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The Wolpertinger

March 4, 2015

I know cryptids aren’t real. There are too many people, too much scientific data, for most of them to slip through the cracks, and the rest, well, what are the odds? I’m more inclined to believe in aliens than I am in Ogopogo or bunyips or squonks.* There are, of course, some cryptids I would dearly love to be real, such as Nessie and Sasquatches and Mokele-mbembe, because living plesiosaurs, Gigantopithecus, and sauropods would change the face of science. Those cryptids, and the one pulled from indigenous folklores (like Sasquatches and bunyips) are the ones I take “seriously”. The rest of the them are interesting curios.

My favourite one of those is the Wolpertinger, and not only because it’s a fun word to say. I love that nobody can agree on what it looks like, though “mix of small forest animals” seems to be the basic idea, and almost everyone seems to agree on horned rabbits with wings. It’s Bavarian, though other parts of Germany, Austria, and Sweden have similar animals.


If it was painted by Albrecht Dürer, it must be real.

The Wolpertinger apparently gets the straight-faced treatment with children and tourists, in a sort of tall tale, how-long-will-you-believe-this sort of way. You even get stuffed versions turning up in pubs, museums, and souvenir shops—which is incredible, because they’re apparently very hard to catch. The traditional methods involve moonlit nights and distracting the animal with a) candle flame or b) a young woman’s breasts long enough to bag it.

It’s possible the animal was inspired by the same virus that inspired the Jackalope. It’s also possible that it was made for the children and tourists who are still told the stories, or that it has some other, deeper origin that’s been lost to time.

On a related note: Wolpertingers are fictions and taken as such. Platypuses are real, but were originally taken as fictions, partly because they looked so much like Wolpertingers and their ilk. The Fiji mermaids are also fictions, but were taken as real at the time. We have an interesting history with mismatched animals, don’t we?


A Fiji Mermaid in the British Museum


* Not that aliens have visited Earth. UFO sightings are awesome, but not true. Probably.

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