The devil-pig was a cryptid reported from the highlands of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, particularly the Wharton Range and the Owen Stanley Range. Supposedly a cloven-footed animal, it has been compared to both pigs and tapirs, but, for biogeographical reasons, is more often theorised to be a marsupial.
Although a bulky quadruped had long been rumoured to exist in New Guinea, the devil-pig was made famous by a 1906 sighting which allegedly occurred during an expedition to Mount Albert Edward by Charles Monckton (1873 – 1936). His report soon became infamous in New Guinea, where English settlers nicknamed the animal Monckton's gazeka. This was intended as an insult, but has since been misinterpreted as the devil-pig's indigenous name.
The well-known name "gazeka" was not used by either Monckton or Papuan people. The original gazeka was a monster appearing in a comic stage musical, The Little Michus (1905), created by George Graves. In the musical, the gazeka is discovered by an alcoholic explorer "who was accompanied in his travels by a case of whiskey, and who half thought that he had seen it before in a sort of dream". The fictional gazeka became quite famous, and British settlers in New Guinea began referring to the devil-pig as "Monckton's gazeka" very soon after his account was published. Karl Shuker points out that this name was in fact implying that Monckton was a liar or a drunkard, and Monckton himself complained of "witty scribes" referring to the animal as his gazeka.
Rumours of a large quadruped, originally believed to be a rhinoceros, existing in New Guinea began in 1875. These 19th Century rumours were invariably based on discoveries of very large tracks and dungheaps, larger than could plausibly be made by wild pigs and cassowaries. Early examples include dungheaps seen by Captain John Moresby and Sidney Smith at Collingwood Bay (1875); and tracks seen by a Smithurst on the Baxter River (1875), Samuel MacFarlane near the Fly and Mai Kussa Rivers (1875), and Andrew Goldie in the southeastern interior (1878). Such tracks have occasionally been linked directly with the devil pig.
However, the first possible description of the devil-pig itself was published by the German naturalist Adolf Bernhard Meyer (1840 – 1911) in Nature (1875), in response to an account of the Collingwood Bay dungheap published by Alfred Osten Walker (1832 – 1925). Meyer reported that Papuans living on the south coast of Geelvinks Bay in Dutch New Guinea (now Irian Jaya) had, while hunting pigs with him, described...
During William MacGregor's (1846 – 1919) 1897 expedition to the Owen Stanley Range in British New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea), numerous signs of a large quadruped were reported, including large tracks and a close enounter with the animal itself. However, initially, the only indication of this was a brief reference in MacGregor's official report:
The devil-pig was made famous in New Guinea by Charles Monckton, whose men claimed to have seen it during his 1906 ascent of Mount Albert Edward, in the Wharton Range of British New Guinea. His official report, published in 1906 or 1907, described the alleged sighting in detail. According to later sources, Monckton's story quickly became infamous in Port Moresby, where English settlers applied the lasting name "Monckton's gazeka" to the animal. Hubert Murray reproduced Monckton's report in his book Papua; Or, British New Guinea (1912), but, following his official report, Monckton himself did not write on the subject again until 1922. Monckton later came across indigenous folklore of a "devil pig" among the Binandere people of the Oro Province of British New Guinea. Other "devil pigs" and "giant pigs" exist in the mythologies of New Ireland and Warli Island, where they are called lungalunga and bulooagalagala, respectively.
In Summer 1910, with two rival expeditions to the Sudirman Range of Dutch New Guinea–by the British Ornithologists' Union and Hendrikus Albertus Lorentz (1871 – 1944), respectively–the devil-pig made repeated press appearances. William Robert Ogilvie-Grant (1863 – 1924), who had organised the former expedition, described "Monckton's gazeka" in a series of articles in Country Life, suggesting that the British Ornithologists' Union could capture such an animal. At the same time, Edgeworth David (1858 – 1934), who also hoped that the expedition would come across evidence, was interviewed on the subject by several journalists. David speculated that the animal could have been a Nototherium, and reported that Anthony Musgrave, Government Secretary of British New Guinea (1888 – 1908) and private secretary to MacGregor, had given him details regarding a large highland quadruped called the devil-pig, which reminded him of a tapir. As well as the devil-pig, press accounts included descriptions of a tribe of pygmies encountered by the British Ornithologists' Union expedition, who were said to have used poisoned arrows and spear traps. A member of the expedition, Guy C. Shortridge (1880 – 1949), denied any knowledge of both the devil-pig and the traps. However, all these reports soon gave rise to an exaggerated press story in which Monckton comes across the "gazeka" attacking a pygmy village.
Neither the British Ornithologists' Union Expedition nor the Lorentz Expedition found any evidence of a large quadruped in the Sudirman Range. Nor did Sandy Wollaston's (1875 – 1930) expedition to the same region in 1912–1913. Wollaston believed the "gazeka" must have only inhabited British New Guinea. In 1935, explorer George Miller Dyott (1883 – 1972), who had previously searched for Percy Fawcett in the Amazon, organised an aerial expedition to the Sepik River, where, among other things, he hoped to find some evidence of the devil-pig.
The devil-pig is invariably described as significantly larger than other Papuan mammals, with Monckton specifying its size as 5' in length and 3'6'' in height, while the giant pig described to Meyer was said to be around 6' tall. It has been compared to both pigs and tapirs. Its coat is described as dark, possibly black, with lighter patterns variably described as "pattern-like markings" or "black and white stripe[s]," and it has a "long snout" or "a nose like a tapir". Its tail is "like a horse," and its feet are described as cloven; this detail is mainly based on tracks, but also appears in the eyewitness description given to Monckton. Both Monckton and the alleged eyewitness described it as feeding on grasses and overturning low-growing mosses, and it was alleged to produce "a long, shrill note". Monckton's man observed a pair of animals, which Monckton took to be mates.
In 1875, Lieutenant Sidney Smith and Captain John Moresby (1830 – 1922) of HMS Basilisk discovered a very large dung heap whilst surveying the north coast of New Guinea, between Huon Bay and Cape Basilisk. The heap was too large to have been made by a pig, and the sailors believed it to have been produced by a rhinoceros, which are not found in New Guinea, but the dung of which they had observed at the menagerie of the Rajah of Johor. Smith sent this information to Alfred O. Walker, who subsequently published it in Nature.
Captain Moresby later described the discovery of the dung in his own book, Discoveries and Surveys in New Guinea (1876).
Andrew Goldie (1840 – 1891) claimed to have come across large, unidentifiable tracks during an expedition to the interior of British New Guinea in 1878. He indicated that he was not aware of the previous reports of tracks and excrement. According to his first published account, taken from his diary, one morning, local people...
In his memoirs, which were published posthumously only in 2012, Goldie added that the movements of a large animal in the bush had been heard the previous night.
An unidentified animal with a long snout was sighted during Sir William MacGregor's 1897 expedition to the Owen Stanley Range. In his official report, he simply alluded to a long-snouted animal. MacGregor later told Charles Monckton that tracks of a large animal had been discovered at around 9000', on Mount Knutsford: "the animal I never saw, but it was there, and not a small one either". Captain Anthony Musgrave told Professor Edgeworth David that he himself had discovered the tracks of a large herbivorous animal near the edge of a swamp, at an elevation of around 9000'. Musgrave measured the tracks as around 4'' by 4½'', and local people told him they were made by the devil-pig or pig-devil, which they claimed to have seen, and which reminded Musgrave of a tapir. Some members of MacGregor's expedition also told Monckton that an enormous animal had rushed through their camp on Mount Victoria one night.
The most famous devil pig encounter occured during Captain Charles Monckton's expedition to Mount Albert Edward, during which he personally saw tracks, dung, and other traces of some large unknown animal, and two of his men encountered the animals themselves. Monckton's book Last Days in New Guinea (1922) contains an account of the incident, taken from his earlier official report of 1906.
On 10 May, two expedition members, an army private called Ogi and a village constable called Oina, were sent out to find a trackway but became separated, and whilst seeking Oina, Ogi came across two large pig-like creatures grazing. Ogi fired on them, and the smaller one wandered off, but the larger only turned and looked at him. He saw something odd in the animal, and the carrier who was with him called it a "devil-pig". As Ogi tried to reload, the smaller animal called, and the larger walked off. Ogi himself never described the encounter in print, but Monckton recounted his experience as follows:
An encounter with the devil-pig was alleged to have occurred during one of Hendrikus Lawrence's expeditions in Dutch New Guinea, either in 1907 or 1910. According to an anonymous 1909 account in Travel & Exploration, Lorentz himself had seen the animal, described as "very large, striped black and white, and having a proboscis like a tapir's," two years previously. In 1910, Ogilvie-Grant alleged that one of Lorentz's men had seen the animal during his second expedition to the Sudirman Range, at an elevation of around seven thousand feet. Ogilvie-Grant's description of the animal was identical to the earlier account, but he added that it had "a face like the devil". When Edgeworth David questioned Lorentz regarding the devil-pig, he stated that his 1910 expedition to the Sudirman Range had discovered no evidence of a large animal in the mountains.
The biota of the East Indies are divided into a number of transitional biogeographic zones, separated by the Wallace, Weber, and Lydekker Lines. These zones are Asiatic-influenced in the west, and Australasian-influenced in the east. Alongside Australia itself, the island of New Guinea lies beyond the easternmost Lydekker Line, meaning its biota are entirely Australasian, not Asiatic; excepting rodents, most of New Guinea's indigenous land mammals are therefore marsupials and monotremes, not placentals. The significance of biogeography in identifying the devil-pig is stressed by Karl Shuker and Michel Raynal, and was noted as early as 1910 by Ogilvie-Grant, who theorised about a giant marsupial tapir.
Monckton, who did not see the animal himself, compared it to a Southeast Asian babirusa (Babyrousa sp.) based on Ogi's description, and Raynal notes that these animals are strong swimmers, and could conceivably have reached New Guinea. Suggestions of out-of-place babirusa, wild feral pigs, Malayan tapirs (Tapirus indicus), and Javan rhinoceroses are discounted by Shuker and George Eberhart.
A number of Late Pleistocene diprotodontids have been discovered in New Guinea, sometimes associated with human remains, with the Maoke Mountains in the Sudirman Range yielding particularly rich deposits. New Guinea diprotodontids include the pig-sized Maokopia, the "marsupial panda" Hulitherium, and Nototherium. Other, undated fossil and subfossil remains of pig-sized zygomaturine diprotodontids have been discovered at various sites in New Guinea, including bones found in a prehistoric midden. In 1878, Andrew Goldie tentatively suggested a connection between his mysterious quadruped and the fossil animals discovered in Queensland and New South Wales. This same theory was supported by Edgeworth David, who made a more specific suggestion: Nototherium (~2 MYA–12 KYA), a Pleistocene diprotodontid known from both Australia and New Guinea. While there was some debate at that time over whether Nototherium was a horned marsupial rhinoceros or a trunked marsupial tapir, David supported the tapir interpretation. Similarly, palaeontologist William Diller Matthew (1871 – 1930), based on the exaggerated newspaper hoax of 1910, suggested Diprotodon (~2 MYA–12 KYA) itself as a possible identity, a theory taken up by Laurent Forge and, initially, Bernard Heuvelmans. Diprotodon remains have never been discovered in New Guinea, but, as this island was connected to Australia during the Late Pleistocene, forming the landmass of Sahul, there is no known reason why Diprotodon could not theoretically have reached New Guinea. However, as noted by Christine Janis, there is no evidence of a long snout in Diprotodon.
Janis argued that the most likely identity for the devil-pig is the diprotodontid Palorchestes (~15 MYA–12 KYA), which is believed to have had either a short, tapir-like proboscis, or a well-developed, prehensile upper lip. This theory is also supported by Heuvelmans and Karl Shuker. Like Diprotodon, Palorchestes is not known to have inhabited New Guinea, but it too could plausibly have moved there during the Late Pleistocene.
Various explanations have been proposed for the large tracks and excrement observed all over New Guinea. The current mainstream belief regarding the dung seen by Smith and Moresby is that it was from a cassowary (Casuarius spp.), and the explorer Luigi d'Albertis argued that the large rhinoceros-like tracks were in fact the tracks of wild pigs and cassowaries, imprinted in soft earth and enlarged by the drying of the ground.
Notes and references
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- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Monckton, Charles (1922) Last Days in New Guinea – Online
- Walker, Alfred O. "The Rhinoceros in New Guinea," Nature, Vol. 11 (28 January 1875)
- Anon. "Giant Bird in New Guinea," Nature, Vol. 11 (1875)
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- Goldie, Andrew "Mr. Goldie's Discovery of Gold in New Guinea," Evening News (4 Januay 1878)
- Anon. "Prehistoric Beasts: Devil Pig and Kangaroo Lion," Clarence and Richmond Examiner (2 July 1910)
- Murray, Hubert "An Expedition to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea: Discussion," The Geographical Journal, Vol. 37, No. 5 (May 1911)
- Meyer, Adolf Bernhard "The Rhinoceros in New Guinea," Nature, Vol. 11, (4 February 1875)
- MacGregor, William "Despatch Reporting Visit Inland to the Western End of the Owen Stanley Range, and Thence Across the Island to the North-East Coast," Annual Report of British New Guinea (1897 – 1898)
- Ogilvie-Grant, William Russell, "The Expedition of the British Ornithologists' Union to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea: Part VI, The Discovery of a Pigmy Race," Country Life, Vol. 27, No. 700 (4 June 1910)
- Murray, Hubert (1912) Papua; Or, British New Guinea – Online
- Monckton, Charles (1934) New Guinea Recollections
- Köhnke, Glenys (1973) Time Belong Tumbuna: Legends and Traditions of Papua New Guinea
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- Anon. "Little Black Pigmies in the New Guinea Mountains: British Expedition's Discovery," Auckland Star (18 July 1910)
- Anon. "Hunting a Live 'Prehistoric Monster'," Stevens Point Gazette (31 August 1910)
- Wollaston, A. F. R. "An Expedition to Dutch New Guinea," The Geographical Journal, Vol. 43, No. 3 (March 1914)
- Anon. "Expedition to New Guinea," Nature, No. 135 (23 March 1935)
- Moresby, John (1876) Discoveries and Surveys in New Guinea and the D'Entrecasteaux Islands
- Goldie, Andrew "Andrew Goldie's Memoir: 1875–1879," Memoirs of the Queensland Museum Culture, Vol. 6 (2012)
- "An Expedition to the Snow Mountains of New Guinea: Discussion," The Geographical Journal, Vol. 37, No. 5 (May 1911)
- "Zoological Exploration," Travel & Exploration, Vol. 2, No. 11 (1909) – Online
- Raynal, Michel "Le Gazeka, "Porc-Diable" de la Nouvelle-Guinée" Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie cryptozoo.pagesperso-orange.fr [Accessed 24 May 2019]
- Anon. "Mr. Andrew Goldie, the New Guinea Explorer and Naturalist," The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (8 February 1879)
- Matthew, William D. "Probably the Gigantic Diprotodon," San Francisco Examiner (10 July 1910)
- Forge, Laurent "Un Marsupial Géant Survit-Il en Nouvelle-Guinée?," Amazone, No. 2 (January 1983)
- Janis, Christine "A Reevaluation of Some Cryptozoological Animals," Cryptozoology, No. 6 (1987)
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Checklist Corrected and Completed," Cryptozoology, No. 6 (1987)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. "A Supplement to Dr Bernard Heuvelmans' Checklist of Cryptozoological Animals," Fortean Studies 5 (1998)