Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Weird: Shunka Warak'in

A cryptid again today for Wednesday Weird.

There have been sightings in the northern US (mostly Montana, Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa) of a beast that resembles a hyena, a primitive wolf or a cross of both.

The Ioway and other Native American tribes of the region called this creature the Shunka Warak'in which translates into "carries off dogs" since the beast would often sneak into their camps and do just that.

Documented sightings wouldn't start until the 1880's. The Hutchins family settled in lower Montana. Not long after, they and their neighbors began to encounter a strange wolf-like creature.  Ross Hutchins would later write: One winter morning my grandfather was aroused by the barking of dogs. He discovered that a wolf like beast of dark color was chasing my grandmother’s geese. He fired his gun at the animal but missed. It ran off down the river, but several mornings later it was seen again at about dawn. It was seen several more times at the home ranch as well as at other ranches ten or fifteen miles down the valley. Whatever it was, it was a great traveler The witnesses described the creature as being nearly black and having high shoulders and a back that sloped downward like a hyena. One morning in late January, grandfather Hutchins, alerted by their dogs, was able to shoot and kill the creature. The creature was taxidermied and donated to a museum in Idaho where it was displayed for years (the museum owner dubbed it "ringdocus" (Why? Who the hell knows.)) 
photos of the taxidermied creature before it went missing from the museum

  So this is all interesting in and of itself. But what's important to note is the youngest Hutchins had a PH.D. in zoology and had no idea what the animal was. He speculated that maybe it was an escaped circus hyena, but the nearest circus was hundreds of miles away.  The taxidermied specimen went missing for quite some time, but was rediscovered by the museum in 2007. 
Photos of the creature after it was rediscovered by the museum


  There's a theory the Shunka Warak'in could be a Borophagus, an ancient hyena-like canine known to inhabit North America almost 13,000 years ago.   
  Since the animal was killed in the 1880s, there have continued to be occasional sightings of similar creatures in Montana and other states. A strange wolf, responsible for the deaths of over 120 sheep in Montana in 2006 was shot and killed, and though it's appearance was not like other wolves, the fish and wildlife department did classify it as a wolf. So there you have it! Thoughts? Theories? I like the Shunka Warak'in a lot because there's an actual body of the creature and a zoologist testimony, things frequently lacking in most cryptid cases.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Maybe an escaped hyena mated with a wolf and that's its offspring?

Maria Zannini said...

I think what strikes me most about this creature is that there are still sightings. If it is a Borophagus, which is my guess, I hope the next time it's found they'll be able to trap it and save it from inevitable extinction.

Matthew MacNish said...

Cross species breeding usually produces sterile offspring, like the Liger, so I think this has to be its own species, that survived in very small numbers.

Catherine Stine said...

That is one scary beast!

Crystal Collier said...

I sometimes wonder how many species there are out there that are undocumented, or that have become extinct. It's a fascinating world we live in.

Rena said...

This is a tricky one since there is a wide variety of canus that can interbreed. It could easily be something like an african wild dog crossed with a wolf, for instance.

Or a wolf suffering from a disease such as elephantism (no, dogs don't get that, but something like it).

On the other hand, if it's skeletal remains match the borophagus, then that's pretty impressive.

And one last note from the skeptic: eye witnesses are pretty much utterly worthless. I may have mentioned this, but I took a class where they used to have an assailant come into the classroom, fire a gun and then leave. The homework assignment was to pick the gunman out of a line up. No one ever got the right guy.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I like to think that someone in the 19th century managed to perfect genetic splicing of animal DNA, but his research and equipment (along with his life) were taken to silence him. His experiment managed to escape...

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