The Cryptid Zoo: Tengu

Japanese legends describe a creature called the tengu, a bird with four limbs in addition to wings. It often looks somewhat humanoid. In fact, this creature is thought to be a shapeshifter, a creature able to assume human form whenever it wants. Different tengu resemble various types of bird, including crows, ravens and eagles.

Could any real animal be behind these legends? If so, it does not seem likely that it represents a new species. It would most likely be a mutation that sometimes resulted in a bird that had four legs as well as wings. Mutations that do this could occur in different species, leading to the variety shown in the legends. Mutations that produce four legs are actually quite well-known in chickens.

If we go the other route and look at the humanoid characteristics that are sometimes present, we run into difficulties. Taking these characteristics seriously would leave the tengu in the same biologically absurd quandry that winged men are in. The shapeshifting powers just heap more absurdity on top of this. If we decided to take them seriously as well, we would probably be left with a supernatural creature, a being that is of little or no interest in the field of cryptozoology.

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

Addiss, Stephen. Japanese Ghosts and Demons. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1985. Pages 103-112
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Goodin, Charles C. Tengu: The Legendary Mountain Goblins of Japan

Hall, Jamie. Tengu

Tyler, Royall, ed. Japanese Tales. New York: Pantheon Books, 1987. Pages 47-53, 75, 171-174, 181-182

Wikipedia, The. Tengu

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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.