Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Irish Crocodile


The Doyarchu is described as an animal that is about the size of a crocodile or a big dog, but resembles a cross between a dog and an otter. It either has sleek black fur that fits very snugly to the body, or it has smooth, slimy black skin with no fur at all. The hindquarters are bigger than the forequarters and resemble a dog, especially a powerfully-built greyhound. The paws are big in proportion to the rest of the body, the same as most aquatic mammals. The head is sleek, the neck is long, and the tail is long and slender. A few individuals are described as having one or more patches of white, especially a large patch in the middle of the chest. It goes by various monikers, ex. dobhar-chu, anchu, water dog and Irish crocodile.

These creatures have been reported as living in Irish lakes from ancient times. They are highly aggressive towards people and dogs. They attack by grasping prey and dragging it into the water, and they are often a match for the fiercest dogs, especially when they get their opponents into the water. They are often found in pairs and hunt in tandem. One animal usually stays hidden while the other attacks, but it will appear if the first animal has trouble. If one of these is killed, the other becomes extremely angry and will risk its own life to get revenge, suggesting that these animals may have monogamous pair-bonds of exceptional strength. One report tells of a doyarchu that pursued the men who had killed its mate for twenty miles, even though it was at a disadvantage on land.

Some cryptozoologists acknowledge it could be a new species of giant otter since descriptions of the creature are consistent. Others favor the view that it is a variety of immature 'Loch Ness Monster' evenly though Loch Ness is in Scotland. Another possibility is that is represents a link between seals and their landbound ancestors. Seals are most closely related to the bear family and the dog family and a primitive ancestor of modern seals may have resembled the doyarchu.

There has been a scarcity of modern sightings which seems to indicate that the doyarchu, if it ever existed, may be extinct today. The location in which the largest number of modern sightings has taken place is Achill Island, located just off the western coast of Ireland in County Mayo. The lake called Sraheens Lough is supposed to have a small population of doyarchu, but these creatures seem migratory, not occupying the lake all year. - newanimal.org


An early description of the Dobhar-chú appears in A Chorographical Description of West Or H-Iar Connaught: Written A.D. 1684, Part 1684 (1684), by Roderick O'Flaherty. This story, originating from the area of Lough Mask:

There is one rarity more, which we may term the Irish crocodile, whereof one, as yet living, about ten years ago had sad experience. The man was passing the shore just by the waterside, and spyed far off the head of a beast swimming, which he took to be an otter, and took no more notice of it; but the beast it seems lifted up his head, to discern whereabouts the man was; then diving swam under the water till he struck ground: whereupon he run out of the water suddenly and took the man by the elbow whereby the man stooped down, and the beast fastened his teeth in his pate, and dragged him into the water; where the man took hold of a stone by chance in his way, and calling to mind he had a knife in his jacket, took it out and gave a thrust of it to the beast, which thereupon got away from him into the lake. The water about him was all bloody, whether from the beast's blood, or his own, or from both he knows not. It was the pitch of an ordinary greyhound, of a black slimey skin, without hair as he imagines. Old men acquainted with the lake do tell there is such a beast in it, and that a stout fellow with a wolf dog along with him met the like there once; which after a long struggling went away in spite of the man and his dog, and was a long time after found rotten in a rocky cave of the lake when the waters decreased. The like they say is seen in other lakes in Ireland, they call it doyarchu, i.e. water-dog, or anchu which is the same.


In 2003 Irish Artist Sean Corcoran and his wife claim to have witnessed a Dobhar-Chú on Omey Island in Connemara, County Galway. In his description the large dark creature made a haunting screech, could swim fast and had orange flipper like feet. “What a shock!” he says, recalling the next few moments. “A vicious snarl right below us, like a loud hiss, followed immediately by a huge splash. The creature, if that is what it was, swam the width of the lake from west to east in “what seemed like a matter of seconds”, leaving a “fairly big wake”, Corcoran remembers when it reached shore, it clambered up onto a boulder, he swears, and gave “the most haunting screech”. My wife's account of the incident is give or takes the same as mine. Its body was dark, and I'd say it was about the size of a large Labrador, and about five foot tall when standing. It turned and disappeared into the darkness of the area I call the Heart.

We scrambled back to our tent, completely stunned. This was something very strange, it wasn't a swan or an otter or a badger. The next day we went across to Sweeney’s bar. Malachy served us and there were a few lads at the counter. I casually explained about the creature and there was nervous chuckling." - irishtimes.com



The Kinlough Stone is claimed to be the headstone of a grave of a woman killed by the Dobhar-chú in the 17th century and shows an old drawing of the creature. Her name was supposedly Gráinne. Her husband supposedly heard her scream as she was washing clothes down at the Glenade lough and came to her aid. When he got there she was already dead, with the Dobhar-chú upon her bloody and mutilated body. The man killed the Dobhar-chú, stabbing it in the heart. As it died, it made a whistling noise, and its mate arose from the lough. Its mate chased the man but, after a long and bloody battle, he killed it as well. The Glenade Stone, found in Conwall cemetery in Glenade, Co. Leitrim also depicts the Dobhar-chú and is related to the same incident.


The Legend of the Dobharchú (Water hound) was written by Joe McGowan and stems from the bestial murder of Grainne Ni Conalai at Glenade Lake, Co. Leitrim on September 24th 1722:

The details were well known one time and the ballad sung at fairs on the streets of nearby Kinlough. Some say she went to the lake to wash clothes; the ballad tells she went to bathe. It is no matter. When she failed to return, her husband Traolach Mac Lochlainn went to look for her. He was aghast when he found her body lying by the lake with the 'beast lying asleep on her mangled breast'! The words of the following poem, written around the time of the incident, form part of the legend surrounding an event which excites discussion and controversy to the present day. The ballad, a lengthy one, was skilfully composed by a hedge schoolmaster of the time.

An abbreviated version below brings the story vividly to life. Beginning with a description of the locality it goes on to record the dreadful occurrence:

…And whilst this gorgeous way of life in beauty did abound, From out the vastness of the lake stole forth the water hound, And seized for victim her who shared McGloughlan's bed and board; His loving wife, his more than life, whom almost he adored.

She, having gone to bathe, it seems, within the water clear, And not having returned when she might, her husband, fraught with fear, Hasting to where he her might find, when oh, to his surprise, Her mangled form, still bleeding warm, lay stretched before his eyes.

Upon her bosom, snow white once, but now besmeared with gore, The Dobharchú reposing was, his surfeiting being o'er. Her bowels and entrails all around tinged with a reddish hue: 'Oh, God', he cried, 'tis hard to bear but what am I to do?'

He prayed for strength, the fiend lay still, he tottered like a child, The blood of life within his veins surged rapidly and wild. One long lost glance at her he loved, then fast his footstps turned To home, while all his pent up rage and passion fiercely burned.

He reached his house, he grasped his gun, which clenched with nerves of steel, He backwards sped, upraising his arm and then one piercing, dying, squeal Was heard upon the balmy air. But hark! What's that that came One moment next from out of its depth as if revenge to claim!

The comrade of the dying fiend with whistles long and loud Came nigh and nigher to the spot. McGloughlin, growing cowed Rushed to his home. His neighbours called, their counsel asked, And flight was what they bade him do at once, and not to wait till night.

He and his brother, a sturdy pair, as brothers true when tried, Their horses took, their homes forsook and westward fast they did ride. One dagger sharp and long each man had for protection too Fast pursued by that fierce brute, the Whistling Dobharchú.

The rocks and dells rang with its yells, the eagles screamed in dread. The ploughman left his horses alone, the fishes too, 'tis said, Away from the mountain streams though far, went rushing to the sea; And nature's laws did almost pause, for death or victory.

For twenty miles the gallant steeds the riders proudly bore With mighty strain o'er hill and dale that ne'er was seen before. The fiend, fast closing on their tracks, his dreaded cry more shrill; 'Twas brothers try, we'll do or die on Cashelgarron Hill.

Dismounting from their panting steeds they placed them one by one Across the path in lengthways formed within the ancient dún, And standing by the outermost horse awaiting for their foe Their daggers raised, their nerves they braced to strike that fatal blow.

Not long to wait, for nose on trail the scenting hound arrived And through the horses with a plunge to force himself he tried, And just as through the outermost horse he plunged his head and foremost part, Mc Gloughlans dagger to the hilt lay buried in his heart.

"Thank God, thank God", the brothers cried in wildness and delight, Our humble home by Glenade lake shall shelter us tonight. Be any doubt to what I write, go visit old Conwell, There see the grave where sleeps the brave whose epitaph can tell.'

The story still survives in local tradition. A local man of Glenade, Patrick Doherty, now deceased, told me some years ago that the chase, which started at Frank Mc Sharry's of Glenade, faltered at Cashelgarron stone fort in Co. Sligo when Mac Lochlainn was forced to stop with the blacksmith there to replace a lost horseshoe. His version differs very little from the ballad. Acording to Patrick, when the enraged monster caught up with them the horses were hurriedly drawn across the entrance to form a barrier. Giving the terrified man a sword the blacksmith advised him, 'When the creature charges he'll put his head right out through the horse. As soon as he does this you be quick and cut his head off.'

The story is given credence today by the carved image engraved on Grace Connolly's tombstone in Conwell cemetery, Co. Leitrim. Cashelgarron stone fort, near where the chase ended and the Dobharchú met its gory end, still stands today nestled on a height under the sheltering prow of bare Benbulben's head. Both monster and horse lie buried nearby.
- Echoes of a Savage Land

Because of its aquatic life style we usually associate the otter with a variety of watery places but not readily with bog. Otters are found in streams, rivers, marshes, lakes, estuaries, lagoons and on the coast. There are no sea otters in Ireland, nor is there such a thing as a bog otter. There is the river otter in Ireland (Lutra lutra), which exploits a range wetlands.

Otter, Lutra lutra (Ireland)

A clipping that references an encounter at Lake Erie, PA

Sources:
newanimal.org
Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature
irishtimes.com
Echoes of a Savage Land
rootsweb.ancestry.com
The Beasts that Hide from Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals
mythicalcreaturesguide.com
ipcc.ie


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