Zoology refers to the scientific study of animals. Cryptozoology, therefore, refers to the scientific study of hidden animals. In other words, cryptozoology is the study of animals whose existence has not been confirmed by the larger scientific community. Cryptozoologists, those who work in the field of cryptozoology, research claimed sightings and folk legends of these hidden animals, and search for evidence of their existence. Individuals working in this field spend most of their time trying to establish respected theories that can explain the claimed sightings of these mystery animals. Today, cryptozoology has become a popular interest and is even the topic of many television series.
The academic community does not acknowledge cryptozoology as a true science. Instead, it is considered a pseudoscience, which means that it does not follow the scientific method. The origin of cryptozoology as a potential branch of zoology dates back to the mid-20th century, after two zoologists published books concerning specific cryptids (the term created in the 1980s to refer to the hidden animals studied by cryptozoologists). In the late 19th century, however, the Director of the Dutch Royal Zoological Gardens published a book positing the existence of a large, undiscovered seal species, establishing the platform upon which cryptozoology as a matter of public interest was founded.
Well-Known Cryptids Around the World
As mentioned, the term cryptid is used to describe the undiscovered animals that cryptozoologists research. Many of these creatures come from folklore and other local stories, but their legends remain alive with the help of reported sightings that continue into the present day. Some of the most well-known cryptids from around the world include Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and Chupacabra.
Bigfoot might be the most popular cryptid in the field of cryptozoology. This creature is usually described as a large ape-like species that walks upright like a human. Stories of Bigfoot date back to several indigenous tribes of North America. Bigfoot sightings occur from time to time, particularly in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. This cryptid has also been referred to by the following names: Yeti or Abominable Snowman (a white version that lives in the frozen environment of the Himalayan mountains), Skunk Ape (in the southern region of the US), and Sasquatch (the name preferred by individuals in the northwest region of the US). One common theory that attempts to explain the existence of Bigfoot is that it is a descendant of the Gigantopithecus Blacki species, which is now extinct.
Loch Ness is another popular cryptid that is believed to inhabit the lake of the same name in Scotland. Reports of this creature often claim that its body and neck are long and that as it swims, its back arches up out of the surface of the water. The lake has an underground channel that connects to the ocean, which Loch Ness believers claim is how the creature escapes undetected. One common theory claims this cryptid is likely a descendant of the now-extinct Plesiosaur, which was a marine dinosaur with a long neck and flippers that enabled it to swim.
Chupacabra is believed to primarily inhabit several American countries, although descriptions of similar cryptids have been reported around the world. Its name is Spanish for “goat sucker,” which refers to its livestock bloodsucking behavior. The first recorded sighting of this creature is traced back to Puerto Rico in 1995. Reports of the creature usually occur after a community or farmer loses a large number of livestock due to a loss of blood. In many cases, investigators or livestock owners discover small incisions in the animal that are appear like fang marks. Descriptions of the cryptid vary, but the chupacabra is commonly suggested as a reptilian-like animal with spines along its backbone. Although it stands on its two back legs, it does not walk with a human-gait, but rather takes small jumping steps.
Confirmed Cryptid Discoveries
Although considered a pseudoscience, cryptozoologists claim their field has led to the discovery of animals that were once considered mythical. One commonly cited example of this is the confirmed existence of the Coelacanth, an ancient fish species. This 6-foot long fish was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs despite claims from Africa that it was still alive. In 1938, a museum curator came across a specimen in a market in South Africa, confirming local legend. Today, only two Coelacanth survive.
Perhaps one of the most widely recognized instances of a confirmed cryptid discovery is that of the gorilla. In the mid-19th century, several African tribes shared the same story of the “Pongo,” a creature with a dangerous temper that looked like a cross between an ape and a human. Local legend suggested that the Pongo consumed human flesh and held supernatural powers. Most European scientists doubted these claims until 1847, when the gorilla was discovered.
Criticism of Cryptozoology
Despite its claims of confirmed discoveries, cryptozoology continues to receive far more criticism than support from the scientific community. While academic sciences widely accept the fact that there are a number of animal species yet to be discovered, they argue that all of the large, living animals have already been discovered. Cryptozoologists focus their energy on just that, large animals that have thus far escaped discovery. Herein lies one of the primary criticisms of cryptozoology.
Another significant criticism of cryptozoology is that it fails to utilize the scientific method, and instead relies solely on oral accounts of possible creatures. Additionally, cryptozoologists devote the entirety of their research to the existence of animal species that academics have long since deemed fictitious. Some individuals report that the study of cryptids is so deeply criticized that showing an interest in the field could end a scientist’s career. Cryptozoologists are often ridiculed and referred to as “monster hunters” rather than as legitimate scientists. Human gullibility is often credited with its popularity.
Some highly respected scientific academics have made somewhat positive references to cryptozoology, however. One example of this was when the Flores Man was discovered in Indonesia in 2003. A paleontologist suggested that this find provided at least some proof that the creatures of folklore may indeed be based on actual truth.