The Cryptid Zoo: Cynocephali

The Cynocephali exist in the mythology of Europe, India and China. The legends of all three of these cultures originally said that the Cynocephali resided somewhere in the wild lands west of Tibet and north of Persia (modern-day Iran). The European legends later began placing Cynocephali in all unexplored regions. In Europe, they were described as dog-headed people, sometimes as dog-headed hairy giants that have something in common with hairy humanoids. In the legends from India and China, the Cynocephali were described as shapeshifters who could change from human to dog, but who always retained some animal features when they became human again.

If real Cynocephali exist, it is hard to decide what sort of animal they might be. Some of these legends might be garbled accounts of baboons, monkeys with dog-like snouts. Today, this explanation has been mostly dropped. Further studies have suggested that the Cynocephali tales are actually based on dog ancestor origin myths from tribes who were considered filthy barbarians by more "civilized" writers in India and China. According to these writers, whole races of people were deliberately killed because they weren't human, they were "really" monsters. When these myths were imported to Europe, they became even further changed from the originals. The European Cynocephali is often quite different than the creature of the original legends.

Since there do not seem to be sightings of these creatures today, most cryptozoologists ignore them. To the few who do pay attention to them, the Cynocephali are viewed as either just one more kind of hairy humanoid or as a cryptid canine of some sort.

You can find out more about the Cynocephali from the following sources:

Would you like your nonfiction book indexed
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Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 224-228

White, David Gordon. Myths of the Dog-Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Wikipedia, The. Cynocephaly

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The text on this page is copyright 2006 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.