Water Tiger of South America. Etymology: Guaraní (Tupi) word. Variant names: Yaguaro, Yaquiaruig. Physical description: Otterlike. Woolly hide. Size of an ass. Dark brown. Long head. Erect ears. Sharp nose. Strong tusks. Thick, short legs. Powerful claws. Long, tapering tail.
Behavior: Rests on riverbanks. Favors deep water and the confluence of two rivers. Said to attack cattle and horses, dragging them into the water.
Distribution: Paraguay; southern Argentina. Significant sighting: In 1752, Thomas Falkner got a glimpse of this large animal on the Río Paraná, Argentina, as it plunged into the river. Possible explanations: (1) The size, claws, and aquatic habits resemble those of the Jaguar (Panthera onca), though it is primarily terrestrial. The tusks and woolly coat do not match. Jaguars still are found in Paraguay and may have ranged to southern Argentina in prehistoric times.
(2) A surviving Saber-toothed cat (Smilodon) that adapted to an amphibious lifestyle, representing the South American equivalent of the African WATER Lion. Possibly sexually dimorphic, with the MAIPOLINA the female, suggested by Karl Shuker.
(3) The Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis) is called "water cat" or "water tiger" in Panama and French Guiana. It has a dark-brown body 21—32 inches long, with a tapering tail that is 15-22 inches in length. The legs are short and stout. A graceful swimmer, this otter feeds chiefly on fish and crustaceans.
Sources: Thomas Falkner, A Description of Patagonia and the Adjoining Parts of South America (London: T. Lewis, 1774); Martin Dobrizhoffer, Historia de Abiponibus equestri, bellicosaque Paraguariae natione (Vienna: J. Nob de Kurzbek, 1784); George Chatworth Musters, At Home with the Patagonians (London: J. Murray, 1871); Florenzio de Basaldua, Monstruos Argentinos (Buenos Aires: Caras y Caretas, 1899); Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track ofUnknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 272-274; Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia (New York: Summit Books, 1977), p. 72; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats ofthe World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 201-204.
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