The Cryptid Zoo: Doyarchu

Also called various names such as dobhar-chu, anchu, "water dog" and "Irish crocodile," the doyarchu is described as an animal that is about the size of a crocodile or a big dog, but resembles a cross between a dog and an otter. It is almost always described as black in color. It either has sleek black fur that fits very snugly to the body, or it has smooth, slimy black skin with no fur at all.

A few individuals are described as having one or more patches of white on them, especially a large patch in the middle of the chest. At least one individual was described as mostly white with two black spots on the ear tips and one in the middle of the back. The hindquarters are bigger than the forequarters and resemble a dog, especially a powerfully-built greyhound. The paws are big in proportion to the rest of the body, just as we would expect in an aquatic mammal. The head is sleek and looks much like an otter's, the neck is long, and the tail is long and slender with a possible tuft at the end.

These creatures have been reported as living in Irish lakes from ancient times. They are highly aggressive towards people and dogs. They attack by grasping prey and dragging it into the water, and they are often a match for the fiercest dogs, especially when they get their opponents into the water. They are often found in pairs. One animal usually stays hidden while the other attacks, but it will appear if the first animal has trouble. If one of these is killed, the other becomes extremely angry and will risk its own life to get revenge, suggesting that these animals may have monogamous pair-bonds of exceptional strength. One report tells of a doyarchu that pursued the men who had killed its mate for twenty miles, even though it was at a disadvantage on land.

Since the sightings describe the doyarchu in a fairly consistent way, it could represent a real animal. Some cryptozoologists say it could be a new species of giant otter. Others favor the view that it is a variety of baby Loch Ness monster (or rather, a baby lake monster of the same type, since Loch Ness is in Scotland). Another possibility is that is represents a link between seals and their landbound ancestors. Seals are most closely related to the bear family and the dog family. There was probably a primitive ancestor of modern seals that looked much like the doyarchu.

Regardless of what it might have been, the scarcity of modern sightings seems to indicate that the doyarchu, if it ever existed, is probably extinct today. The location in which the largest number of modern sightings has taken place is Achill Island, located just off the western coast of Ireland in County Mayo. The lake called Sraheens Lough is supposed to have a small population of doyarchu, but these creatures seem migratory, not occupying the lake all year.

Some researchers confuse the doyarchu with a creature of Irish fairy lore, the "king otter." Although the two creatures have some characteristics in common, they are not identical. While the king otter was a gigantic otter from the fairy realm who had magic powers, the doyarchu had anatomical characteristics that made it something different than just a big otter. Furthermore, the doyarchu was thought of as being more like a real animal, while the king otter was not thought to be earthly at all.

Some other areas of the world have creatures that sound similar to the doyarchu, in both physical appearance and habits, and a number of these are given local names that translate as "water dog." For example, the ahuitzotl is described in Aztec legend as a dog-like water monster of small size, with smooth skin, pointed ears, wide paws (like a doyarchu) and possibly a mass at the end of a tail (like the possibly tufted tail of the doyarchu). Similar "water dogs" are reported in North American Indian lore, from the Hopi tribe and the Shasta tribe. Some researchers also put into this category a strange creature described by Christopher Columbus in 1503. He supposedly killed this creature in Jamaica.

You can find out more about the Doyarchu and other "Water Dogs" from the following sources:

Brookesmith, Peter, ed. Creatures from Elsewhere. London, Chartwell Books, 1989. Pages 79-80

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 80-81
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Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 517-519

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 14-15, 134, 164, 173, 273

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 11-22

Wikipedia, The. Dobhar-chu

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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.