Agogwe

Illustration of the agogwe by Philippe Coudray in Guide des Animaux Cachés (2009).

Category Cryptohominid
Proposed scientific names
Other names Agogue, agogura, agogure
Country reported Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania
First reported 1937
Prominent investigators William Hichens
Willy Ley
Bernard Heuvelmans
Ivan T. Sanderson

The agogwe was a cryptohominid reported from forests in Tanzania, Mozambique, and possibly Kenya, described as a dwarf humanoid covered in russet-coloured hair.[1][2][3][4] Although alleged eyewitnesses took it for a monkey, like other African cryptohominids described as hairy dwarves, it has been speculated to be a surviving australopithecine.[5]

Attestations

The agogwe was first described by Captain William Hichens, who claimed to have seen one, in a 1937 article in Discovery: The Popular Journal of Knowledge.[6] The following year, a colonial wine merchant named Cuthbert Burgoyne (1876 – 1955) wrote to Discovery claiming that he had also seen such a being.[7] However, previous to this, in 1924, the colonial administrator S. V. Cook wrote of "a race of little red men" said to inhabit the highlands of Kwa Ngombe, east of Embu in Kenya. Cook's interpreter told him that he and some others had once been attacked by "scores of little red men hurling pebbles" in these mountains, which were avoided by locals.[8]

Description

Both alleged witnesses thought the agogwe could have been a monkey, although both compared them to small humans: "like little men"[7] and "little brown men".[7] The agogwe was reported to walk upright like a man,[6][7] quite gracefully.[7] It was described as being russett or brown,[6][7] with Hichens insisting they were covered in hair or fur,[6] and stood around 4',[6] or between 4' and 5', tall.[7] According to Philippe Coudray, the big toe of the agogwe is comparatively larger than that of a man, and is distinctly separated from the other toes.[9]

Local villagers in Tanzania told Hichens that, if one left a gourd of beer and a bowl of food for the agogwes, they would take the food and "do some hoeing and weeding ... as thanks". Hichens thought this was simply folklore.[6] Stories of past barter systems are also told of the séhité.[1] Hichens and Burgoyne both observed a pair,[6][7] and Burgoyne's were seen to coexist with a troop of baboons.[7] Hichens' local guide regarded them as extremely rare beings.[6]

Sightings

~1920s

Captain Hichens, a colonial administrator and early cryptozoologist, claimed to have observed a pair of agogwes in what is now Tanzania, which was claimed by the United Kingdom from Germany following the First World War, "some years" before 1937.[6] George Eberhart estimates that the sighting occurred sometime during the 1920s.[2] It took place in "the Ussure and Simbiti forests on the western side of the Wembare Plains".[6] Although Hichens claimed to have had near-encounters with two other cryptids, the mngwa and the Nandi bear, the agogwe is the only cryptid which he claimed to have actually seen.

Some years ago I was sent on an official lion-hunt to this area and, while waiting in a forest glade for a man-eater, I saw two small, brown furry creatures come from the dense forest on one side of the glade and disappear into the thickets on the other. They were like little men, about four feet high, walking upright, but clad in russet hair. The native hunter with me gaped in mingled fear and amazement. They were, he said, agogwe, the little furry men whom one does not see once in a lifetime. I made desperate efforts to find them, but without avail in that well-nigh impenetrable forest. They may have been monkeys, but if so, they were no ordinary monkeys, nor baboons, nor colobus, nor Sykes, nor any other kind found in Tanganyika.

1927

In his letter to Discovery, the vintner Cuthbert Burgoyne claimed to have seen a similar being in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) in 1927, while cruising the coast with his wife in a Japanese ship. He allegedly saw a pair of them while observing the shore.[7]

In 1927 I was with my wife coasting Portuguese East Africa in a Japanese cargo boat. We were sufficiently near to land to see objects clearly with a glass of twelve magnifications. There was a sloping beach with light bush above upon which several dozen baboons where hunting for and picking up shell fish of crabs, to judge by their movements. Two pure white baboons were amongst them. These are very rare but I had heard of them previously. As we watched, two little brown men walked together out of the bush and down amongst the baboons. They were certainly not any known monkey and yet they must have been akin or they would have disturbed the baboons. They were too far away to be seen in great detail, but these small human-like animals were probably between four and five feet tall, quite upright and graceful in figure. At the time I was thrilled as they were quite evidently no beast of which I had heard or read.

Burgoyne also claimed that an unidentified friend of his, a big game hunter, had once seen a similar sight in Mozambique, alongside several other people.[7]

[...] a friend and big game hunter told me he was in Portuguese East Africa with his wife and three other hunters, and saw mother, father and child, of apparently similar animal species, walk across the further side of a bush clearing. The natives loudly forbade him to shoot.

Theories

Captain Hichens wondered if the agogwes he saw could have been monkeys, but he was certain they were no species known to him, including baboons, colobus monkeys (Colobus sp.), and Sykes' monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis).[6] Burgoyne also insisted that the beings he saw were no monkey known to him, although he felt they must have been related to the baboons they were travelling with.[7] Bernard Heuvelmans argued that a monkey identity was unlikely due to the agogwe's obligate bipedalism.[1]

Willy Ley[10][11] and Bernard Heuvelmans[1][4] discuss the possibility that the agogwe is a surviving species of Australopithecus (~4–1.9 or 1.5[12] MYA), a bipedal Plio-Pleistocene hominin which ranged across East and South Africa. Australopithecus species were generally smaller and more gracile than humans, standing between 3'11'' and 4'7'', and are believed to have been covered in hair, although there is no evidence that this would have been red. Australopithecus fossils have also occasionally been found in association with those of baboons, but the ecological relationship between the two primates is not clear. Heuvelmans argued that a species of Australopithecus may have taken to dense forests in order to avoid competition with larger and stronger hominins, allowing it to survive in small numbers.[1] Heuvelmans classified the agogwe with other small African cryptohominids such as the séhité, kakundakari, fating'ho, and tokolosh.[5]

Ivan T. Sanderson disagreed with the Australopithecus theory, opining that "we [do not] have to go so far as to dredge up the Australopithecines to explain them". Sanderson believed that beings such as the agogwe and the séhité were actually the last remnants of very old, diminutive human populations looked down on by other African races, leading to dehumanised descriptions. The reddish "coat" could be explained as body paint worn for ceremonial purposes. Sanderson called these putative uncontacted races proto-pigmies.[3] Heuvelmans also considered this possibility, but thought it unlikely because of the agogwe's hairiness.[1] However, he later wrote that the general category of "hairy ... hominoids of very small size" in Africa could indeed by explained by proto-pigmies.[5]

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals, Routledge, ISBN 978-1138977525
  2. 2.0 2.1 Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-283-5
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sanderson, Ivan T. (1961) Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, Chilton, ISBN 978-1948803038
  4. 4.0 4.1 Heuvelmans, Bernard (1980) Les Bêtes Humaines d'Afrique, Plon, ISBN 978-2259005609
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Hichens, William "African Mystery Beasts," Discovery: The Popular Journal of Knowledge, Vol. 18, No. 216 (December 1937) – Online (Wayback Machine)
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 Burgoyne, Cuthbert "Little Furry Men," Discovery: The Popular Journal of Knowledge, Vol. 19 (1938)
  8. Cook, S. V. "Native Folk-Lore: The Lepracauns to Kwa Ngombe," Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society, No. 20 (November 1924)
  9. Coudray, Philippe (2009) Guide des Animaux Cachés, Editions du Mont, ISBN 978-2915652383
  10. Ley, Willy (1955) Salamanders and Other Wonders. Still More Adventures of a Romantic Naturalist, Viking Press
  11. Ley, Willy (1959) Exotic Zoology, Viking Press
  12. Werdelin, Lars & Sanders, William Joseph (2010) Cenozoic Mammals of Africa
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