Freshwater Monster of South Africa. Etymology: Xhosa (Bantu), "tornado." Variant names: Howie.

Physical description: Serpentine. Length, up to 25 feet. Head is like a snake's or a horse's. Long neck. Mane of skin.

Behavior: Moves from one body of water to another in the summer. Often seen in misty conditions. Blamed for the loss of livestock and storm damage.

Distribution: The pool below Howick Falls, Midmar Dam in the Umgeni River, the Mko-mazi River, and dams in the Dargle area, all in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa.

Significant sightings: In 1962, a game ranger named Buthelezi saw a horse-headed animal lying on a sandbank in the Umgeni River.

Caretaker Johannes Hlongwane saw the Howick monster twice, both times in misty conditions, in 1974 and 1981.

In September 1995, restaurant owner Bob Teeney saw a large, serpentine animal from the viewing platform at Howick Falls. Teeney offered a reward to anyone who could produce a photo of the animal, which created much media interest.

Possible explanations:

(1) The Nile crocodil e (Crocodylus niloticus) is found as far south as northern Natal, but it doesn't l ook particul arl y serpentine.

(2) The African longfin eel (Anguilla mossambica) grows up to 5 feet l ong, is ol ive to grayish-black, and has a long dorsal fin. It is found in eastern rivers of South Africa.

(3) The Giant mottl ed eel (A. marmorata) also has a l ong dorsal fin, grows up to 6 feet, and lives in rocky pools in freshwater rivers of South Africa.

(4) A hoax to promote tourism

Sources: "Of Ducks and Plesiosaurs: Howick Falls' Monster," Cryptozoology Review 1, no. 2 (Autumn 1996): 9; Sian Hall, "Legend of the Falls," Fortean Times, no. 123 (June 1999): 42-44.

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