Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Saturday, 12 March 2011


Did Glenn's blue pig look something like this?

I’ve mentioned on previous occasions here that any ShukerNature post documenting a blue-coloured animal - especially if its species or basic type is one that is not ordinarily blue, such as a tiger, spider, or horse – invariably attracts a disproportionately high viewing count. I still have no idea why this is, but as someone who never knowingly looks a gift horse (blue or otherwise!) in the mouth, the following post includes for your interest and entertainment yet another intriguing case of a mysterious blue creature.

Since joining Facebook just over two years ago, I have made many new cryptozoological contacts, one of whom is Glenn Cunningham from New York City. During our various FB communications with one another, Glenn has informed me of two separate and very different sightings, 23 years apart, of strange creatures that he has never since forgotten but has never explained to his own satisfaction either. Moreover, these thought-provoking sightings have not been made public until now, so I am extremely grateful to Glenn for kindly permitting me to document them here and also, in turn, within the future ShukerNature book that I am currently planning.

Sighting #1 occurred 25 years ago, when Glenn was 14 years old, while he was holidaying in Nicaragua with his mother, who hails from this Central American country. Here is the description that he gave to me earlier today (11 March 2011) of what he saw there:

“My mother and I stayed in Esteli, Nicaragua, from mid July 1986 to mid August 1986 visiting family. On the day we were about to set foot on the plane back, in the area of the airport [in Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua], there was a large cage with a giant blue pig or hog in it, that had people surrounding it, staring at it in amazement, and of course chattering away. Now, I'm not sure about exactly what I saw, as in, was it a dyed blue pig/hog? But why would they dye a pig, I thought? Anyway, within minutes later we were at the airport, I think by foot too, as it might've been blocks from the airport, and I sat on the plane wondering if blue pigs were rare, or nonexistent, or was that a dyed pig."

There is no known species of wild pig that is even remotely blue in colour; and although there are many different breeds of domestic pig, no wholly blue example is on record. Perhaps the closest was a distinctive breed referred to variously as the Bilsdale Blue or the Yorkshire Blue and White. Native to England’s North Riding region, it bore large spots of blue pigmentation upon its otherwise white body, and I suppose that it is possible that if in an occasional individual these spots had coalesced to a greater than typical extent, the result would have been a predominantly blue-hued pig. Even so, the Bilsdale Blue was only a small pig, and certainly not commensurate, therefore, with the “giant” specimen that Glenn witnessed. In any case, such speculation is entirely academic, because sometime prior to the early 1970s this particular breed had become extinct.

Rather more plausible is that Glenn’s perplexing mega-porker had been deliberately dyed blue, but this would surely have endangered the animal’s life if the dye had remained on its skin for too long. And for what possible reason would someone choose to dye a pig blue anyway?

In short, the decidedly weird case of the giant blue pig of Nicaragua remains a total enigma, and I know of nothing similar on record. If, conversely, anyone reading this post has at some time observed or has information regarding a blue mystery beast of the porcine persuasion, I’d greatly welcome details!

Glenn’s second crypto-sighting occurred much more recently, in 2009, and within sight of his own home in an apartment block opposite New York City’s famous Bronx Zoo. The following description combines a series of accounts that Glenn gave to me today in response to various questions of mine regarding the mystery beasts that he witnessed:

“[A] friend and I were parked in front of my building at 2 am talking. We must've been outside the car, cause we wouldn't be able to see backwards, where the Bronx Zoo faces, a couple of blocks from my building. I've seen a pack of raccoons hissing at me in this ghetto concrete buildings area, bats, rabbits (just 3 weeks ago too, but not since 1985 also) and packs of wild dogs in the early to mid 80s. I brought the dogs partly up for a reason obviously. For one, it’s been 25 years since I've seen a pack of wild dogs around here. And they were bouncy and friendly actually with their tails high and wagging, at worse, filthy, and ran along on the highway, mainly. On February 2009 my non believing friend and I witnessed a pack of chupacabra-looking dogs (you know, the ones captured on film and found dead since 2006), I think 4, run out of the closed off gated Zoo area. Except they were bigger than the dog-like chupacabras, and kind of hung their shoulders low, and tails were low, you know, like cats do when they’re trying to sneak by. The best way to describe them would be, they looked like skinny, high shoulder (but still crouched), bony, ugly hyena/chupacabra dogs that crept across the street into a parking lot where the Transit Authority employees park their cars.

"Why this sighting was instantly unique was before I can say anything, my friend who doesn't believe in bigfoot, said aloud: "What the **** is that!" Why would he or I be amazed at regular dogs crossing the street? It had to be something creepy for us to get that impression. Needless to say, after some talking about the encounter I went upstairs and didn't dare look for them. What's even more strange is, I didn't think about it much the next day, and didn't tell anybody or my girlfriend until a month later. Why did I have that kind of nonchalant attitude towards such a weird sighting? Was it a form of shock? I didn't feel shocked the next day, or even that night. I was NUMB though. And yes, a part of me felt like nobody was going to believe me anyway.

“The dogs were 3 to 4 feet long. They were big. NOT like the chupacabras exactly. That's why I'm perplexed. More hair possibly too. And the point [where] they were crossing the street it was then one block away from my view. The Zoo’s entrance is roughly like 6 blocks away, with the grounds and wooded area a block and a half or 2 away from the front of my building. The back of my building facing that parking area and train L is only a block away at most from the closed off Zoo area. We were closer to the back of my building, for, luckily, better view. A pack of sickly dogs? Hybrid dogs like we discussed?

"Seemed to be kind of hairy around the shoulders, but not too much hair elsewhere, Malnourished, UGLY looking, beige, light brownish. Too far [away] for skin color. Skinny all around. Heads too. Maybe like wolf-shaped heads on a shaggy hyena/cabra.

“I know, a MESS. Sorry for the bad, all over the place description. I don't know why I use Hyena, as it’s probably the wrong dog. Coyotes? Are they skinny and shaggy?

“Extremely malnourished Werewolves on Crack. There you have it! That's the best possible description. I think most likely some feral dogs I'm not use to seeing. That's the reality of it. But why have I never seen anything like it before? The strays from the 80s did not look like these."

After sending me these details, Glenn scoured the internet for any animal image that may look something like the creatures that he saw, and eventually he found the photograph below:

Copyrighted to P. Harris, this is a photograph of a striped hyaena Hyaena hyaena, native to Africa and parts of Asia, and Glenn added the following comments in relation to it:

"The hyena description wasn’t as crazy as I thought, this is slightly what I saw, but imagine it crouching, malnourished, and less hair across the spine. No hair on spine like that, but towards shoulder, yes. Hyenas escaped from [Bronx] Zoo? How come I never read about it? Do they return by dawn? Lol

“No stripes or spots. Other hyena pics are nothing like what I saw. This one struck my eye as the closest. In fact I was a little shocked when I saw this."

Agreeing with Glenn, I think it highly unlikely that what he saw was a pack of escapee hyaenas, notwithstanding his mystery beasts’ superficial similarity to the striped hyaena. Far more reasonable is the assumption that they were merely a foursome of odd-looking feral domestic mongrel dogs, probably the product of several generations of out-breeding, which often yields notably large, vigorous specimens - a phenomenon known as hybrid vigour. (Having said that, however, it is undeniably odd that all four should look the same as one another; canine mongrels are often very dissimilar in form, even within a single litter.)

Speaking of hybrids, another possibility is that they had resulted from crossbreeding between domestic dogs and some wild canid species, such as the coyote Canis latrans (which has resulted in so-called coy-dogs in the past) or the grey wolf C. lupus (the ancestor of the domestic dog). When faced with strange-looking canine cryptids, some mystery beast investigators have even speculated whether they could have resulted from hybridisation between domestic dogs and hyaenas - which on morphological grounds might seem like a potential explanation for Glenn’s mystery beasts. In reality, however, such matings, even if they could occur physically, would not yield viable offspring, because despite their ostensibly canine appearance and behaviour, hyaenas constitute a discrete taxonomic family of carnivorous mammals only distantly related to true canids. Indeed, zoologists generally deem hyaenas to be more closely related to cats than to dogs.

Glenn’s mystery beasts call to mind another mystifying hyaena-lookalike from North America, known as the shunka warak’in. As I documented in my book Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007):

"Translating as ‘carrying-off dogs’, this is the name given by the Ioway and other native Americans living along the U.S.A.-Canada border to a strange dark-furred creature likened morphologically to a cross between a wolf and a hyaena, which sports a lupine head and high shoulders, but also a sloping back and short hindlimbs - bestowing upon it a hyaenid outline. As its name suggests, the shunka warak’in is said to sneak into the tribes’ camps at night and seize any unwary dogs, and it cries like a human if killed."

Glenn has not seen his curious quartet of cryptids again, but somewhere out there in the very heart of New York City, lurking perhaps down some dark alleyway or frequenting some abandoned, derelict shack, there would appear to be a small pack of large, unidentified carnivorous beasts that bear more than a passing resemblance to hyaenas. And that, if nothing else, is a rather disturbing thought.

My sincere thanks to Glenn Cunningham for kindly sharing details of his sightings with me.


  1. There are coyotes in the middle of New York City, believe it or not. There's quite a large pack living in Central Park.

    I've read something recently from the Baltimore newspaper that there is apparently an upswing in the number of cases of mange among canines here in the NE.

  2. I clicked on this blog because I'm reading the novel, "Lonesome Dove" and there are several mentions of "blue pigs." I figured they were a specific breed or maybe color of pig (like how certain silver/grey-colored animals are referred to as blue). Apparently not. LOL. I'll have to keep looking...

  3. 1. Although it's obvious to many of us, not every one will realize that the above photo of the "blue pig" is a product of graphic manipulation software. An addition of that fact to the caption will be helpful.

    2. Regarding blue piggies: blue flowers are rare enough; blue mammals seem to be even more so. It makes sense to me to look for reasons for blue skin that are already well known before assuming that a new variety of piggy has sprung into being:

    A. Man-made coloration...People can and do apply pigments to animals. A good example are Indian elephants colorfully painted for celebrations: http://en.fotolia.com/id/32202337 . When I was a kid in Miami in the mid-1950s, I saw poufy-haired women with pastel-dyed locks walking their dogs (usually poodles) who were dyed to match. Though the fad mercifully died out, people today are again dyeing innocent dogs: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2009/aug/25/poodles-peacocks#/?picture=352065874&index=0 . Although the book "Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics" is a spoof, I'm sure there were some people who actually tried it with less than desirable results and permanent scarring: http://www.snopes.com/photos/arts/paintedcats.asp .

    B. Pathology...Severe trauma could have caused extensive bruising. Pronounced anemia causes cyanosis. The piggy could have had a heart condition, like damaged heart valves, a congenital heart problem like a shunt between the heart chambers or vessel malformation, or a circulatory condition. There may have been a severe respiratory infection interfering with oxygen exchange.

    C. Ingestion...In humans, argyria, the ingestion of silver, causes blue skin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argyria .

    D. Genetics...In humans, dermal melanocytosis (also called "Mongolian" spot), can cause broad areas of blue pigmentation in youngsters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolian_spot . Methemoglobinemia caused the Fugate family to present with blue or purple skin. As they spread out from Kentucky and marry into different DNA lines, the trait in descendants is dwindling: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/blue-skinned-people-kentucky-reveal-todays-genetic-lesson/story?id=15759819#.UD2ab-yk-So .

    3. Regarding mystery pooches, I don't think that your correspondent could truly tell the size of a group of critters at night while they were on the moving without a clear frame of size reference. The same goes for clearly seeing the animals at night via streetlights between parked cars. They ran into a parking lot ill-lit, probably with color-distorting high pressure sodium or metal halide lights. The coyotes I've personally seen on Cape Cod were quite startling in appearance. They looked malnourished and sick with very thin fur, and draggy, no high waving tails, though without exaggerated shoulders. Coyotes are also found in NYC from time to time. Occam's razor, for goodness sakes: they were cold, hungry, homeless dogs.

    Thanks for your very interesting, knowledge-packed site, Jay.