The Cryptid Zoo: Nessie (or Loch Ness Monster)

The Loch Ness monster, also known by the nickname Nessie, is probably the creature that most often leaps to mind when ordinary people think about cryptozoology: the study of animals that may or may not exist. Nessie is virtually a symbol of cryptozoology. This creature has probably been the object of more sustained media attention than any other individual type of cryptid, with the possible exception of Bigfoot.

What is the Loch Ness monster? If it exists, it is probably not one animal, but a bunch of animals of the same species. This idea is supported by sightings of multiple "monsters" at the same time, and by simple ecology. If Nessie is an animal, it had to have a mother, and at one point there had to have been a viable breeding population of the species. Only a few people think Nessie is a single animal, such as a sea serpent that somehow became trapped in Loch Ness. The typical Nessie does roughly resemble the average sea serpent, but it lives in the biggest freshwater lake in Scotland instead of the ocean.

Witnesses tend to describe an animal with sleek, rubbery blackish-gray skin, about twenty feet long. Nessie usually has the serpentine body that is typical for sea serpents and lake monsters, furnished with humps along its length, and one or more sets of paddles (or sometimes, stumpy legs). Nessie's head is often described as roughly horse-shaped, it may have a straggly mane running down its neck, and some witnesses report small horns, especially those who see the Loch Ness monster from close up. Sometimes, witnesses report a smaller, rounded, turtle-like head. This head is the one that seems to appear in most of the famous Nessie photos.

The idea of horns may sound ridiculous, but they would make sense if the Loch Ness monster is actually a zeuglodon, a weird primitive whale, because the zeuglodons were only a few steps removed from the mesonychids, ungulate predators, and ungulates often have horns.

The first serious wave of Nessie sightings came in the 1930s and they have continued ever since. Before the wave of sightings that started today's fad, there were older legends of water dragons and kelpies in Loch Ness (a kelpie is a magical aquatic horse that is often thought to be a shapeshifter). However, these older legends were much more variable in how they described the appearance of Nessie, so most researchers do not rely on them much, simply noting that they exist as being a reason to suppose that the Loch Ness Monster is much more than a recent fad.

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

Bauer, Henry H. The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery

Baumann, Elwood D. The Loch Ness Monster. New York: Franklin Watts, 1972.

Binns, Ronald. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1984.

Campbell, Elizabeth Montgomery and Solomon, David. The Search for Morag. New York: Walker, 1973. Pages 13-14, 16, 18, 24-47, 68, 114, 117, 164-166, 173, 175

Campbell, Steuart. The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence

Chorvinsky, Mark. The Loch Ness Monster

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 79-80, 138-143, 229-231

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 284-300

Coleman, Jerry D. Strange Highways: A Guidebook to American Mysteries & the Unexplained. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003. Pages 184, 192

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Pages 83-84

Cooke, David & Cooke, Yvonne. The Great Monster Hunt: The Story of the Loch Ness Investigation. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1969.

Crystalinks. Loch Ness Monster

Dinsdale, Tim. Loch Ness Monster. London: Routledge, 1961.

Ellis, Richard. Monsters of the Sea: The Truth about the Loch Ness Monster, the Giant Squid, Sea Serpents, Mermaids, and Other Fantastic Creatures of the Deep
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Encyclopedia Smithsonian. The Loch Ness Monster

Holiday, F. W. The Great Orm of Loch Ness: A Practical Inquiry into the Nature and Habits of Water Monsters. London: Faber & Faber, 1968.

Keel, John A. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Pages 312-314

Lyons, Stephen. The Beast of Loch Ness: Birth of a Legend

Mackal, Roy P. The Monsters of Loch Ness. London: MacDonald & James, 1976.

McEwan, Graham J. Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland. London: Robert Hale, 1986. Pages 11-16, 26, 37, 94-117, 196-202, 211-212


Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 12, 55-56, 133, 146, 155, 174, 183, 251, 267-268, 274, 277, 328-331, 348-349, 359-360, 376, 397, 416, 418-419, 423-424, 432, 437, 445-447, 453, 491, 501, 507

Raynor, Dick. Loch Ness Investigation

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 186-187

Steiger, Brad. Out of the Dark: The Complete Guide to Beings from Beyond. New York: Kensington Books, 2001. Pages 75-80

Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Pages 151-165, 170, 175, 183

Wikipedia, The. Loch Ness Monster

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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.