Groot Slang

Freshwater Monster of South Africa.

Etymology: Afrikaans, "great serpent."

Variant names: Kayman, Ki-man (Nama/ Khoisan), !Koo-be-eng (Nama/Khoisan), IKouteign !koo-rou ("master of the water," Nama/Khoisan).

Physical description: Length, 20-39 feet. Larger than a hippo. Black skin. Head, 7-8 inches wide. Neck, 8-10 feet long.

Tracks: Width, 18 inches.

Habitat: Rivers, lakes, and swamps.

Distribution: Orange and Vaal Rivers, South Africa.

Significant sightings: A Nama rock painting on Cathedral Peak, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, depicts a great horned serpent called !Koo-be-eng. Others appear in Brak-fontein Cave near Koesberg; in the cave near Klein Aasvogelkop; and in the cave of the Great Black Serpent in Rockwood Glen, near the Upper Orange River.

About 1867, Hans Sauer saw a large, black snake in the Orange River near Aliwal North, Eastern Cape Province.

In 1899, merchant G. A. Kinnear was crossing the Orange River near Upington, Northern Cape Province, when he saw the head of a monstrous serpent emerge from the water. About 8-10 feet of head and neck were visible.

In 1910, Frederick C. Cornell was camping about 20 miles from Augrabiesvalle, Northern Cape Province, with two companions, one an American named Kammerer, who was bathing groot slang 217

in a pool nearby. Suddenly, Kammerer came back shouting and said that a great wave had come up behind him and that a head with massive jaws belonging to a giant snake had risen 12 feet in the air.

In May 1920, at the confluence of the Great Fish and Orange Rivers, Frederick C. Cornell and others in his party saw the head and neck of a large snake swimming in the water.

John Clift saw a 20-foot crocodilian emerge from the Big Hole, an abandoned mine crater near Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, in November 1947.

In November 1963, newspapers started reporting various encounters with a water monster in the Vaal Dam, Free State Province. Most of the reports were vague. Stanley Jacob and his father, David, watched a monster surface 110 yards from their boat, near Oranjeville on February 16, 1964. At first, it looked like a swimming horse. They went to fetch a gun, then returned. The animal had grayish-brown skin, smoother than a hippo's. Possible explanations:

(1) A large variety of African rock python (Python sebae), which often grows to 30-33 feet.

(2) The Water monitor (Varanus niloticus) is Africa's largest lizard, reaching more than 5 feet.

(3) An unknown species of monitor lizard, suggested by naturalist Mike Meyring.

(4) Bernard Heuvelmans equated this animal with his LONGNECK variety of seal, which he thought might be responsible for Nessie and other lake monsters.

Sources: James Edward Alexander, An Expedition of Discovery into the Interior of Africa (London: H. Colburn, 1838), pp. 114-115; George William Stow, The Native Races of South Africa (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1905); Frederick C. Cornell, The Glamour of Prospecting (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1920), pp. 142, 181; "River Monster with a 10 Ft. Neck," Daily Mail (London), February 8, 1921, p. 1; George William Stow, Rock-Paintings in South Africa (London: Methuen, 1930); Hans Sauer, Ex Africa (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1937), pp. 102-103; "Monster

Lurking in 'Big Hole' at Kimberley," Johannesburg Sunday Times, November 30, 1947; Lawrence G. Green, To the River's End (Cape Town, South Africa: Howard B. Timmins, 1948), pp. 126-129; Frank Day, "Police Fire on Mysterious Vaal 'Monster,'" Rand Daily Mail, November 11, 1963; Harald L. Pager, Stone Age Myth and Magic as Documented in the Rock Paintings of South Africa (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck-und Verlagsanstalt, 1975), p. 47; Bernard Heuvelmans, Les derniers dragons d'Afique (Paris: Plon, 1978), pp. 74-109.

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