Water sabre-tooth Coudray

Two reconstructions of nondescript water lions as sabre-toothed cats by Philippe Coudray.

Other names: Coje ya menia, dilali, dingonek, mourou-ngou, ngoroli, ntambo wa luy, nyokodoing, nzefu-loï
Country reported: Angola,[1] Central African Republic,[1] Chad,[1] Côte d'Ivoire,[2] Democratic Republic of the Congo,[1] Gabon,[1] Guinea,[2] Kenya,[1] Mali,[2] Republic of the Congo,[2] Senegal,[2] South Sudan,[1] Uganda,[1] Zambia[2]

Water lions are cryptid river monsters reported from many countries of Central Africa, almost always described as aquatic tusked animals which kill, but do not eat, hippopotamuses. Cryptozoologists speculate that they may be living sabre-toothed cats, living dinosaurs, or unknown forms of giant reptile.[1]

Cryptids classified as water lionsEdit


Water lions have been reported from:[1]

Physical evidenceEdit


Christian Le Noël suggested that a pair of unusually-textured elephant tusks found in a batch of Kenyan ivory could be the canine teeth of a water lion.[3]


A cave painting at Brakfontein Ridge, Free State Province, South Africa, showing a walrus-like animal with a small head, large fangs, and paddle-like limbs attacking what looks like a porcupine has been connected with stories of water lions.[1]

South African water lion

(1) Cave painting of a walrus-like animal discovered in South Africa.



Monseigneur Van Horne, bishop of Rafai in the Central African Republic, questioned the inhabitants of the Zandé country about the mamaimé, and learned that a man had recently been killed by one. Another man had been attacked, but survived.[4]


Wide World Dingonek

Illustration of Jordan's encounter with the dingonek from the Wide World magazine.

Big game hunter John Alfred Jordan took a shot at a strange animal called the dingonek on the Migori River in 1907. He fired on it with a .303, prompting it to sprint at him. He also found clawed tracks the size of a hippo's. Jordan compared the animal to the lukwata,[1] and, in a story confirmed by his carriers, described his encounter to Edgar Beecher Bronson:[5]

"[...] we were on the march approaching the Maggori, and I had stayed back with the porters and sheep and had sent the Lumbwa ahead to look for a drift we could cross—river was up and booming and chances poor. Presently I heard the bush smashing and up raced my Lumbwa, wide-eyed and gray as their black skins could get, with the yarn that they had seen a frightful strange beast on the river bank, which at sight of them had plunged into the water—as they described it, some sort of cross between a sea serpent, a leopard, and a whale. Thinking they had gone crazy or were pulling my leg, I told them I'd believe them if they could show me, but not before. After a long shauri [palaver] among themselves, back they finally ventured, returning in half an hour to say that IT lay full length exposed on the water in midstream.
"Down to the Maggori I hurried, and there their 'bounder' lay, right-oh!
"Holy saints, but he was a sight—fourteen or fifteen feet long, head big as that of a lioness but shaped and marked like a leopard, two long white fangs sticking down straight out of his upper jaw, back broad as a hippo, scaled like an armadillo, but colored and marked like a leopard, and a broad fin tail, with slow, lazy swishes of which he was easily holding himself level in the swift current, headed up stream.
"Gad! but he was a hideous old haunter of a nightmare, was that beast-fish, that made you want an aeroplane to feel safe of him; for while he lay up stream of me, I had been brought down to the river bank precisely where he had taken water, and there all about me in the soft mud and loam were the imprints of feet wide of diameter as a hippo's but clawed like a reptile's, feet you knew could carry him ashore and claws you could be bally well sure no man could ever get loose from once they had nipped him.
"Blast that blighter's fangs, but they looked long enough to go clean through a man.
"He had not seen or heard me, and how long I stood and watched him I don't know. Anyway, when I began to fear he would shift or turn and see me, I gave him a .303 hard-nose behind his leopard ear—and then hell split for fair!
"Straight up out of the water he sprang, straight as if standing on his blooming tail—must have jumped off it, I fancy.
"Me? Well, I never quit sprinting until I was atop of the bank and deep in the bush—fancier burst of speed than any wounded bull elephant ever got out of me, my word for that!
"That was one time when my presence of mind didn't succeed in getting away with me from the starting post, and when, finally, it overtook me, and I bunched nerve enough to stop and listen, the bush ahead of me was still smashing with flying Lumbwa, but all was silent astern.
"His legs? What were they like? Blest if I know! The same second that he stood up on his tail, I got too busy with my own legs to study his.
"Gory wonder, was that fellow; a .303, where placed, should have killed anything, for he was less than ten yards from me when I shot, but though we watched waters and shores over a range of several miles for two days, no sight did we get of him or his tracks."

At around the same time, a man on the Mara river near the Kenya-Tanzanian border saw a large animal floating on a log. It was spotted like a leopard, covered in scales, and had a head like an otter. He estimated that it was around 16 feet long, although the tail was in the water. He did not report the fangs seen by Jordan. He shot the animal, which slid off the log and was not seen again.[6]


Lucien Blancou was told by an old man named Moussa that in 1911, a boat containing French askaris was overturned in the Bamingui River by a mourou-ngou, which seized one of the men in its mouth and dragged him underwater:[7]

"In 1911 (this date has been cross-checked) when he was porter with a detatchment of riflemen going from Fort Crampel to Ndélé, Moussa saw one of these soldiers siezed by a mourou-ngou at the junction of the Bamingui and the Koukourou. The animal was shaped like a panther, a little larger than a lion but with stripes, and about 12 feet long. The background of its coat was likewise the colour of a panther's, but its footprint was oddly described as containing a circle in the middle(?).
"The soldier was in a canoe when the animal came out of the Koukourou 'like a hippo', just where the rivers met, seized the man in the canoe and dragged him into the water capsizing the boat, surfaced once more with the soldier in its mouth and then disappeared. The man paddling the canoe swam safely away, but the soldier's rifle and kit remained on the bottom of the river...."

Blancou investigated the records office at Ndélé, and discovered that a rifleman had been lost at around this time.[7]


In 1912, a lieutenant of the German Imperial Defense Corps named Nauman of Ulm offered a reward for the dilali whilst stationed near Chad's Ouham River, but failed to find any evidence other than stories.[1]


In 1920, a hippopotamus was found badly slashed by an unknown animal along the Chari River in Chad by hunter Marcel Halley. He shot and photographed the animal.[3]

circa 1930'sEdit

In the 1930's, a Portuguese truck driver heard that a coje ya menia had killed a hippopotamus along the Cuango River the night before. He and some trackers investigated, and for several hours they followed the trail of a hippopotamus and another, smaller animal. Eventually, they found the dead hippopotamus, uneaten but ripped to shreds, in an area of broken-down grass and shrubs.[1]

When big game hunter John Hunter was in the Ituri forest, some pygmies saw a picture of a walrus in his book. They told him that they knew this animal well, that it was fierce, and that it killed men with it's big tusks to eat them later.[8]


On 26 May 1930, French civil servant Lucien Blancou shot a hippopotamus on the River Mbari. During the night, a roaring animal that was not a Nile crocodile bit into the carcass:[7]

"The animal still had not floated at nightfall, so we camped near by until the following day waiting for the carcass to come to the surface. During the night there was a high wind and small rain. At dawn the porters and trackers told me that they had heard a mourou-ngou calling near the dead hippo. When the beast had been dragged ashore I saw that there were signs that the carcass had been bitten apparently by crocodiles. But all my men knew crocodiles well. Unfortunately theyh had not though it necessary to wake me so that I could hear the 'water panther's' cry."


In 1936, Lucien Blancou was told that a mourou-ngou had carried off some men from the village of Dogolomandji on the Gribingui River in the Central African Republic. The villagers, who moved away following the incident, had not seen the animal and so could not describe it, but they knew it was not a crocodile because it left no trace of its victim.[7]

circa 1950'sEdit

In the 1950s, a water lion was allegedly caught in a fishing net on the Bangoran River. The villagers killed it and retained its skull, which may still be kept by the village headman.[1] When Christian Le Noël interviewed the headman, he was told that the story was not true, and was not allowed to see the skull despite offering a large sum of money.[3]

circa 1962 or 1963Edit

A diamond prospector named Denis claimed to have encountered a mourou-ngou in 1962 or 1963. He only saw the animals head and shoulders emerge from the water; its head was moving from side to side, as if it were searching for something.[9]


In 1970, Christian Le Noël was asked to shoot a hippopotamus on the Chari River which had become aggressive towards canoes. After shooting it, he:[3]

"found that it was covered with wounds that were located in the same places as Marcel Halley's hippo, wounds of the same size and of the same shape, so probably made by the same type of predator. These wounds were deep cuts, as if they had been made with a sharp object such as a sword blade. Another sore under the neck and shoulder was, in the shape of a hole, I could have pushed my forearm into. There were no infections, the wounds were recent, and I too have pictures of this animal. I did not pay attention to sex, but according to the size it must have been either a female or an immature animal."


In February 1985, a guide named Marcel, fishing on the Bamingui River, claimed to have been almost knocked into the water when a mourou-ngou approached him from behind and jumped into the river. He had not noticed its presence until it made a sound.[9]


Living sabre-toothed catEdit

Les deux hypothèses d'Ingo Krumbiegel sur le coje ya menia, tueur d'hippopotames de l'Angola

Ingo Krumbiegel's two hypotheses of the coje ya menia's identity: on the left, a giant horned lizard; on the right, a living sabre-toothed cat.

Unknown monitor or crocodileEdit

Living dinosaurEdit

Pygymy elephantEdit

Similar cryptidsEdit

Do you think the Water lion exists? If so, what do you think the Water lion is?

The poll was created at 16:36 on January 16, 2019, and so far 1 people voted.

Further cryptozoological readingEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. if the dingonek was a water lion
  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Coudray, Philippe (2016) Guide des Animaux Cachés
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie LE TIGRE DES MONTAGNES : DES FELINS A DENTS EN SABRE AU COEUR DE L'AFRIQUE?
  4. Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie Les félins à dents en sabre de l'Afrique
  5. Bronson, Edgar Beecher (1910) Closed Territory
  6. Hobley, C. W. "On Some Unidentified Beasts", Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society 6 (1913)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals
  8. Hunter, John (1952) Hunter
  9. 9.0 9.1 Opération Mourou ngou