Thursday, July 12, 2007

Creature Feature #6: Onza (1757 - 1986, 1992)

The onza is Mexico's most famous anomalous feline, earning its marks among Britain's alien cats and other anomalous felines in North America. Though zoologists have not formally recognized its existence, it is now beyond dispute to consider it a real animal.

To the Aztecs, the onza was a seperate and distinct animal from two other felines native to their land. When Spanish conquerors arrived, they met Emperor Montezuma, who showed them his great zoo. In it, the Bernal Diaz del Castillo stated that there "were jaguars and pumas of two kinds, one of which resembled the wolf."

The onza is now characterized as a large predatory cat with wolflike features. The name onza derives from the Latin term, uncia, which refers to the cheetah of Asia and Africa. Beginning in the 1930s, onza sightings became more frequent. Two brothers, Dale and Clell Lee, killed a strange catlike animal in the La Silla Mountain. They photographed it, had it skinned, and kept the remains.

In 1982, the International Society of Cryptozoology was established, and formally recognized the onza as a cryptid. Two skulls were given to the ISC for study, one of which was owned by secretary J. Richard Greenwell. Both skulls were sent to museums, one which currently resides in the Smithsonian Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On January 1, 1986 at 10:30 in the evening, two deer hunters of San Ignacio District, Sinaloa shot and killed a mysterious cat. The body was frozen at a commerical fishing company, and then sent to the United States. Mexican authorities recognized it as an onza. The body was photographed at the Regional Diagnostic Laboratory of Animal Pathology in Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture.

Of the initial tests, there appeared great similarities between the onza and the puma. However, due to the onza's physical differences, not similarity of DNA could be determined. As of 1992, not further tests have resumed.

A 1996 paper laid the Onza's cryptozoological identity - or lack thereof - by stating that genetic examination of the carcass revealed that it had "molecular characteristics indistinguishable from those of western North American pumas."

Most cryptozoologists felt that the Onza represented a new subspecies of puma (Puma concolor), or possibly an entirely new species of cat. German mammalogist Helmut Hemmer even suggested that the onza represented an extant specimen of the prehistoric American cheetah Miracinonyx trumani.

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!... "Onza." Visible Ink Press, Inc. 1993. 296 - 299.

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