Skip to main content

The Who, What, Where, When, and Why of Cryptozoology

Ricky Rodson is an experienced cryptozoologist with several published books on the subjects of zoology, cryptozoology, and mythical beasts.

Cryptozoology is a mysterious and fascinating field.

Cryptozoology is a mysterious and fascinating field.

A Fascinating Field of Study

Cryptozoology has always been a baffling field of study. It seems that for every question answered, another three pop up. The unending mystery can cause many people to lose faith in the subject. Hopefully, the following answers to some of the most common questions about cryptozoology will provide you with the information you seek.

The founders of Cryptozoology, Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson.

The founders of Cryptozoology, Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson.

Who Started Cryptozoology?

Interestingly, cryptozoology is often credited with being invented by two different people—Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson. Most cryptozoologists believe that Heuvelmans first coined the word in his 1955 book On Track of Unknown Animals." But in 1968 Heuvelmans himself wrote in a lesser-known publication that a student named Ivan T. Sanderson actually used the term several years before him without his knowledge. No matter who invented the term, cryptozoology was actually around for thousands of years before there was an official word for it.

What Is Cryptozoology?

Cryptozoology is a field of study that searches for and studies the existence of unknown, mythological, or believed-extinct animals still alive today. The term cryptozoology means "the study of hidden animals" and is derived from the Ancient Greek words Kryptós (hidden/secret), Zōion (animal), and Logos (knowledge, study).

Most scientists consider the field to be nothing more than pseudoscience because most findings are considered unsubstantiated or planned hoaxes. Despite this, a cult subculture has formed around the belief in these creatures, which are called cryptids. The most popular creatures discussed by cryptozoologists are Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Jersey Devil.

Artist rendering of Queen Hatshepsut.

Artist rendering of Queen Hatshepsut.

When Was Cryptozoology Invented?

Cryptozoology wasn't made an official field of study until 1955, but evidence of it goes all the way back to the 15th century BC. In the 15th century BC, the pharaoh of Egypt, Queen Hatshepsut, documented animals that were unknown to them at the time. These animals included the Lock-Necked Dragon and African Unicorn, known today as the Giraffe and Okapi. Between the 2nd and 4th centuries, a famous poet named Valmiki wrote about a group of ape-like humanoids known as the Vanaras. This story is believed today to be the earliest known folklore of Bigfoot. In 77 AD, Pliny the Elder wrote the Naturalis Historia detailing his travels across Africa and India. This book included sightings of giant grasshoppers, man-cats, fire-breathing basilisk, and other creatures unknown to Rome. To many, this book is considered to be the earliest known written documentation of cryptids.

Where Did Cryptozoology Begin?

The word cryptozoology was first published in 1955 in a French book called On the Track of Unknown Animals. But as mentioned above, the earliest known stories regarding cryptids come from 15th century BC Egypt. So officially, cryptozoology, as a field of study, is documented to have begun in Egypt. But the truth is, people have talked about unknown creatures since they could talk.

Why Do People Study Cryptozoology?

People study cryptozoology for a lot of different reasons. But if I had to narrow it down to a single cause, the answer would be curiosity. Ever since the beginning of humanity, people have been drawn to the unknown. And just because these creatures have been listed as fictitious doesn't mean they actually are. Just because something cannot be proven does not mean it isn't real. Even Conrad Gesner himself, the founder of modern zoology, mentioned possibly by mistake, several cryptids (unicorns, sea monsters, dragons, and mermaids) in his Historiae Animalium. A book in which he attempted to describe all known animals of the time period.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Exemplore

Top 10 Most Popular Cryptids

Top 10 Most Popular Cryptids

Cryptozoology is filled with all sorts of strange and mysterious lifeforms from all over the world. With there being so many of them it can be hard to name examples that are known to everyone. The following list of the top ten most popular cryptids will hopefully help you get an idea of the type of creatures that make up the field.

10. Wendigo

The Wendigo is a weird life form that roams around the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. It is said to be a large humanoid creature born with a heart of ice, foul stench, and supernatural abilities. Unlike Hollywood depictions, the Wendigo is not believed to have animal traits(Ex. Horns, Antlers, Claws).

9. Phantom Cats

Phantom Cats are a mysterious phenom known around the world. They are essentially large black cats seen in areas of the world they do not naturally belong. Theories regarding the animals range from cougars that escaped from private zoos to shadowy apparitions of the underworld.

8. Thunderbird

The Thunderbird is a massively large bird believed to live in North America. Native American tribes claim the bird is so large that its wings are capable of creating thunder when flapped. In modern culture, the Pokemon 'Zapdos' was based on the Thunderbird.

7. Mokele-Mbembe

Mokele-Mbembe is a large aquatic creature believed to roam around the Congo River Basin. Most sightings report the animal to closely resemble a sauropod. Luckily for the local population, Mokele-Mbembe is said to be a herbivore that prefers to come into contact with humans as little as possible.

6. Yeti

The Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, is a monkey-like creature known to live in the Himalayan mountain range. The bipedal beast is always said to be extremely large but, depending on the story, its fur color can be either red, brown, or white.

5. Chupacabra

The Chupacabra is a vampiric monster believed to be responsible for slaughtering livestock throughout the southern United States and Mexico. The blood-sucking cryptid is commonly said to look like a diseased canine-like animal. This has led to most people believing it to be a strange coyote or dog.

4. Mothman

The Mothman is a grey humanoid creature with red eyes and large wings. It is believed that anyone who sees the creature will be cursed to suffer. Due to its popularity, several movies have been made about the Mothman over the years.

3. Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is a world-famous cryptid despite only being seen in the state of New Jersey. The most common depiction of the beast is a bipedal kangaroo-like creature with a horse head, cloven feet, and thick bat-like wings. Over the years, the Jersey Devil has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of livestock.

2. Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster is a non-violent aquatic creature said to live inside Loch Ness. The creature gained popularity in 1933 when a photograph(now confirmed to be a hoax) was released in a small newspaper. While "Nessie" has been described as a sea serpent and dragon, most cryptozoologists believed it to be a species of dinosaur that survived the ice age.

1. Bigfoot

Bigfoot is a large ape-like humanoid that is believed to lurk around North America. The reclusive beast is said to be covered in thick fur and stands nearly 10 feet tall. Many cryptozoologists believe it to be a missing link in the chain of evolution. Luckily for us, Bigfoot hates human contact and seldomly makes its way into populated areas.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Related Articles