The qupqugiaq is a cryptid bear reported from the Pacific and Arctic coasts of western Alaska and eastern Russia, usually described as an enormous polar bear (Ursus maritimus) with six, eight, or ten legs, although sometimes it was said to have only four legs. The Inuit of Alaska claimed occasional sightings of this animal, generally only of the head.
The qupqugiaq was described by Canadian anthropologist Diamond Jenness (1886 – 1969), who collected notes on it and the walrus dog during his years living with the western Inuit. In Siberia, the same being was known as kochatko to the Chukchi people and k'ok'satkut to the Siberian Yupiks.
The qupqugiaq resembles a polar bear (Urus maritimus), the largest known terrestrial predator, but is said to be far larger and stronger, capable of breaking through ice "as thick as a man is tall," with a head up to 5' long. It is usually alleged to have several legs–six, eight, or ten–but is sometimes said to have just four limbs, being defined by its great size. Like the polar bear, it is semiaquatic and dwells on sea-ice, and is feared for ambushing boats. To lure in hunters, it supposedly lays on its back and waves its legs in the air, wailing in distress. It can also crow like a raven.
A native of Wales, who was then living near Point Barrow, told Jenness that he had once seen a qupqugiaq, alleging that "the distance between its ears [was] the full stretch of a man's two arms". Jenness also heard that a party travelling east from Point Barrow in Autumn 1913 had seen a qupqugiaq, which poked its head through the ice to look at them. The men thought the ice was too thin to hold the qupqugiaq's great weight, but hurried back home anyway.
Notes and references
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Weatherly, David (2020) Monsters of the Last Frontier: Cryptids & Legends of Alaska, Leprechaun Press, ISBN 978-1945950155
- Arment, Chad (2010) Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616460198
- Engelhard, Michael (2017) Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon
- Jenness, Diamond "Stray Notes on the Eskimo of Arctic Alaska," Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska, Vol. 1, No. 2 (May 1953)