Shunka Warakin

Unknown HYENA-like animal of North America.

Etymology: Iowa-Oto (Siouan), "carrying-off dogs."

Variant name: Ringdocus.

Physical description: Black hair. High shoulders. Sloping back.

Behavior: Steals Native Americans' dogs. Cries like a human when killed.

Distribution: Montana; Nebraska; Iowa; Alberta, Canada.

Significant sightings: Sometime in the 1880s, Ross Hutchins's grandfather shot and killed a hyena-like animal on his ranch in the Madison River valley north of Ennis, Montana. He gave it to a man named Sherwood, who exhibited it for many years at his grocery store near Henrys Lake, Idaho, as a "Ringdocus."

In July 1991, a hyena-like animal was seen by several people close to the Alberta Wildlife Park near Legal, Alberta. It was heavy in front and low in the rear and was seen pacing back and forth.

Present status: The mounted Ringdocus may still exist somewhere, according to Loren Coleman.

Possible explanations:

(1) A surviving Bear-dog (Family Amphicyonidae), a group of predators that lived in North America about 34-5 million years ago, from the Late Eocene through the Miocene. Bear-dogs had wolflike faces and medium-to-large bodies with massive thigh and shoulder bones. Most had plantigrade feet, but some were digitigrade. Some species could climb trees like bears, whereas others were adapted for running.

(2) A surviving Chasmaporthetes ossifragus, the only fossil hyaenid found in North America. It was a mobile hunter that lived 2 million-10,000 years ago, from the Pliocene to the Pleistocene.

(3) A surviving borophagine dog, a member of a diverse group that once filled the same ecological niche in North America as hyenas did in Africa. Ranging from the size of a fox to the size of a lion, they had powerful jaw muscles, broad and strong heads, and short muzzles. They were replaced by extinct forms of modern canines sometime in the Pliocene, 4-2 million years ago.

Sources: Ross E. Hutchins, Trails to Nature's Mysteries: The Life ofa Working Naturalist (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977); "The Alberta Hyena," Fortean Times, no. 61 (February-March 1992): 9; Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, Cryptozoology A to Z (New York: Fireside, 1999), pp. 221-224.

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