Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 18th, 2007
Happy Chinese New Year! It is the Year of the Pig.
Interestingly, several of the animals of discovery within cryptozoology are pigs and piglike species.
One classic example is the giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), known today from Liberia to Kenya, Africa. First reported by natives to Europeans back in the 1660s, the world’s largest pig was “discovered” by Western science, in East Africa in 1904, when Lt. Richard Meinertzhagen brought the first one out. The forest hog reaches seven feet in length and more than three feet at the shoulder.
At the other extreme, the pygmy hog (Sus salvanius), the world’s smallest pig (two feet long), was declared extinct in the 1960s. However, it was rediscovered by Dick Graves, in 1971, in the Assam state, India.
Peccaries are not, technically, pigs, though the general public thinks they are. The peccaries are mammals of the family Tayassuidae, members of the Artiodactyls (even-toed ungulants). The pigs Suidae and hippopotami Hippopotamidae are also Artiodactyls. I’ll note a couple recent discoveries of these piglike animals.
From South America comes the amazing story of the Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri). This peccary is a large brownish-gray wild piglike animal, first known from Pleistocene fossil remains in 1930, and thought extinct. However, it was “discovered by science” when found alive in 1974 by Ralph Wetzel, even though it was known by local natives and its fur used to trim hats and coats by New York furriers for years.
In July 2006, I discussed here at Cryptomundo the discovery of a new species, the Giant peccary (above) by zoologist Mark Van Roosmalen, in the Brazilian Amazon.
It is worth mentioning that the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) was first thought to be a pig.
In 1909, Karl Hagenbeck, the famous German animal dealer and designer of the modern open-air zoo, sent German naturalist-explorer Hans Schomburgk to Liberia to check on rumors about the nigbwe, a “giant black pig.”
After two years of jungle pursuit Schomburgk finally spotted the animal 30 feet in front of him. It was big, shiny, and black, but the animal clearly was related to the hippopotamus, not the pig. Unable to catch it, he went home to Hamburg empty-handed. Hardly anyone believed his story.
In 1912, Schomburgk returned to Liberia and, to the dismay of his critics, captured a pygmy hippopotamus on March 1, 1913, and then returned to Europe in August with five live pygmy hippos.
A full-grown pygmy hippopotamus weighs only about 400 pounds, one tenth the weight of the average adult (river) hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius). The pygmy hippo today inhabits the dense undergrowth of the forests of the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
Two active cryptid peccary/pig files remain open: The caitetu-mundé, an unknown peccary-like animal reported from Rio Aripuanã, Mato Grosso state, Brazil (unless this is the Giant peccary), and the esakar-paki, a mystery pig-like animal said to live in the Sangay National Park, Ecuador, east to the Peruvian border.