Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the 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), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), 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), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Monday 29 April 2024


Did Valero's kintanari look something like this? (© William M. Rebsamen)

American correspondent Ted Leonard kindly brought to my attention some years ago a fascinating book that mentions two Brazilian mystery cats that were previously unknown to me.

Written by Ettore Biocca, first published in English in 1970 (it was originally published in Italian), and based upon firsthand testimony related to him by its subject, the book is Yanoáma: The Narrative of a White Girl Kidnapped by Amazonian Indians. It recounts the remarkable true-life story of Helena Valero, who was abducted as an 11-year-old Italian girl by Yanoáma natives back in the 1930s and reared by them in the Amazonian jungle.

One of these crypto-felids was known locally as the rock jaguar, and was briefly witnessed one day by Valero while in the company of some Yanoáma women and hunters. She described it as follows:

It was morning that day and we had seen among the rocks, as if in a window, a jaguar's head. It was a kind of jaguar which I did not know: it wasn't one of those spotted ones or those red ones that they call kintanari. It was a brown jaguar and it had long hair on its head: it was the rock jaguar.

If this description is accurate and authentic, I suspect that it was not a jaguar of any kind, but rather some other, unidentified large-sized cat, brown in colour, with what seems to have been a mane. Intriguingly, that is not the only description on record of such a felid from South America, as a maned mystery cat has also been reported from Ecuador (see my mystery cat books for further details).

A taxiderm specimen of an apparent reddish leopard (seemingly not sun-faded) spied and photographed by Bill Rebsamen, plus Bill's red jaguar painting (inset) (both images © William M. Rebsamen)

But what of the equally anomalous kintanari or red jaguar that Valero alluded to? Unfortunately, that single brief mention quoted above is the only time that this strange creature is referred to anywhere in the book.

Just as there are freak all-black (melanistic) and all-white (albinistic) jaguar individuals on record, might there also be occasional all-red (erythristic) specimens? Certainly, erythristic individuals have been documented with certain other felid species, including the leopard, tiger, and jaguarundi. Alternatively, perhaps it was not a jaguar at all, but instead some other large felid, with reddish fur - a burly rufous puma, possibly?

And just in case you were wondering about the taxiderm specimen of a reddish leopard depicted above, here’s what I wrote about it in my book Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012):



On 12 September 1998, American wildlife artist Bill Rebsamen was in Springfield, Missouri, and paid a visit to the Bass Pro Shop's famous Fish and Wildlife Museum. It possessed many spectacular exhibits - but none more so, at least in Bill's eyes, than a certain taxiderm-mounted big cat of amazing appearance (as seen in Bill's photo of it above). It resembled a black panther (i.e. a melanistic leopard), patterned with dark rosettes - but instead of its fur's background colouration being black or dark brown, it was instead a rich mahogany-red!

I have several cases on file of erythristic leopards, i.e. mutant individuals whose fur was reddish (including the rosettes) instead of yellow (with black rosettes), the most recent being the so-called 'strawberry leopard' lately spied within South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve and photographed there by safari guide Deon de Villiers (National Geographic News, 12 April 2012 [several additional strawberry leopards have ben observed and photographed in Africa since then]), but no previous data concerning red-furred black panthers. Sometimes, a dark taxiderm specimen fades during the course of time, the mounted skin becoming brown in those areas exposed to sunlight - as from a nearby window, for instance. However, Bill viewed this panther from every angle, front and back, and could see no sign of fading on any portion of its skin; it was uniformly red all over.


This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted and enlarged from my book Mystery Cats of the World Revisited (2020), the greatly-expanded, fully-updated second edition of Mystery Cats of the World (1989), long recognized as the definitive book on crypto-felids.

Mystery Cats of the World Revisited (© Dr Karl Shuker/Anomalist Books, front cover artwork © William M. Rebsamen)