Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review, (March 2007, No. 9)

A Mystery Feline from Guyana with Possible Relevance to Hocking's Speckled Tiger

Chad Arment

In two articles in Cryptozoology (the late journal of the International Society of Cryptozoology), Peter J. Hocking set investigators' mouths watering with accounts of several fascinating ethnoknown species from Peru that are as yet unidentified by science. Given that at least two skulls of unusual felines were obtained by Hocking (photographs included with comparison jaguar skull in the vol. 12 Cryptozoology article), it seems that serious investigation is warranted for the Yanachaga region (Pasco province, Peru).

[As yet, it does not appear that the skulls have been properly studied—they were to be sent to a specialist at an out-of-country museum, which may have lent difficulties due to South American policies limiting export of potentially significant scientific finds. I would be interested in any update on this matter.]

One of the mystery felines that Hocking noted, however, was what he termed the Speckled Tiger. This is reported to be a jaguar-sized cat, possibly with a larger head, having a light gray pelage covered by solid-black speckling. Hocking gathered three accounts of hunters killing this cat from Peru, noting his frustration in unsuccessful attempts to track down surviving pelts and skulls.

I recently came across a newspaper clipping that may describe the same mystery feline, though it is from another region of South America. The description is certainly reminiscent. From the New York Times (November 2, 1933):

 

"Gray 'Tiger' Is Shot
"Black-Spotted Species in British Guiana Not Yet Identified.

"Georgetown, British Guiana, Nov. 1 (AP)—An appeal may be made to the New York Zoological Society for aid in identifying a rare species of tiger, slain in the jungle of British Guiana.
"The tiger, shot by Vincent Roth on a survey expedition, is of a peculiar gray color with black spots. It is not unlike the treacherous black panther, but has a narrower skull.
"Mr. Roth, who, like his father, the late Dr. Walter Roth, the anthropologist, has spent most of his life in the hinterland, said even aboriginal Indians were unable to identify the animal, which is something like a puma. The natives, he said, particularly feared this species."

 

Roth was a well-known surveyor, writer, publisher, museum curator, and naturalist in what is now Guyana. I don't know if he was able to forward the specimen to New York, but I suspect not. If it was held in the National Museum in Guyana, it was certainly destroyed in the 1945 fire that destroyed the natural history collection. (Roth, in fact, helped rebuild the museum after that event.) I plan to locate copies of some of Roth's memoirs—perhaps there is more information to be gleaned from his own writings.

Guyana does not share borders with Peru, but given that they are separated by a vast expanse of Brazilian rainforest, there seems to be plenty of potential territory for a large scarce feline. This particular cryptid is noteworthy in that all known accounts are from cats that were killed, rather than quick glimpses of strange felines in tropical shadows. That certainly suggests a physical, rather than folkloric, beast. New species or not, only a specimen will tell. Hopefully, Hocking will continue his research (and publication) of Peruvian mystery animals, so that we can finally put the mystery of the Speckled Tiger to rest.

 

References:
Hocking, Peter J. 1992. Large Peruvian Mammals Unknown to Zoology. Cryptozoology 11: 38-50.
Hocking, Peter J. 1993-6. Further Investigations into Unknown Peruvian Mammals. Cryptozoology 12: 50-57.

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