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

Monday, 9 May 2011

Is The Nandi Bear Actually a Bear?

Putitive Nandi Bear Skull from a sale of the effects of an African estate. Please note that it is plainly marked as saying "Tanzania" as the place of origin right on the skull itself.

American Brown Bear Skull for Comparison

I had mentioned to Karl Shuker recently that when the group Frontiers of Zoology was new I had entered a skull of what could have been the actual Nandi Bear as a BEAR. I said I would go back into the back messages to see what the discussion there was at the time. I am not through the search of the message archive yet but this part made clear reference to the matter:

Message #425 of 6785
Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:19 pm

Dave Francazio wrote:
...But honestly I don't see how the evidence for the Nandi Bear points to a chalicothere.
Captain Hichens says that the Nandi Bear howls. (and has a distinct howl)
Although we will never know if the chalicothere of the Pleistocene howled, we can suspect it didn't since one more closelys associates howling with canines rather than ungulates.
The Spoor of the Nandi Bear-"there is a body of evidence that this astounding beast leaves a pug-mark with six pads and six claws showing on each paw "
Chalicothere have three toes, not 6.
Also, descriptions of the Nandi Bear do not match the reconstruction in Janis' article. Hichen describes the Nandi Bear as similar to a "lioness, later, a side-view of its head gave the impression of a snout, the head being very large, while the beast stood very high forward, 4 ft. 3 ins. to 4 ft. 6 ins. at the shoulder. "The back," they say, "sloped steeply to the hindquarters and the animal moved with a shambling gait which can best be compared with the shuffle of a bear. The coat was thick and dark brown in colour."

Now the Chalicothere depicted in Janis' article is larger than this and is not similar in body shape to a lioness. It seems more likely that they are describing a variation of hyaena. When she mentions the tail, i think she is talking about a long fluffy tail which Saint Peter's "wolf" does have. Although Captain Hichens makes no mention of a tail, another explorer Geoffrey Williams explicitly says that the creature had no tail.
Chalicotheres are also herbivorous and do not seem particularly fierce. Yet, Hichens does state that the Nandi Bear has the tendency to "to lie up in trees and, waylaying natives passing on the track below, to reach down a hairy paw and rip open their skulls." This reminds me of a leopard bringing its prey up into trees.
The only real piece of evidence that links the Nandi Bear with the Chalicothere is the sloping back. Correct?

Most sightings of the Nandi Bear seem to be at night which would make it nocturnal (making it harder to catch.) Now do leopards attack villages at night?

Here is what I have for characteristics of the Nandi Bear:
4'-5' tall at the shoulder
Walks With a shuffle
Thick Skin
Thick Fur
Long Snout
Sloped Back
Six Pads and Six Claws in the Spoor.
No Tail?

[Presumably the marks of six pads and six toes indicates a composite track with the mark of the hind foot stepping into the print of the forefoot-DD]

Nandi Bear's Track


Message #426 of 6785
Tue Jan 16, 2007 5:09 pm
Dale Drinnon wrote:
Actually, I do not consider the Chalicothere a good
match for the Nandi bear. When the native said "that
is the Chemosit you are describing", "Chemosit" is
about the same as "monster, or even "Boogeyman".
I have seen the alternate account where 5 claws are
mentioned, and in fact I recently posted a message on
the subject which mentioned a track with three claws
on it (but like a big dog's pawprint)

Personally, I do see evidence for an ASIATIC
Chalicothere as Janis says, but the curious thing is,
it may have survived in Africa and then went back to
Asia as she suggests. This is the "Clawed horse"
type, and yes, that does sound better (you will notice
that I was using the Moropus "Big Hyena" bodyshaped
chalicothere as my reference there because that was
the more recent ASIATIC type.)

As to the Nandi bear itself, I think that the big
shortfaced hyend that Shuker suggested is a strong
candidate. But as I also mentioned recently, one of my
photo searches turned up what was said to be a recent
BEAR skull from Tanzania, and that made it also possible
to say once again that we really are talking about a
BEAR as a candidate.
Best Wishes, Dale D.

Quote Message #380 of 6785, Thu Jan 11, 2007 8:41 am

On one of my photo searches I found what was presented as a bear
skull from Kenya[Actually Tanzania, and the photo still retains the record that it was posted on December 15, 2006-DD]. This basically set me to thinking that Heuvelmans had been arguing all around the obvious solution, that the Nandi Bear actually WAS a bear. Certainly the first description by Geoffrey
Williams in 1905 sounds exactly like a bear, and the tracks are
closer to bear tracks than anything elser, although somewhat
schematically drawn. The tracks at theMagadi railway were also
backed up by a report by Hickes also sounds more than unusually close
to a bear.
It is also tempting to draw a parallel between the relationship of
the actual reports/the animal itself and the exaggerated stories told
about the Chemosit To the Europeans' actual experience of bears as
contrasted to the stories of Bogey Bears (Bugbears)Furthermore, it
fights with its forepaws and takes swipes at people with those big
claws that can rip the tops of their heads open: no other candidate
comes close to matching that behavior.

In Roman times, bears like typical European brown bears were
evidently known and reported in Ethiopia. The Khodumodumo of the
Transvaal in South Africa also seems to be related to the Nandi bear
(On The Track, page 259 of my edition)And its tracks, like Hichen's
tracks described just prior to the reference, are foot-wide FOREPAW
prints with long nonretractile claws: this would almost have to be a
big bear's forepaw, since, as the witnessed noted, no lion ever had
tracks like that. (Hichen's tracks were partial and reported as three-
toed, but also as "Spade-shaped and turned-in, a bearlike trait" The
claws were two inches long at least) So there is some reason to
suspect that if it IS a bear, at one point in Historical times it
ranged down the entire length of East Africa.

Saying this, it is not necessary that ALL the "smaller bearlike"
reports are of dark-colored ratels: they could really also be the
younger Dubas.["Duba"=Bear in Arabic and hence in Swahili]

Agriotherium, Fossil bear found in South Africa

Zoo Bear, Comparable to the Oldest Nandi Bear sightings.

The original site where I got the photo is still up but unfortunately it is apparently mined: my computer refuses to go there because of the threat of infection by viruses. But I did find reference to the discussion as it had been going on at one of the Cryptozoology discussion boards:

Cryptozoology forums; Cryptids & Other Unknown Mammals; view thread

Subject: Re: Brown Bear in Africa?
From: Mngwa posted Sun, Nov 13 2005, 9:12pm
Thanks. I’m having trouble making out individual teeth. I stuck your pics in Photoshop and had too much interference from pixellation to achieve greater detail. If I’m making the teeth out right, however, it appears that there are only 3 or 4 teeth (molars and premolars) visible in the upper skull and I can only discern 2 or 3 in the bottom. The premolars also appear to be highly developed. This would be consistent with a lion’s dentition pattern of incisors 3/3, canines 1/1, premolars 3/2 and molars 1/1, for a total of 30 teeth and the development of shearing premolars for a carnivorous lifestyle. Brown bears have less-developed, flatter premolars and a dentition pattern of incisors 3/3, canines 1/1, premolars 4/4, molars 3/2, for a total of 42 teeth. Note, there has been some variation in number of premolars documented among individuals of Ursus arctos, but a bear would still have more teeth than a lion. The dental formula can be determined by dividing the skull in the middle, and starting at that symmetrical midpoint, count the teeth moving backwards. Each type of tooth is counted individually, with top teeth being the number in front of the slash. I can easily make out the incisors (3 top/3 bottom) and the canines (1 top/1bottom) from your original picture. You could finish the equation yourself simply by counting the top and bottom teeth from the canines (not including the canines) backwards on one side. If you have 7 premolars and molars, it’s probably a lion, 11-13 and it’s probably a brown bear.

Does the jawbone separate from the top of the skull? If so, how about a picture of the top portion, like you’re taking a picture of the roof of the mouth? I wanted to get a look at the bullae. Felids have large, divided bullae, while ursids have smaller ones. I can’t make out the bullae from the pics you’ve posted.


Subject: Re: Brown Bear in Africa?
From: Barrett posted Sun, Nov 13 2005, 11:15pm
Thank you for your input. I,ve posted the pictures you requested. I hope they are sufficient. Sharon

Subject: Re: Brown Bear in Africa?
From: Mngwa posted Tue, Nov 15 2005, 8:01am
Exactly what I wanted to see, I'm comfortable saying that it is indeed a bear skull. Lion skulls average in the 14" range, give or take depending on which expert or source you quote, so I initially thought it was a bear. Then I was cross-referencing my literature with various websites, and stumbled across a site that discussed some large lion skulls over 16", and 17 3/4" didn't seem quite impossible, especially with a possible origin in Tanzania, where there aren't supposed to be any bears. I won't ask for any more pictures now, Sharon! :)

Quoted from your post below:

...the skull was originally part of an estate sale. It was reported that the signing of the skull took place in Africa. The identifacation as being a lion skull was probably assumed; related to its African origin. We ~ having reason to believe it is from Africa due to the estate having other African artifacts.

Interesting, I'm assuming this estate sale was here in the states, and not in Tanzania? Do you know anything about the individual whose estate you acquired the skull from? That may tell you a lot. To be perfectly honest with you, I have to wonder if at some time during the history of the skull the date and location were added to con the unsuspecting. Throw it in with a few African artifacts in place of a real lion skull, I suspect the average art/artifact collector wouldn't know the difference. Then again, I tend to be pessimistic about human nature.

There are several other ideas about how a bear skull ended up in Africa, or at least coming from Africa, posted over the course of the thread. You've been quiet on the matter, what is your take on it?


So far as I knew, the matter was never resolved. But it is another matter where the specimen itself was labelled with an indication of its source location and if the information is to be relied upon it is a very valuable specimen indeed.

Best wishes, Dale D.

Cave Bear Skeleton

Scale Comparison of a Brown Bear and a Male African Lion
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.9


  1. Back in the period when Blogger was down, I had attempted to add the note that the second bear skull at the top, had not been the first choice of a skull for comparison. The first choice had been a BLACK bear skull, in comparable view to the Tanzania skull. After some thought it seemed that the discussion spoke more od brown bears than black ones, and so I swapped the brown bear skull for the black bear. Unfortunately the substituted skull was not really in the comparable view. The skull of the mounted Cave bear skeleton is however in a comparable position to the skull at the top.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. Nice blog but I think it's a giant hyrax personally. Three toes at the rear, fierce attitude etc. See here for all the details

  3. You may think anything you like, but an animal with a bear's skull is a bear and the illustrated track has five toes showing, not three.

    In order to say that the Giant Hyrax is a superior possibility to an actual bear, you are going to have to supply a lot better evidence than just a happy thought it might be a possible solution to the problem. You have got to show that the theory better explains the evidence than the evidence presented here does.

    It seems to me you did not bother to read the provided material above. Sorry, I'm not buying into the hyrax theory and good day to you!

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  4. My personal theory is the nandi bear could be a giant hyena, possibly of prehistoric persistence. My reason is that the shot specimens of "giant forest hyenas" in east Africa. But to each there own.

    P.S. I saw Tyler Stone's blog and talked to him. He is a well educated young man

    Best Wishes,
    Noah Eckenrode,
    Amateur cryptozoologist

  5. Late Survival Theorem, Regarding Chalicotherium
    From A Comfy Chair, We I.D. Un-cuddly “Nandi Bear”?
    Plus, a Terrace of Lions? Dude You’re not even Tryin’
    Enigma’s & Mysteries Due to Skewed View of History

  6. OK, I post an unequivocal photo of a bear skull labelled as coming from Africa and I presume you are attempting to advance the alternative hypothesis? OK for one thing I am now going to have to reprint your original material in order to discuss it at all, but for another thing, you've got a pretty wierd idea of what constitutes strong evidence and what constitutes weak evidence in a case such as this. You have here somehing solid and substantial and you attempt to counter it with implausible speculation based on basically somebody else's fancy. I DON'T Think you have a roper snse of proprtion in these matters, to tell you the truth.
    However since you brought up the column in question and mentioned it here, I am pretty much bound to discuss the matter now. I just would wish certain Anonymous correspondants would consider the relative strength of their position (or lack of same) before they make depositions on such matters.


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.