Exploration Fawcett (1953), compiled from the field notes of the famous lost South American explorer Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Fawcett by his son Brian, includes tantalising snippets concerning a variety of seemingly undescribed species, such as a Bolivian dog-like cat (or cat-like dog?) called the mitla (click here for more details), and a giant toothless river shark (possibly a huge catfish? - click here), plus vague mentions of swamp-dwelling relics of the dinosaurian age (click here).
Lieut.-Col. Percy Fawcett
One additional mystery beast documented within his book but attracting only scant cryptozoological attention, conversely, is a startling oddity encountered by Fawcett in 1913 while visiting Santa Ana, a post on the Marmoré River passing through East Bolivia:
Here we saw for the first and only time a breed of dog known as the Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound. The two noses are as cleanly divided as though cut with a knife. About the size of a pointer, it is highly valued for its acute sense of smell and ingenuity in hunting jaguars. It is found only on these plains.
A somewhat droll cartoon of a double-muzzled dog appears on the inside cover of Fawcett's book:
Fawcett's cartoon sketch of the double-nosed Andean tiger hound from Exploration Fawcett
Otherwise, this twin-snouted canine curiosity was duly forgotten - until almost a century later, when, as reported in London’s Daily Mail newspaper (10 September 2005), modern-day explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell spied a remarkably similar beast while recently leading an expedition through the very same area.
While staying at a remote village there, he saw a dog whose nostrils were set totally apart from one another, like the barrels of a double-barrelled shotgun. Making enquiries, he learnt that this dog, called Bella, was not a deformed specimen but one of a distinct, highly-prized, but nowadays rare breed in this area, which was referred to by the same name that Fawcett had recorded - the double-nosed Andean tiger hound ('tiger', incidentally, is a term that in Latin America refers to jaguars).
Section of the Daily Mail article of 10 September 2005 featuring Bella and Colonel John Blashford-Snell's expedition - click picture to enlarge it (© Daily Mail, London)
Photos of Bella brought back by Blashers attracted such interest from Dr Tito Ibson Castro, president of the Bolivian Veterinary Association, that a sequel expedition was duly planned, to obtain genetic material and thus determine the origin and relationships to other dog breeds of this dual-nosed wonder. And so it was that during summer 2006 Blashers returned to Bella's village.
As reported in a Daily Mail article of 25 September 2006, however, he was greatly saddened to learn that Bella had died after having given birth to a litter of four pups (all split-nosed), sired by a normal unsplit-nosed dog. Moreover, three of these pups had also died, but he was delighted to discover that the fourth, a male, had survived and was now a healthy 10-month-old, whom Blashers dubbed Xingu after the lost city that Fawcett had vainly sought. For a photo of Xingu, click here.
Worthy of note is that Xingu in turn sired a litter of four pups, whose mother had a normal, unsplit nose. Two of the four pups were split-nosed, and both of these died after three days; the other two were normal, and both of those survived.
Interestingly, a few days after newspaper accounts of Bella had appeared in Britain, the Daily Mail (17 September 2005) published a follow-up feature containing photos of other, putative Bellas sent in by readers.
Section of the Daily Mail article of 17 September 2005 featuring Henry the Pachon-Navarro and other split-nosed dogs - click picture to enlarge it (© Daily Mail, London)
The most noteworthy of these was a photo of Henry, a Pachon-Navarro. This rare Iberian breed, related to pointers, is characterised by a very unusual skull, formed into two separate channels with a ridge wide enough for human fingers to be placed inside. Intriguingly, split-nosed Spanish pointers were taken to Latin America by the conquistadors during the 16th Century. So perhaps Henry and Bella have a common ancestor, not just an uncommon nose.
Finally: here, just for a little light relief, is a very different tiger hound (plus my sincere apologies to William Blake for my own variation upon his 'Tyger Tyger' poem!):
Tiger hound-dog, hear him bark
In the forests of the dark.
What immortal hand he licks
That pats his head and throws him sticks?
This ShukerNature post is an expanded, updated excerpt from my book Extraordinary Animals Revisited (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2007).