Ozark Howler

Hoaxes and falsely-reported sightings abound and make finding the truth even more difficult. Reported sightings date back to the early 1800s and are still occuring.

The Ozark Howler, also known as the Ozark Black Howler, the Hoo-Hoo, the Nightshade Bear, and the Devil Cat, is a legendary creature that is purported to live in remote areas in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. The creature is reported to be cat-like, large like a bear, with glowing red eyes, black fur, and some have said a horned head.

Don’t be too fast to scoff. A friend of mine got up very early in the morning, about 4:30 am, and when he went outside he noticed his livestock were very frightened and had huddled in a cluster in the corner of the fence by his house. He had some binoculars, so he took a look in the direction from which they had run. He said what he saw looked like a big, black panther. He quickly changed his mind when he began walking down to his field and saw the thing running along his fence line. He said it had very long ears, or horns, and was black with thick fur. It had a long tail like a cat, but looked like a mix between a cat and a dog. It was broad and about as big as a great dane, and it had eerie reddish eyes that gave him chills. There is no reason for him to make up such a story, and he was very shaken up after the sighting. This was in Oregon County, MO.

Nancy from Oregon County, Missouri

Its cry is often described as being a combination of a wolf’s howl, an elk’s bugle, and the laugh of a hyena. Could the creature be a misidentified or an unrecognized big cat? Cryptozoologists[1] have been attempting to figure this out. Anthropologists and folklorists have speculated that the creature might be a branching off of the Dark Dog of Death found in British folklore, such as the Church Grim[2], Black Shuck[3], or the Gytrash[4].

The Ozark Howler also, like these legendary beasts, has been described as a dark omen predicting the death of those who see it. Some biologists who believe in the Ozark Howler assert that it’s a mountain lion breed that has either mutated into a new subspecies or is a hybrid of a mountain lion and an unknown creature. Other guesses have included that the Ozark Howler might be a wild boar, a North American red wolf[5], an eastern woodland bison, a hyena, or a surviving member of the creodont family.

Many people have dismissed the Ozark Howler, but Howler sightings stretch back to the early 1800s.

Jason Offutt, in his new book Chasing American Monsters

In the early 1800s, Daniel Boone is purported to have fired his gun at the Ozark Howler in Missouri. Recently, the Ozark Howler was in Newton County, Arkansas in 2011. Most recently, in 2015, an area resident claimed to have photographed the Ozark Howler at Devil’s Den State Park. In the 1930s, a local press published a small run of a book of folklore about the creature called Tales of the Ozark Howler. A decade later, folklorist Vance Randolph referred to the Ozark Howler by the name Hoo-Hoo in the book Ozark Superstitions.

In 1973, the Ozark Howler was re-imagined as a multi-dimensional time-traveling creature in Timothy Godwin’s short story The Hair of the Black Howler. More recently, the Ozark Howler has been written about in the children’s books Hunt the Ozark Howler and Billy Bob’s Howler, as well as in the Mason Dixon series of novels by Eric R. Asher. The Ozark Howler has also inspired regional poets, most notably in K.W. Peery’s book Ozark Howler and Ozark Howler Verse by Rufus Grey.

Some attribute the sightings to the presence of an escaped big cat in the mountains, but others say something more is behind them. Eyewitnesses keep coming forward claiming to have seen a mysterious cat-like monster in the Ozarks, a creature, unlike anything they had ever seen before.

  1. Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience and subculture that searches for and studies unknown, legendary or extinct animals whose present existence is disputed or unsubstantiated, particularly those popular in folklore, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, the chupacabra, the Jersey Devil, or the Mokele-mbembe. Cryptozoologists refer to these entities as cryptids, a term coined by the subculture. Because it does not follow the scientific method, cryptozoology is considered a pseudoscience by mainstream science: it is neither a branch of zoology nor of folklore studies. It was originally founded in the 1950s by zoologists Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson. Scholars have noted that the subculture rejected mainstream approaches from an early date and that adherents often express hostility to mainstream science. Scholars have studied cryptozoologists and their influence (including the pseudoscience’s association with Young Earth creationism), noted parallels in cryptozoology and other pseudosciences such as ghost hunting and ufology and highlighted uncritical media propagation of cryptozoologist claims. [Back]
  2. The church grim is a guardian spirit in English and Nordic folklore that oversees the welfare of a particular Christian church and protects the churchyard from those who would profane and commit sacrilege against it. It often appears as a black dog but is known to take the form of other animals. In modern times, when black dogs are kept as pets in churches and their attached parsonages, these are called church grims since they reside on and guard ecclesiastical property. [Back]
  3. In English folklore, Black Shuck, Old Shuck, Old Shock, or simply Shuck is the name given to a ghostly black dog that is said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia, one of many such black dogs recorded in folklore across the British Isles. Accounts of Black Shuck form part of the folklore of Norfolk, Suffolk, the Cambridgeshire Fens, and Essex, and descriptions of the creature’s appearance and nature vary considerably; it is sometimes recorded as an omen of death, but, in other instances, is described as companionable. [Back]
  4. The Gytrash, a legendary black dog known in Northern England, was said to haunt lonely roads awaiting travelers. Appearing in the shape of horses, mules, cranes, or dogs, the Gytrash haunt solitary ways and lead people astray, but they can also be benevolent, guiding lost travelers to the right road. They are usually feared. In some parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, the Gytrash was known as the Shagfoal and took the form of a spectral mule or donkey with eyes that glowed like burning coals. In this form, the beast was believed to be purely malevolent. [Back]
  5. According to Forrest Galante and his wife Jessica, it turns out that the Ozark Howler is actually the North American red wolf. Galante is an American outdoor adventurer, television personality, and conservationist. He works in the field of wildlife biology, specializing in the exploration of animals on the brink of extinction. He is the host of the television shows Extinct or Alive on Animal Planet and “Mysterious Creatures with Forrest Galante” as well as multiple shark week shows. [Back]


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Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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