This is one of the fun parts of being a fantasy writer. I’m always exploring the myths and legends around exotic creatures that may or may not exist. (Actually most parts of being a fantasy writer are fun.)
Cryptozoology is well-stated in Wikipedia as “Cryptozoology is the study of rumored or mythological animals that are presumed by many to exist, but for which proof does not yet exist.”
It is also described in (IMHO) the best site on cryptozoology: http://www.newanimal.org/ by Jamie Hall.
“Cryptozoology is the study of animals and other creatures that have not yet been accepted by science as real. In other words, it is monster-hunting. Cryptozoologists look for creatures like sea serpents and the yeti, hoping to gather enough evidence to prove that these beings exist. They also look for more commonplace animals, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker, the giant vampire bat, the inflatable hedgehog and the pygmy elephant. Creatures that are under investigation by cryptozoologists are called cryptids.”
There are many dedicated people that devote their time, and in some cases their careers, to finding these elusive animals.
Unfortunately cryptozoology is plagued by hoaxes, and pseudoscientists even though there have been cases of cryptids being discovered and handed off to the field of zoology.
Do I believe in most of these myths and monsters? Not really, but I love the ideas of them. I love their mythic symbolism and messages and I really enjoy all the “what if” moments that come from exploring them.
I will also be the first to celebrate if any of them are found.
Cryptozoologists are not ghost hunters or devotees of the supernatural. To once again quote Jamie Hall http://www.newanimal.org/:
“Cryptozoologists are a specialized branch of monster hunters. Since their ultimate goal is to discover either new species of animal or new subspecies, the science of cryptozoology is rooted in biology. The more a creature shows evidence of being supernatural, the less likely it is that cryptozoologists would be interested in it. Not many cryptozoologists investigate the strangest things like ghostly demon cats, Mothman or werewolves. Ghost hunts are left to the paranormal investigators and a few fringe cryptozoologists.”
Some of my favorites from the cryptozoological zoo that inspire me and my writing are: Dragons, Kraken (giant squids have now been found), Sasquatch and Yeti, Fairies, Living Dinosaurs, and Thunderbirds. See http://www.newanimal.org/ for a complete list of the diversity of creatures.
Another outstanding list of the creatures of cryptozoology and the facts known about the animals can be found at http://www.unmuseum.org/lostw.htm where descriptions of such animals as Nessie of Loch Ness, snakes as long as railroad cars, and their crypto alumni list reside.
The crypto alumni are large animals that have been discovered in the last century.
What are your favorite cryptids? What creatures of myth, legend, and rumor call out to you?
Favorites will move to the head of the pack for future blog posts.
May you all find your unicorns, fairies and friendly dragons.