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Monday, 2 January 2012

Von Ferry, Caddy, and Maine: Water-Horses Revisited

Continuing to expand upon the CFZ Canada postings from last week:

I would like to go on record as stating that the fossil crocodile bears no resemblance whatsoever to any of the water-monsters under discussion. The water-monsters all have full racks of deer, moose or elk antlers and when they are spoken of as having feet at all, the feet have cloven hooves (for which the 1906 Omaha water-monster drawing reprinted below).Their long undulating backs illustrate the "String of Buoys" effect in the wake and not the back at all.

Kiowa Water Monster 1890s
 Furthermore, the fishy monsters are all supposed to be heavily armoured with thick scales while the fossil crocodile is scaleless. And the fossils actually show no obvious indication that the animals were fish-tailed in life: the fin part did not fossilize since it was only compposed of soft flesh originally.
Lorenz Von Ferry sea serpent sighting in the mid-1700s. This sighting had darker and lighter patches on the face and neck, and it had a white mane. This happens with moose sometimes. The description given by Pontoppidian in reference to this sighting mentions the large nostrils, which are not showing in the drawing, but the drawing does still show the eyes situated in the head as in a moose, and the distinctive overhanging top lip. This last feature indicates a terrestrial vegetarian browser, by the way.

Instead, all of these water-monsters belong to the same category of Eurasian creatures that started out as the horse-headed, multi-humped "Sea Serpents" of Scandinavia since the 1600s-1700s and which were seen somewhat later on off the coast of New England and then eventually off the coast of British Columbia as "Caddies" or "Cadborosaurus." They were also reported regularly in Quebec since the or early 1800s, according to George Eberhart, who calls them "Horse's Heads" in this instance. In both British Columbia and in the area around the Great Lakes they were definitely identified as the traditional horned (antlered) water serpents, and the descriptions continued across Canada from sea to sea. In Ontario the term On Niont was on record for this sort of creature sighting in 1647-48.

["The Water Horse" illustration above, and generalized indication for such sightings in North America on the map at the right]

These sightings I would say were one and all based on imperfect sightings of swimming moose. And although it would seem that only the white men would be foolish enough to be fooled by such a sight, many of the early sightings up to the 1930s were made by Indians. It may be that these were mostly older men and women or children who were not accustomed to seeing moose or elk swimming.
Navajo Water Pot LB03
This has the full rack of antlers and a shapeless
"Watery" body trailing behind the head

The giveaway is when the heads are seen to bear full racks of horns (antlers). These are shown on some of the traditional representations including the Kiowa example from the 1890s at the top of this page and on the Navajo pot labelled LB03 at the left. And although the fact might not have been recalled in connection to these traditions, the Kiowa, Apache and Navajo are actually Canadian peoples who migrated southwards in the period just before the white men came. That is why their water-monsters have the full racks of antlers like moose or elk while their neighbours do not.

Omaha Water Monster, Drawn in 1906.
Once again this has the antlered deer head
and the long trailing body (with humps) and tail
indicating the trailing wake in the original sighting

Without the horns/antlers being apparent we can still recognize swimming moose because of their 'bent' camel-noses, big droopy ears, fully-haired back, and sometimes even the beard or "bell" on the throat (See the "Cadborosaurus" representations in the photos below) Moose are indeed sometimes swimming out of sight of land at sea off both British Columbia and Scandinavia.

 "Caddy" and monstrous-looking moose above.
"Caddy" drawing showing the typical features of a swimming moose sighting. By the way, the only way you can have a sea monster float on top of the water like an inflatable pool toy (as in this case) is to actually have an inflatable pool toy; in the case of a real animal, most of the body lies below the surface like an iceberg. Therefore the idea that you can see through the bottoms of the "loops" is imaginary (you can see light through waves in the water more easily than through flesh, however).
Von Ferry Norweigan SS at top;
Swimming moose at Attean Lake, Maine, below. The moose is headed toward 3 Mile Island. By now it should be evident that "Sea-Serpent" sihghtings in such a conformation do not show primitive whales, Plesiosaurs, or anything of the sort. They are usually swimming moose or elk with the head held only moderately high out of the water with the neck held in a natural curve for a moose or elk's neck and the "Humps" being the waves in the wake left behind. In the case of a swimming moose, the "humps" in the wake can be quite striking, although the same effect occurs in the wake of many unrelated animals including Orcas and tuna.

Great New England Sea Serpent With Caddy-Like features [Merhorse?]
This one likewise has a short length of neck at a natural curve for a moose

Ivan Sanderson's sea-serpent report collection, statistics posted at The Greatest Study. Dale D. touched up the colours and while he was at it, he added his estimates for how many of the "Serpent" cases were possible giant eel reports (from my notes as to what was in Ivan Sanderson's files; I did similar statistics at this time and thereafter, partially incorporating Sanderson's data). The darker blue area represents primarily 'String-of-buoys' reports and I would discount them personally, hence the mark; likewise I would also discount most of the reports in the red and white areas. The white area does also include 'marine saurian' reports, however, and several undoubted mistaken reports of misidentified whales and such (so indicated by Heuvelmans). I include this version here to indicate just how much of a percentage of the reports are in the invalid 'multi-humped'categories; the same category also dominates the freshwater sightings.
Ivan Sanderson's Sea Serpent Report Collection Mapped Out

For a full explanation of the Water-Horse theory, please see my CFZ blog at the link below: and if you still think the "Train-of-Humps" represent the back of a multi-humped monster, please pay especial attention to the illustration at the end of the posting.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. What a fascinating blog! You got me hooked and I'll be back!

  2. This looks like a good, logical well presented theory. Well done.

  3. Hi Dale,

    I actually think Heuvelmans' theory that the "white mane" described by Von Ferry was simply foam in the creature's wake; it just happens that it was a moose, not a sea serpent.

    Best regards,
    Tyler Stone (I don't have a blog so for now I'll just have to comment anonymously)

  4. Pardon my less-than clear English. I meant I think the theory that the mane was made of foam is a good explanatio.

    -Tyler Stone

  5. Hi Tyler, Is Blogger making everybody submit Anonymously?? That would be a bad thing, but it would explain a few messages I have been getting here lately, starting with the bEnjamin Radford thing. I gave him a hard time of it, seems it might not have been his fault now. For that part, I regret speaking to him so harshly, but not otherwise.

    In the Von Ferry case (as in a few others) you have more than one very good explanation to choose from. The foam theory is OK if you want to go that way. However, while I was doing research on this posting, I came across a photo of a pair of immature brother-mooses that both had very prominent white necks. Brown faces and bodies, but the neck on either one a very contrasting white. I thought of Von Ferry and I mentioned the fact that there could be white-maned mooses in the text. I debated wheter or not I should include the photo but in the end I left it out. However, you could choose either theory you liked better. In this case, I was much impressed with the photo while I was writing this article.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.


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