Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology
Tigre dantero
South American sabre-tooth Coudray

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

Category Mystery cat
Proposed scientific names
Other names Acavar specimen, mutant jaguar, wairarima
Country reported Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela
First reported 1961
Prominent investigators Karl Shuker
Bernard Heuvelmans
Gustavo Sánchez Romero
Bill Gibbons

The tigre dantero (Spanish: "tapir-eating tiger"[1]) is a cryptid cat reported from the cloud forests of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru,[2][3] described as a long-fanged cat smaller than, or the same size as, a jaguar.[4] Speculated to be a sabre-toothed cat or a sparassodont,[5] these reports, alongside sightings of aquatic water tigers, present an exact parallel with the African tigre de montagne and water lions.[6][7] It is also sometimes referred to as the wairarima, a name which can also apply to a different cryptid felid.


Gustavo Sánchez Romero received descriptions of the tigre dantero when he visited Canaima National Park, which he subsequently communicated to Karl Shuker.[1] During Bill Gibbons 2017 expedition to Peru, a man named David Angel, a resident of the Madre de Dios region of central Peru, claimed that a large, brown sabre-toothed cat was known to exist in central forests and in the cloud forests of the north.[3]


These unknown cats are described as striped animals with two very large protruding teeth, and are said to be somewhat smaller than a jaguar: the "mutant jaguar" specimen was allegedly 160 pounds with 12'' fangs. A 1991 sighting from Venezuela described a jaguar-sized animal with light brown fur, a short tail, large fangs, and powerful, well-built forelimbs.[8] In Venezuela, they are said to prey on tapirs,[1] and they are always reputed to be very shy and rare animals, reported from deep montane and highland rainforests,[9][10] most prominently Canaima National Park,[8] which contains Auyán-tepui and the forests surrounding it.[1]


Before 1966[]

An French itinerant named Picquet told Peter Matthiessen sometime before 1966 that he had glimpsed one of these cats in Colombia or Ecuador. Matthiessen thought Picquet was being sincere, but ultimately decided he must have been mistaken about what he saw. Picquet himself seemed to attatch little significance to the sighting, and retold it matter-of-factly.[11]


A Pemon hunter named Tirson Sosa claimed that in the dry season of 1991, whilst hunting "about three days upriver on the left bank of the Carrao River," he saw a long-fanged, short-tailed, unpatterned cat the size of a jaguar emerge from a thicket to drink from a pool of water. It appeared stealthily, and vanished cautiously. Tirson Sosa identified the animal he saw as a wairarima.[8]


Smilodon populator Rom-diz

A smaller version of the South American sabre-tooth Smilodon populator could explain reports of the tigre dantero (Source).

Thylacosmilus by ifamousshrek de6x5xj-fullview

Thylacosmilus, with facial casque based on the interpretation of Janis et al 2020.

Hocking jaguars

Depictions of two of Hocking's cats, the "anomalous jaguar" and the "Peruvian tiger," which has been confused with the tigre dantero.

Peter Matthiessen briefly toyed with the idea that the cat seen by Picquet could have been a surviving sabre-toothed cat (~16 MYA–10 KYA), but quickly dismissed the notion.[11] Eyewitness Tirson Sosa directly identified the animal he saw in 1991 with a picture of Smilodon (~2 MYA–10 MYA) which he was shown.[8] Karl Shuker notes that, given the apparent extinction or extirpation of most of South America's large herbivorous animals, it is unlikely that a full-sized Smilodon populator could survive there in the present day; however, he suggests that a smaller form would have a better chance of carving out a niche for itself, "especially in relatively inaccessible, undisturbed areas, such as remote, mountainous cloud forests," where a striped coat would provide it with effective camouflage. One species, Smilodon gracilis, was smaller. Another way for a sabre-toothed cat to find a niche for itself in modern South America would be to become a semi-aquatic animal, and indeed, such cryptids are reported from the length and breadth of the continent.[4] If the animals are sabre-toothed cats, they are likely to be descendants of either the famous Smilodon, which ranged across much of South America, or the smaller, shorter-fanged South American scimitar-toothed cat (Homotherium venezuelensis), which made it at least as far south as Venezuela, and possibly Uruguay.

Bernard Heuvelmans, though conceding that sabre-toothed cats like Smilodon could be involved, felt more comfortable speculating that these striped montane forest cats could be surviving relatives of Thylacosmilus (~9–3 MYA),[10][7] a jaguar-sized, cat-like sparassodont which closely resembled Smilodon, but which is believed to have gone extinct before cats even arrived in South America.

Due to the stripes mentioned by Picquet, the tigre dantero has sometimes been equated with the striped jaguar documented mainly from Peru by Peter Hocking. This was described as a jaguar-sized animal with a tan coat striped with white, but also with normal-sized canines. Skulls of these cats collected by Hocking have been identified as the skulls of jaguars (Panthera onca), suggesting that it may be an undescribed striped morph.

Confirmed hoaxes[]

A 1998 Science Ilustrée article mentioned that a sabre-toothed cat had been seen emerging from a cave in Paraguay by a French sailor named "François Piquet" in 1984.[12] Michel Raynal suggests that this account originated in a confusion of Matthiessen's original description of Picquet's sighting, which was published twenty years earlier, and Christian Le Noël's near-encounter with a tigre de montagne in a cave in Africa.[13] Loren Coleman also writes that this report, if not a new case, could be a rehashing of Matthiessen's story.[10] The Science Ilustrée article also alleges that another sabre-toothed cat had been seen in Mexico.

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
  2. Shuker, Karl P. N. "Venezuelan Mystery Cats," Fortean Times, No. 383 (September 2019)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Peru Expedition Report: September–October 2017 (2017) – Online
  4. 4.0 4.1 Shuker, Karl P. N. (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors: Do Giant 'Extinct' Creatures Still Exist?, Blandford, ISBN 9780713-724691
  5. Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
  6. Coudray, Philippe (2009) Guide des Animaux Cachés, Editions du Mont, ISBN 978-2915652383
  7. 7.0 7.1 Heuvelmans, Bernard & Rivera, Jean-Luc & Barloy, Jean-Jacques (2007) Les Félins Encore Inconnus d’Afrique, Les Editions de l'Oeil du Sphinx, ISBN 978-2914405430
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Dientes de Sable" Espacio Misterio espaciomisterio.com (1 May 2006) [Accessed 11 June 2019] — Wayback Machine
  9. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Eberhart
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Coleman1999
  11. 11.0 11.1 Matthiessen, Peter (1966) The Cloud Forest
  12. Anon. "Le Félin aux Dents de Sabre," Science Illustrée 62 (December 1998)
  13. Raynal, Michel "Sabre-Toothed Cats in Paraguay?" Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie cryptozoo.pagesperso-orange.fr (N.D.) [Accessed 24 May 2019] — Wayback Machine