Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Monday, 3 December 2012


Even among the exceedingly diverse, and decidedly different, fauna of cryptozoology, occasionally there comes along what can only be described as a truly impossible beast - or, as I like to call such exotica, an impossibeast. And here, as the latest ShukerNature Picture of the Day, is one such example. Appearing in an early 18th-Century tome about Switzerland, Itinera per Helvetiae, written by naturalist-historian Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, this engraving depicts an anomalous Alpine impossibeast that was categorised as a dragon, despite sporting an extravagantly furry pelage, an unquestionably mammalian face, and two long, slender, exceedingly hirsute tails so independently mobile that each seemed to have a life of its own! If anyone has any notion of what this extraordinary creature might have been inspired by, I'd be very happy to hear from you.


  1. The closest real life counterpart I could come up with was the European mink.
    Their bodies are pretty long and they're known to be aggressive if cornered. As for the feet, we need to remember that the heraldic representation of a tiger (spelled tyger) had such feet. I'm clueless about the split tail though.

  2. A double tail is a relatively frequent developmental anomaly in various reptiles, notably lizards and snakes. Not in mammals, though.
    Scheuchzer's book containes various other reports of rather fanciful dragons supposed to inhabit the Swiss Alps. There is an excellent book in French on that topic by Michel Meurger, "Histoire Naturelle des Dragons", published by Terre de Brume in 2006.

  3. Could be a mutation. There have been a number of two-tailed animals lately. You need to stop thinking species and start thinking individual.

  4. European mink, common weasel (Mustela nivalis)or even a polecat with Polycaudally? This is a deformity causing a split tail and sometimes occurs in cats.


    In any case the picture is rather stylized and rather reminds me of some old images of the mythic salamander like this one here


  5. I wasn't aware that I'd specified species anywhere in my above post. All I stated was: "If anyone has any notion of what this extraordinary creature might have been inspired by..." - no mention of species there!

  6. Hi Tamara, Thanks for your response. However, if you click on the link that you give in your response, and then, on that link's page, click on the cat link, this will then take you to an article on two-tailed cats on the Messybeast website, and if you go down to the very last line in the bibliography at the end of that article, you will see that the article was a 2006 April Fool's hoax, produced by Messybeast.

  7. The face reminds me of a lemur

  8. Hi Dr. Shuker and all: Thank you Tamara for the link - upon further research into this phenomenon I discovered messybeast.com. The two-tailed cats there were quite interesting. So is the cat humor.

  9. @Da Selkie - The two-tailed cats on messybeast,com are of course hoaxes, as is revealed at the end of the page on them.

  10. Yes, Doctor, but my ability to suspend disbelief gets exercised regularly.

    My cousin had a barn cat with a tendency to forget how many toes, etc. that her kittens were supposed to have. About six years ago she had one with two tails (The second one seemed to be a useless stump, about three-four inches long). Unfortunately, it got hit by a car before it was old enough to have a litter - or for anyone to get around to taking its picture. I only saw it once, myself.

    But if we have to be serious, I concur that it would be highly unlikely that this could breed true.

    As with a two-nosed dog article you posted; I don't see how one could breed a two-nosed dog without getting all sorts of other, more undesirable genetic features.

    Besides, most dogs manage to get into plenty of trouble with just the one. ;)

    Thanks for the reminder (to always look at the bottom of an article); my main clue was the web path name.