapt over the water and dissapeared into thin air, as the mist swirled" if it was repeated for 800 years (give or take a day). Fascinating.

23 April 2011 21:49
At one of the Island Journals for Galway, Ireland:

Omey Creatures
The first time my wife and I stayed on Omey we camped by the lake. We had come across the island by pure accident on a tour of Ireland in 2003. Our intention was to do the whole west coast but as soon as we found Omey that was it, we were hooked. An eventful few weeks, pottering around the island by day and lounging by a campfire at night.

It was a very peaceful holiday until something very strange happened one night. We were asleep in our tent when we heard a strange noise coming from the direction of the lake about 20 metres away. We listened for a while but curiosity got the better of us. I strapped on my little head torch and we crept out in the pitch black. Close to the shore I turned on the torch.

What a shock! A vicious snarl right below us, like a loud hiss, followed immediately by a huge splash. We were both nearly knocked over with the fright but I tried my best to keep my head steady to see what it was. It swam the width of the lake from west to east in what seemed like a matter of seconds. It moved quietly but left a fairly big wake.

When it got to the other side it clambered up onto a boulder at the waters edge. It turned around, stood up on its hind legs (that appeared to be orange) and gave the most haunting screech. My wife account of the incident is give or takes the same as mine. Its body was dark, and I'd say it was about the size of a large Labrador, and about five foot tall when standing. It turned and disappeared into the darkness of the area I call the Heart.

We scrambled back to our tent, completely stunned. This was something very strange, it wasn't a swan or an otter or a badger. The next day we went across to Sweeney’s bar. Malachy served us and there were a few lads at the counter. I casually explained about the creature and there was nervous chuckling.


  1. Dale,

    I don't think Alfred Cruikshank saw an otter. He described it as khaki green in color and otters are not green. Moreover, you insist he had a good enough view of the creature to distinguish between flippers and webbed feet but won't allow him to get the length of twenty feet even close. This is inconsistent. Estimating the size of the LNM is not a problem in these circumstances, he had the width of the road he frequently used as a benchmark.

    So far, you have ascribed land sightings of Nessie to elk and giant otters, neither of which are indigneous to Scotland. Scottish otters are half the length of the one you are proposing, elk died out millenia ago.

  2. Well of course if we were speaking about things that were widely established by science there would be no "Mystery" to it! You seem to be unable to accept any halfway measures when they are suggested and you definitely cannot accept any evidence contrary to your frame of mind once your mind is made up. You are laboring under several misconceptions.

    Now as to Cruikshank in particular, it is not my suggstion to halve the length, it is Costello's and so duly noted. When it comes to the khaki green colour, it is not my suggestion about the bad lighting of the old-fashioned headlamps, it is Dinsdale's. Cruikshak saw the creature in the dark, briefly, and in poor lighting circumstances. Any number of inconsistensies in observatuion could arise from that. As to the shape of the feet, long tail and lack of neck, those are all features Cruikshank insisted on himself. And it barked as it left the scene. To my mind that all says Otter. Now a series of the Master-Otter reports DO run up to estimates of twenty feet, but that is way beyond the normal curve. The normal curve has an average peak of length estimates between three and four meters, pretty much exactly. For that reason Costello's suggestion is close to the statistical average and my acceptance of Costello's opinion on the matter is not arbitrary.

    By this time you have NO grounds for saying adamantly "Elk have been extinct in Scotland for thousands of years" As a matter of fact, I can tell you have not bothered to look up the references. The most recent remains of elk found in scotland do NOT have any kind of firm dating on them and could be anything up to as recent as a thousand years old. When I show you a photo of an introduced Scottish elk in the main article, you do not even notice. Now just stop saying that over and over again like it MEANS something and go do a little research.

    The reason why I say that all of those land sightings at Loch Ness are elk reports-about three-quarters of the total by the tabulated list posted later on-a point you conveniently ignore every time I point that out to you-is mainly because the description matches pretty well overall and even exactly in some cases. Now once we have established that much, saying "there weren't any moose loose in Scotland" is actually beside the point. People were describing mooses. Even if we resort to the assumption that they were smuggled into the country illegally, there could still have been mooses brought in. And there is just no way in hell that you can flatly deny that it is possible that they were smuggled in illegally. The possibility exists at all times whether you can prove it or not.

    I always find it annoying when people always say adamantly that surrey pumas or leopards in Australia "Could not have been" introduced by human agency. Whenever we have a rash of sightings of displaced animals ANYWHERE, a human agency must automatically be assumed, whether it can be proven or not

  3. Megalenhydris is, as you remark, tantalizingly incomplete.

    I erred on the side of caution when identifying Steller's sea ape as a NA river otter because, indeed, taking that isolated incident into account, it is the best identification (especially in regards to size).

    In terms of the body of evidence on the master otter, I tend to agree with your assessment. However, I would warn that Megalenhydris would be pretty huge. "Its jaw, teeth and limb bones are all quite massive and robust."

    Megalenhydris, as based off an examination of the dentition and skull is best related to Enhydra lutris (sea otter) only on a larger scale.

    The Enhydra lutris weighs up to 100 pounds and ~1.5 meters

    Not enough info to come up with a length for megalenhydris but one thing we do know is that it certainly exceeded the 2.5 meters (the max set for pteronura).

    So if your reports of a sea wolf are of a 200ish pound beast, I'd tend to agree with that cryptid analysis Dale. I just dont think its a match for steller's sea ape. It could certainly be a young sea wolf, but i would be way to jump to such a brash conclusion especially due to the difference in snout (thick set jaw compared to the face of a hound)


    Also, i never suggested it was a river otter "washed out to sea" but rather, that Steller was closer to shore than current logs about his travels suggest and that river otters do frequently indeed spend in the ocean a considerable distance from shore.

  4. Not quite so brash, the descriptions do match. It might well be as you say a small example of the species. In the range of sizes reported for Giant Otters, let us take Burton's version of Loch Ness Monsters as a general indicator. Burton has a bottomline of about six feet long for his smallest "Monster" Otter but allows the fact that there is a significant peak in estimated sizes at twenty feet long. As far as the Irish sightings go, there are several sightings that estimate a Master Otter at nine to twelve feet long and then again a larger series of estimates that say twelve to fifteen or sixteen feet. Basically the collectors of the reports feel that the smaller set of estimates are reasonable and the larger estimates are likely exaggerations of the smaller size range. And still with that you have regular reports at six feet long and eighteen feet long in different reports listed in Costello, In Search of Lake Monsters, in reports now thought to be Master-otters. So Steller's sea ape is still in the range at the minimum end of the range of reported sizes.And the other features of the clearly visable part of the creature, the head, sound like a good match for the Master-Otter description. Which has been my understanding all along.

    And thank you for the clarification of your earlier comment.

  5. See my blog about Cruickshank.

    Elks? No firm dating means no date - inconclusive.

    I know about recent elk, I live in Scotland and watch/read the national news.

    Still a big leap to conclude your theory is probable more than plausible. I would expect one to have been conclusively seen/caught/shot around Loch Ness by now. I'll continue this on my own blog.

  6. IMHO you are certainly continuing this discussion under the wrong heading. Kindly deal with elks under the elk heading or the land sightings list where the information is more pertinent and it shall be more obvious to onlookers how much of the data you are avoiding any discussion on. Your arguments on the occurance or non-occurance of elk at Loch Ness are merely your own opinions and are actually quite irrelevant. And I have answered your arguments on several occasions prior to this. The mere fact that there are elk there NOW pretty much makes the entire assumption that there were none THEN to be pretty much pointless.
    If you DO wish to discuss the matter of how many land sightings at Loch Ness are or are not like elk (moose),the individual land sightings or their interpretations, please go to that particular posting. I see a clear predominance of that type of report and that such reports are all described as being closely similar. And I am not at all impressed by any of your arguments so far, nor do I expect anything but further avoidance of the actual issue we are discussing and endless repetiotion of the same tired and previuosly-refuted assertions. Good day to you!

  7. I have a zoological identity for the Dobhar-Chu, namely the giant hyrax. See here for a comprehensive selection of circumstancial evidence:

  8. While I am afraid the Giant Hyrax does not meet the criteria for the Master-Otter and is the wrong size and shape, I am in fact all for Giant Hyraxes. Christine Janis mentioned that she had seen a chinese bronze resembling a Giant hyrax but with horse's hoofs. Those hoofs stood in the way of the genereal acceptance of the theory. I did some digging and I found there were other equivalent Chinese Bronzes of the same age which depicted the proper hyrax toes rather than the appearance ofhorse's hooves: the first ones found turned out to be simplified copies after all.

    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.