Water tiger Coudray

Reconstruction of the maipolina by Philippe Coudray.

Other names: Aypa, entzaeia-yawá, maipolina, mutant jaguar, tigre de l'agua, yaquaru
Country reported: Argentina,[1] Brazil,[1] Colombia,[1] Ecuador,[1] French Guiana,[1] Guyana,[2] Paraguay[1]

Water tigers are cryptid river or lake monsters reported from parts of South America, almost always described as aquatic tusked animals. Cryptozoologists speculate they may be living sabre-toothed cats, or some form of giant otter.[1]

Cryptids classified as water tigersEdit


Water tigers are usually described as being the size of a jaguar or somewhat larger. All but the entzaeia-yawá are said to have two large, protruding teeth or "tusks", and the reported fur colour ranges from fawn, yellowish, and black to white, brown, and reddish. The coat is usually said to be unnmarked save for, in the maipolina, a large stripe along the back.[1]

There is some variety in the physical descriptions of different water tigers: the maipolina has a short fur, a stripe running down its back, drooping ears, and clawed anteater-like feet; the yaquaru has woolly fur and erect ears; and the entzaeia-yawá has duck-like feet, a tufted, cow-like tail, and no tusks or fangs.[3] Karl Shuker suggests that the water tigers of northern South America - the maipolina and either the aypa or the yaquaru - are simply different sexes of the same species, showing high sexual dimorphism.[1][4]

All the water tigers are described as being aquatic predators, waiting for their prey underwater, or attacking canoes and snatching the occupants. Several are described as living in caves or hollows in riverbanks. They are nocturnal, and will attack humans.[1]

A 2007 investigation carried out by Richard Freeman in Guyana into an unnamed water tiger which was not the maipolina came up with some previously-unknown details. This water tiger was described as 10 feet long including the tail, white, with black spots, and a striped head. It hunts in packs led by an alpha male termed "the master", which plans the hunts which are carried out by younger individuals.[2]



A man named Carlos Pichama claimed that an entzaeia-yawá had killed his cousins wife during a fishing trip to the Mangusas River. After finding her missing, he:[3]

"located the spoor of a water-tiger which seemed to have been stalking his wife. Back in Suantza he told the story to her wife's parents who concluded that a water tiger had dragged her into the water. Next day, he and his brothers returned to the spot where the woman had been killed by the water tiger. The group of men exploded several charges of dynamite in the lake and saw the corpse of a long-haired reddish coloured animal of big size come at the surface".


Thomas Falkner saw a yaquaru in 1752, on the Río Paraná in Argentina. He described the animal thus:[5]

"I shall here give an account of a strange amphibious animal, which is an inhabitant of the river Parana, a description of which has never reached Europe; nor is there even any mention made of it by those who have described this country. What I here relate is from the concurrent asseverations of the Indians, and of many Spaniards, who have been in various employments on this river: besides, I myself, during my residence on the banks of it, which was near four years, had once a transient view of one; so that there can be no doubt about the existence of such an animal.
"In my first voyage to cut timber, in the year 1752, up the Parana, being near the bank, the Indians shouted, "yaquaru!" and looking, I saw a great animal, at the time it plunged into the water from the bank; but the time was too short to examine it with any degree of precision.
"It is called yaquaru, or yaquaruigh, which (in the language of that country) signifies the water tiger. It is described by the Indians to be as big as an ass, of the figure of a large overgrown river-wolf or otter, with sharp talons and strong tusks, thick and short legs, long shaggy hair, with a long tapering tail.
"The Spaniards describe it somewhat differently:—as having a long head, a sharp nose like that of a wolf, and stiff erect ears. This difference of description may arise from its being so seldom seen, and, when seen, so suddenly disappearing; or perhaps there may be two species of this animal. I look upon this last account as the most authentic, having received it from persons of credit, who assured me that they had seen this water-tiger several times. It is always found near the river, lying on a bank, from whence, on hearing the least noise, it immediately plunges into the water.
"It is very destructive to the cattle which pass the Parana, for great herds of them pass every year; and it generally happens that this beast seizes some of them. When it has once laid hold of its prey, it is seen no more, and the lungs and entrails soon appear floating upon the water.
"It lives in the greatest depths, especially in the whirlpools made by the concurrence of two streams, and sleeps in the deep caverns that are in the banks.


British explorer George Chaworth Musters, who explored Patagonia in 1870, heard stories of a "water tiger" from the Mapuche. He also saw two South American ostrich carcasses floating in shallow water in the Senguer River.[6]

"The Indians declared that it was impossible for any man to swim across the river in the deeper portion below the ford, on account of some ferocious beasts which they termed water tigers—‘Tigres de l’agua’—which would certainly attack and devour anyone in the water. They described them as yellow quadrupeds, larger than puma. It is certain that two ostriches which, being too poor for use, had been left on the bank, were found by us next day in the shallow water, torn and half devoured, and the tracks of an animal resembling those of a large puma were plainly visible leading down to the water; but a puma invariably drags its prey to a bush; and, though jaguar will take the water readily, I have never known one devour its prey except on land, nor, as far as I know, are they found so far south. The animal may be a species of the large brown otter with orange-coloured fur on the breast, found in the Parana; but the Indians’ account is curious as bearing on the name of the lake—‘Nahuel Huapi,’ or Tigers’ Island."


When the body of a boy who drowned in the Maroni on 21 October 1962 was found partially eaten, it was blamed on the maipolina.[1]


The Acavar specimen was a big cat or water tiger allegedly killed in Paraguay in 1975 and identified by zoologist Juan Acavar as a Smilodon.[7] After being shot and killed, it was examined by zoologist Juan Acavar, who determined it to be a living species of Smilodon. However, to avoid causing any hysteria, he declared that it was a mutant jaguar.[8]


A man named Juan Bautista Rivadeneira claimed to have seen an entzaeia-yawá in 1989 at the mouth of the Jurumbaino river, a tributary of the Upano, in Ecuador.[3]


Although identities of jaguars and giant otters have been offered for cryptids such as the yaquaru, Karl Shuker writes that only an identification as a sabre-toothed cat can reconcile all their characteristics.[4] Many cryptozoologists speculate that the water tigers may be living sabre-toothed cats which have adapted to an aquatic lifestyle to avoid competition which predators such as jaguars, as a parallel to the African water lions.[1] Philippe Coudray suggests that the anteater-like claws of the maipolina are adaptations to the slippery soil of rivers.[9]

The marsupial sabre-tooth Thylacosmilus has also been suggested as a possible explanation, but Thylacosmilus is believed to have gone extinct before the sabre-toothed cats even arrived in South America, and had a pair of distinctive bony flanges on its lower jaw.[1]

Similar cryptidsEdit

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

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Notes and referencesEdit

  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 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. 2.0 2.1 Shuker, Karl (2010) Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Virtual Institute of Cryptozoology An investigation into some unidentified Ecuadorian mammals
  4. 4.0 4.1 Shuker, Karl (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors
  5. Falkner, Thomas (1774) A Description of Patagonia and the adjoining parts of South America, with a grammar and a short vocabulary, and some particulars relating to Falkland's Islands
  6. Musters, George Chaworth (1871) At Home with the Patagonians
  7. Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  8. Shuker, Karl (1989) Mystery Cats of the World
  9. Coudray, Philippe (2016) Guide des Animaux Cachés