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HomeNL-2015-08 Nature Nook

Beware of the Giant Horse-Eating Lizard!
Sept. 1818

The following is a report from the Spanish province of Texas, printed in the Journal of the Times, Baltimore, Maryland, January 2, 1819, and faithfully transcribed here to make you aware of a wildlife danger which you may encounter in your Texas paddling adventures.

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news story
[The following letter has been handed to us for publication, by the gentleman who received it, and who vouches for the veracity of the writer.  We have "followed our copy" literally, and have only one remark to offer; that - IF the monster described really exists otherwise than in the writer's brain, living mammoths, sea serpents, horse mackerels, or even krakens, will soon cease to be thought wonderful.]

Camp among the Comanches,
October 20, 1818. 
     Dear Sir - I received your's, bearing date of Oct. 1st, 1818, requesting information concerning the animal which has lately been discovered by the natives of the province of Texas, and duly take my pen to answer it.  On the 10th of August, 1818, there was a report by two chiefs of the tribe of Indians called Lapanas, that a tremendous animal had been discovered in their neighborhood - it was represented by them as an animal so different from what naturalist had delineated in their description, as give me some doubt of its existence; but knowing the veracity of these chiefs, my curiosity was excited to make further inquiry - I went to the place where it was said to have been seen, which was called the Prairie del Grande Aju, or the Prairie of the Great Spring.  I found the place entirely desolate.  Every native had retired to a considerable distance.  They told me 'twas a fact that the Caiman de Terra ruled predominant in that part of their country.  They said if I did not believe them, they would take me to a precipice from under which the spring flowed, where I could remain in perfect security, and from whence I could see him, with all his usual motions.  I accepted their proposal.  We arrived at the spot on the 2d September, but saw nothing.  On the next day, about 7 A.M. I discovered a motion among the reeds and bushes, which the natives said was caused by the approach of the animal.  Not many minutes had elapsed when he made his appearance.  He approached the spring, and drank by lapping; after which he retired to a small distance and partly secreted himself; he placed his under jaw, or chin, on a smooth rock, and being extended at full length, his tail reached a tree which in this country is called bois d'arc.  I was desirous to attempt to kill him, by firing down the precipice upon him; but being told by the natives that an attempt had been made several times in vain, and that if I did not disturb him, I would see a struggle between him and the mustangs, or wild horses - I desisted, and about 10 o'clock, A.M. when some of the mustangs, with which this prairie abounds, came to drink, he raised his tail and fastened it on the neck of a large horse.  It appeared that the tail of this animal possessed the faculties of the proboscis of an elephant; for with it he circulated twice the neck of the horse, and at the same time seized a large tree with this fore feet; the horse pitched and bounded tremendously; but in the end he was choked and killed.  The animal then turned to him and devoured the meat of him at a meal.  He afterwards withdrew, when I had an opportunity to descend to measure the distance from the rock on which he had placed his chin to the tree, which was fifty-three feet; the diameter of his body in the largest part appeared at least 4 1-2 or 5 feet.  He was of a dark brown or rusty black color.  His tail from the hind legs appeared somewhat larger than from thence to the end of the nose: his head was about the same proportion as that of an alligator, but his hind legs were considerably longer than his fore ones.
     When he went off he folded his tail over his back, which discovered to me that his whole force and action lay in this part for both offensive and defensive operations.  I inquired if any other animal of the same description had been seen, and was told there had not; that this had come from the northwest on one of the head branches of the Rio del Norte: that it was never seen to attack any other animal than a mustang, and that he had been fired upon without effect - since which I have seen a Spaniard by name of Don Pedro de Dios, who observed him and marked his actions for three days, all which were similar to what I have described.  The animal is certainly not more strange than curious in natural history.  Knowing you to be a man of taste, I have been minute in my description.  If required, I will give my affidavit of what I have written, and will produce the affidavits of three other persons. 

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  Be on the lookout for this monster lizard in your Texas paddles, and stay clear!   

Perhaps what the gentleman was seeing was the Texas alligator lizard, which today only grows to be 20-inches long...

The author, John Rich