Ahuitzotl

Legendary OTTER-like animal of Mexico.

Etymology: Nahuatl (Uto-Aztecan), "water dog."

P^hysical description: Looks like a small dog. Smooth, black coat. Small, pointed ears. Paws like a raccoon's. A bony spur projects underneath its tail. Tip of the tail looks like a human hand.

Behavior: Amphibious. Makes a sound like a baby crying. Said to drag humans into the water with its tail.

Habitat: Rivers or lakes. Distribution: Mexico.

Present status: Known to the Aztecs but probably extinct now. P-'ossible explanations:

(1) The Coyote (Canis latrans), suggested by Ferdinand Anders. However, coyotes do not like water.

(2) The Mexican hairy porcupine (Coendu mexicanus), proposed by Eduard Seler, though this is an arboreal animal, not an aquatic one.

(3) The Marine otter (Lontra felina), although it is only found on the Pacific coast from Peru to Tierra del Fuego.

(4) The Sea otter (Enhydra lutris), but it does not range farther south than California.

(5) The Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis), which is found in rivers throughout much of Mexico. Except for the odd tail and aggressive manner, this would be an excellent candidate. Andrew Gable writes that the Aztecs knew this otter as the Aitzcuintli; however, the Nahuatl name for the Domestic dog (Canis familiaris) was Itzcuintli, so there may be differing interpretations in Aztec texts.

(6) An unknown species of prehensile-tailed otter, proposed by Andrew Gable.

Sources: Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things ofNew Spain [1577?], trans. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1950-1982), vol. 11, pp. 68-69; Eduard Seler, "Die Tierbilder der mexikanischen und der Maya-Handschriften," Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 41 (1909): 390-393; Ferdinand Anders, "Der altmexikanische Federmosaikschild in Wien," Archiv für Völkerkunde 32 (1978): 67, 79-80; Andrew D. Gable, "Two Possible Cryptids from Precolumbian Mesoamerica," Cryptozoology Review 2, no. 1 (Summer 1997): 17-25.

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