Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Creature Feature #2: Tatzelwurm (1779 - 1969)

Though not recognized by zoologists, the tatzelwurm (German for "worm with claws") has been reported for at least two decades and possibly longer, in the Swiss and Austrian Alps (also in the Germanic countries, which include Denmark and Hungary).

Vague folk traditions describe der tatzelwurm as a mountain-dwelling dragon with a cat-like head and spiked ridges along its back. The first "sighting" began in 1779 with Hans Fuchs, who claimed to have seen two tatzelwurms in front of him. He died from a heart attack, but told family members of his encounter before he did so.

Reports indicate that the creature has a snake-like body between 2 and 6 feet in length, with two clawed front legs, but no hind legs. It is sometimes reported to have the face of a cat. Local folklore holds that the Tatzelwurm is able to defend itself by expelling poisonous fumes that are capable of killing a human.

It is known by several names in different regions.
Stollenworm (Tunnel Worm)
Bergstutzen (Mountain Stump)
Springwurm (Jumping Worm)
Arassas (French Alps).

One claimed photograph of the Tatzelwurm exists. It was taken in 1934 by Swiss photographer named Balkin who took a photo of what he thought was a very peculiar log. When the camera flashed, the "log" darted away.

Skin texture (or structure of body) and hair etc. could be indications whether the animal observed could have been a vertebrate or an invertebrate, a mammal or a reptile. The reported aggressiveness of the animal in a substantial number of cases must be considered strange. The snakes and lizards of the Alps are usually rather fugitive beings. Snakes are deaf and their visual faculty is not good. It is hardly possible that such an animal attacks humans by itself or pursues (!) them as it has been alleged in some cases. The only possible animal in the Alps fitting this behavorial description could (perhaps) be the weasel. The alleged extraordinary width of the animal’s jumps is considered impossible; While jumps of two or three meters are still conceivable, especially if some allowance is made for errors in the estimates, widths of eight or fifteen meters are hard to digest. In the cases (1834.x.), (1865.s.) and (1899.s.) the animal was allegedly seen flying, a description that could perhaps be just another (exaggerated) expression for the animal’s ability to make wide jumps. Some tree snakes are able to flatten their body so that they can perform a sort of glide.Vertical Undulations. There are two cases of alleged Tatzelwurms shot (1894.b.ÊEnnstal)Ê or slain (1912.x. Mareit) where a green fluid (blood?) is said to have come out from the animal’s body. If the reports are authentic and the fluid was indeed blood this could point towards a metabolism and biochemistry completely different from any other mammal or reptile.

Perhaps the tatzelwurm is a relative of the American Gila Monster, or the axolotl.


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