Manticora

Sem ¡mythical Beast of West Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Etymology: Old Persian, "man-eater," from martiya ("man") + khvar ("to eat"). A corrupt reading of Aristotle turned the Greek variant martikhora to manticora.

Variant names: Manticore, Man-tiger, Martikhora (Greek).

Physical description: Size of a lion. Red color. Head is like a man's. Gray or blue eyes. Large ears. Three rows of teeth in each jaw. Stingers on a pointed, scorpion-like, 18-inch tail.

Behavior: Sting from tail is said to be fatal. Can shoot foot-long spines in its tail a distance of 100 feet. Hunted by locals mounted on elephants.

Distribution: India; Iran. Possible explanations:

(1) According to Valentine Ball, the Tiger (Panthera tigris) has a small, clawlike dermal structure at the end of its tail. Its whiskers can also cause lacerations. The three rows of teeth might refer to the tiger's trilobate molars. Tigers were hunted in ancient times by local princes who rode elephants. Man-eating tigers are feared by villagers in India. A tiger wounded by porcupine quills may prevent it from taking its usual prey and force it to become a man-eater. Distorted accounts of the Caspian Tger(P. t. virgata) could be another source of information.

(2) The Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica) may have confused early travelers because it wounds tigers and leopards with its quills. However, it does not shoot them from a distance.

(3) The Slender loris (Loris tardigradus) of southern India may have contributed the tradition of a human face.

Sources: Ctesias, Indika, in J. W. McCrindle, ed., Ancient India (Calcutta, India: Thacker, Spink, 1882), pp. 11-12; Pausanias, A Description of Greece, trans. W. H. S. Jones (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,

1918) (ix. 21.4); André Thevet, Cosmographie universelle (Paris: P. L'Huilier, 1575), vol. 1, p. 52; Jean de Thévenot, The Travels of Monsieur Thévenot into the Levant (London: H. Clark, 1687), pt. 3, chap. 4, p. 7; Valentine Ball, "The Identification of the Pygmies, the Martikhora, the Griffin, and the Dikarion of Ktesias," The Academy 23 (1884): 277; Peter Costello, The Magic Zoo (New York: St. Martin's, 1979), pp. 104-110.

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