Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review, (October 2009, No. 22)

Goosefoot, the Cumberland Dragon

Chad Arment

One of the problems with lesser-known mystery animals is that stories about them are often confused with reports of more well-known cryptids. In this case, the story itself, though uncommonly noted, has been mentioned on a few websites. (I don't know whether it has ever been mentioned in print.) The problem here is that the creature, denoted by some as Goosefoot, has somehow been confused with skunk apes, possibly because of mention of an oddly-shaped foot.

The story was originally published in 1794 in various early American newspapers. The account here comes from the Hampshire, MA, Gazette of September 24, 1794.

Curious Animal.

In February last, a detachment of mounted infantry, commanded by Captain John Beaird, penetrated fifteen miles into the Cumberland Mountain: On Cove Creek, ensign M'Donald and another man, in advance of the party as spies, they discovered a creature about three steps from them: it had only two legs, and stood almost upright, covered with scales, of a black, brown, and a light yellow colour, in spots like rings, a white tuft or crown on the top of its head, about four feet high, a head as big as a two pound stone, and large eyes of a fiery red. It stood about three minutes in a daring posture (orders being given not to fire a gun except at Indians,) Mr. M'Donald advanced and struck at it with his sword, when it jumped up, at least eight feet, and lit on the same spot of ground, sending forth a red kind of matter out of its mouth resembling blood, and then retreated into a laurel thicket turning round often, as if it intended to fight. The tracks of it resembled that of a goose, but larger. The Indians report, that a creature inhabits that part of the mountain, of the above description, which, by its breath, will kill a man, if he does not instantly immerse himself in water.

 

So, we have a biped creature, about four feet high when in an almost upright position, covered with scales, some sort of crest on the head, bright red eyes, and big goose-like footprints. I don't think it is a stretch here to suggest that the "red kind of matter" indicates the animal is flicking out a red tongue. Clearly, this story should not be classified among reports of unknown primates, but rather among the stories of large biped (at least occasionally) reptiles, similar to reports from southern Ohio (historically) and Kentucky (several decades ago).

From a historical perspective, the details surrounding the event appear factual. Captain John Beaird was a historical personage in that region, infamous for an attack on Cherokee and Federal agents in an attempt to force a war. Cove Creek is still on the maps in Tennessee. It would be very interesting to know if Beaird or anyone in his militia outfit kept a journal that could be checked to see if the newspaper details were accurate. It would also be of interest to know if the Cherokee in that region have any similar stories passed along to them through the generations.

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