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The Ozark Howler: Actual Cryptid or Elaborate Hoax?

Darcie spends her free time going down research rabbit holes and occasionally writing down what she finds.

The Ozark Howler, also known as the Ozark Black Howler or just the Howler, is a cryptid that supposedly resides in remote areas of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.


Physical Description

There are varying descriptions of the Ozark Howler, as witnesses often give conflicting accounts of the creature they claim to have seen. The most general description that can be pieced together is of a creature that is the size of a bear, with a thick, stocky body, shaggy hair, a beard like that of a goat, glowing red eyes, and sometimes even horns protruding out of its head. The creature also has a tail, but one of the many things witnesses can't agree on is whether it has a short tail or a long tail.

Some witnesses have claimed it resembles a giant cat, much bigger than a cougar. Others have described it as a cat-like monster along with the aforementioned horns and glowing eyes, making them doubt the idea that they might have seen a cat. Most sightings agree that it is black or at least dark in color.

The Howl

The most distinctive feature of the Ozark Howler is its unusual cry. Far more people have claimed to have heard the Ozark Howler than to have seen it. It's agreed upon by all witnesses that the creature has a terrifying howl, but what this howl sounds like varies wildly, perhaps even more so than its physical description.

The Wikipedia entry describes the Ozark Howler's cry as being a combination of a wolf's howl and an elk's bugle. However, witnesses have also described it as being similar to a hyena's laugh.

Origins and Theories

The origins of the Ozark Howler legend aren't very clear. Some sources claim that there have been sightings as far back as the early 1800s. In the 1950s, there was a supposed sighting where a black, goat-like creature was described as being the Ozark Howler, despite not matching the current common descriptions at all.

The idea that the Ozark Howler is a cat-like creature supposedly originates from a sighting in the early 1980s when a truck driver who had pulled off the road for the night described seeing a black, cat-like creature that had a long tail, shaggy fur, a stocky build, a beard, and red eyes.

There has been speculation that the Ozark Howler might merely be a misidentified big cat. The Arkansas Fish and Game Department does not recognize its existence as a previously unknown animal because no one has ever caught one or recovered a body. Instead, the agency says that these sightings are actually of pet panthers that have somehow escaped captivity.

Another theory on the identity of the Ozark Howler links it to the extinct saber-toothed cats, the idea here being that it may be a modern descendant of these animals.

In the cryptozoological community, it has been suggested that the Ozark Howler is related to the Black Dog of Death from British folklore, creatures often said to be associated with hellhounds or the devil. Some sources have claimed that the first sightings of the creature originated with settlers from Ireland, Scotland, and England, who would have brought the legend of the Black Dog of Death with them, and over time the legend evolved into its modern iteration.

Photo of a recent supposed sighting

Photo of a recent supposed sighting

It's All a Hoax

Others in the cryptozoological community believe the entirety of the Ozark Howler myth is a hoax. In his book Cryptozoology: Science and Speculation, Chad Arment writes of how he and other cryptozoologists received emails with outrageous claims of a creature called the Ozark Howler. The messages were traced back to a university student. It was revealed that this student, after mocking how myths of the Chupacabra had spread across the Internet in the 1990s, made a bet he could fool the cryptozoological community.

Prominent cryptozoologist Loren Coleman is very adamant about the Ozark Howler being a hoax, as he is the person who originally tracked down the originator of the emails he, Arment, and others received, eventually even obtaining a full confession from the student of how the elaborate hoax, including creating multiple websites in an attempt to plant the idea that sightings went back far earlier than they actually did, was pulled off.

In his article "Ozark Howler: Faux Cryptozoologie," Coleman tells of how he tracked down the hoaxer and wrote up the full story in a draft originally written in 1998, co-authored with Jerome Clark, with the draft eventually being published in 1999 as Cryptozoology A to Z. However, his editors decided to drop all entries in the book related to hoaxes, ultimately leaving out Coleman's story of the true origins of the Ozark Howler legend. Today, when searching online for information about the Ozark Howler, there is little mention of it even possibly being a hoax, let alone saying that it is conclusively one.

If Coleman is correct in saying that the legend truly originated with this proven hoax, then he is also correct in saying that his debunking has remained far more obscure than the legend itself. Many modern bloggers writing profiles of the Ozark Howler will still claim sightings go back decades or even hundreds of years, usually with no source or citation to back it up.

So is the Ozark Howler real in the sense that something like Bigfoot is real, or was it all just part of an elaborate hoax by a bored university student? I'll leave it up to you to decide.


Ozark Black ironically on May 04, 2020:

That picture looked like well detailed sock puppet

Sapper402 on April 02, 2020:

I heard something I couldn't identify howling here in Texas county Missouri last year, pretty weird

Cryptid researcher SW Missouri on December 11, 2019:

The Ozark Howler PREDATES the clueless and attention-seeking "student" who is cited in this story as the originator of a 'hoax'. The earliest settlers in the Ozarks were Scots/Irish and brought with them beliefs in both the black dog of doom (Britain/Scotland) and the banshee (Ireland). The call of the Ozark Howler was described as being like that of a woman in distress. It was said that the Howler would scream and a male settler would hustle into the forest to render assistance... only to be found later with his throat torn out. Those who saw the beast noted that it could rise up on two hind feet, but moved on four in most sightings, and had red reflective eyes.

My wife and I have four years of audio recordings of an unidentified creature that was capable of making listening canines slink away in fear or bark frantically with fear if unable to find a hiding place. We've had repeated visits by a LARGE, bipedal cryptid, including tree damage, tree signs, and tracks. Two separate years saw tracklines in snow through our residential land... with six foot stride lengths. Photographed and documented. I personally feel that there is a good chance the Howler is a Bigfoot who drops down on all four for movement in restrictive brush.

shadow wolf girl on November 01, 2019:

it looks like a long tailed deer

justagirl222 on November 01, 2019:

So where would the thing be seen at?

Wolfman on August 26, 2019:

the animal in the picture looks like a long tail prong horn.

Mel DreamWeaver on November 25, 2018:

Hoax or not it is a very good story - I am an author and found it very well written except for the ending - I hate when the writer leaves you speculating what has happened. Stories always need an ending unless you are going for a sequel.

Personally, I have had 3 encounters with 3 different bigfoots, two in Texas and one in Oklahoma. They are very powerful, and do not like being seen. Also, I have had over a thousand encounters with ghost. It is just part of who I am.

I attract them to me. Some people are born with this and some are not. Those that do learn to deal with it, make the most of it and move on. Those that never do are the skeptics and rightly so, you would not be able to handle them if they chose to share space with them.

Hunter from texas on September 01, 2018:

Im gonna go on a personal level with this im from texas and the noises that are on videos and are claimed to be a howler is actually a fox foxes have very demonic sounding howls and barks its insane and very scary but there are also animals mostly matching the description of these things and are very much real and not too common the are russian red boars they are huge like the size of a large calf or small cow amd have tusks that can get to look lile horns if you dont know what you are lookong at and they are evil sons of bitches i had one i tracked and finally killed after three days in the woods and after putting three very large very heavy and very powerful roumds in it ot had enough life left to charge and total my f250 truck it was bad

Darcie Nadel (author) from Louisiana on September 25, 2016:

@ParaPalooza I might have worded the last part a bit wrong. I didn't mean that I personally believe the entire thing is a hoax. Personally I'm of the opinion that anything's possible and it's highly unlikely everyone who claims to have seen the Howler is making up the experience. I just thought it was important to include that there is an admitted hoaxer out there that many people either ignore or are unaware of.