Myst ery Lizard of West ern Europe. Etymology: French, "forked t ongue." Variant name: Cat-Headed Snake. PP'hysical description: Cat like head. A mane ext ends down t he back. Four legs. Short t ail like a viper.
Behavior: Not venomous but bit es viciously when it at t acks. Hisses loudly. Said t o suck t he udders of cows.
Distribution: Vienne Department, east-cent ral France.
Possible explanation: Popular folklore regarding t he harmless Slow worm (Anguis fragilis fragilis), a legless European anguid lizard t hat grows to 20 inches. Some confusion may exist wit h t he relat ed European glass lizard (Ophisaurus apodus), which is longer (up to 4 feet ), has vest igial hind limbs, and is only found in East ern Europe and West Asia.
Source: Henri Ellenberger, "Le monde fant ast ique dans le folklore de la Vienne," Nouvelle Revue des Traditions Populaires 1
(1949): 407-435. Dark Leopard
Unusual big Cat of Africa and Asia.
Scientific name: Panthera pardus var. melanot-ica, based on t he Grahamst own specimen.
Variant names: Damasia (Gikuyu/Bant u, in Kenya), Kibambangwe, Ndalwo, Shing Mun Tger.
Physical description: Leopard wit h dark coat pat t erns t hat are dist inct from t he melanist ic, all-black variet y.
Distribution: Aberdare Highlands, Kenya; Bufumbira Count y, sout hwest Uganda; Virunga Volcanos region of Rwanda; East ern Cape Province, Sout h Africa; Kerala St at e, India; Bali, Indonesia; and Hong Kong, China.
Significant sightings: A pseudomelanist ic leopard was shot near Grahamst own, East ern Cape Province, South Africa, in the 1880s. It had a t awny background color, wit h an orange gloss on t he shoulders. Small spot s coalesced on it s back t o form a solid black color from head t o t ail. The underpart s looked like a t ypical leopard's (whit e wit h large spot s). It s t ot al lengt h was 6 feet 7 inches.
Anot her specimen was killed in Kerala St at e, sout hwest ern India, in 1912. The roset t es were fused int o a solid black over t he ent ire upper body.
G. Hamilt on-Snowball shot a large, dark leopard in t he Aberdare Highlands, Kenya, in t he 1920s. The local Gikuyu people t old him it was called a Damasia and was different from a leopard.
A mount ed leopard, supposedly obt ained in Belize, is on display at t he Wildlife World Museum in Springfield, Missouri. It s background color is a very dark reddish-brown.
Present status: Melanist ic Leopards (Panthera pardus) have an abnormally dark background color, but t he roset t es are st ill visible under proper light ing condit ions or up close. They are common in Myanmar, peninsular Malaysia, sout hern India, Java, sout hwest ern China, and some part s of Nepal and Assam. Black leopards are less common in Africa, t hough t hey have been report ed in Et hiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Cameroon.
Pseudomelanist ic leopards are known from only a few specimens. The background color is a normal orange-yellow, but t he roset t es are so abundant t hat t hey have fused t oget her int o a solid black color over port ions of t he coat. The normal background color is somet imes visible in t hin, irregular yellow st reaks. Though document ed, t he pseudomelanist ic morph is not well known and might be misint erpret ed as an unknown animal if it is found unexpect edly.
Sources: Albert Günt her, "Not e on a Supposed Melanot ic Variet y of t he Leopard, from Sout h Africa," Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, March 3, 1885, pp. 243-245; Holdridge Ozro Collins, in Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 14 (1915): 49-51; G. Hamilton-Snowball, "Spot t ed Lions," The Field 192 (Oct ober 9, 1948): 412; S. H. Prater, The Book of Indian Animals (Mumbai, India: Bombay Nat ural History Society, 1971), p. 68; C. A. W. Guggisberg, Wild Cats of the World (New York: Taplinger, 1975); Gerald L. Wood, The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats, 3d ed. (Enfield, England: Guinness Superlat ives, 1982), p. 35; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats of the World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 112-115, 133-137; Bill Rebsamen, "A Mount ed Cat Myst ery," North American BioFortean Review 1, no. 1 (April 1999): 20-21, ht t p://www.st rangeark.com/nabr/ NABR1.pdf.
122 dark leopard
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