The Shunka Warak’in traces back to the Ioway Indians. It is a legendary creature said to resemble a cross between a large wolf and a hyena with a large head, sloped back, very dark fur but the cries of a human.It is pronounced shoon-kah wah-ray-keen. The name translates to “carries off dogs” because it was said to sneak into the Ioway camps at night to carry off and kill the dogs.
The first modern reporting of something that resembled this creature was in the 1880’s by Israel Hutchins , a prominent Montana rancher with a spread near Ennis, Montanta. Israel’s grandson, zoologist Ross Hutchins, described his grandfather’s encounter with the creature in his book “Trails to Nature’s Mysteries: The Life Of A Working Naturalist” published in 1977. He writes:
“One winter morning my grandfather was aroused by the barking of the dogs. He discovered that a wolflike beast of dark color was chasing my grandmother’s geese. He fired his gun at the animal but missed. It ran off down the river, but several mornings later it was seen again at about dawn.”
Other homesteaders and ranchers in the area also saw the creature. Hutchins recorded the description in his book as :
“Those who got a good look at the beast describe it as being nearly black and having high shoulders and a back that sloped downward like a hyena.”
Ross Hutchins finishes his grandfather’s account with this:
“Then one morning in late January, my grandfather was alerted by the dogs, and this time he was able to kill it. Just what the animal was is still an open question. After being killed, it was donated to a man named [Joseph] Sherwood who kept a combination grocery and museum at Henry Lake in Idaho. It was mounted and displayed there for many years. He called it “Ringdocus.”
The youngest Hutchins, who had a Ph.D. in zoology, examined the beast and had no idea what the animal was, he speculated that it may have been a hyena that had escaped from a circus; however he did note that the nearest circus was hundreds of miles away. Over many years the Hutchins story was all but forgotten, that is until cryptozoologist Mark A. Hall uncovered the story after of a creature or group of creatures resembling the Shunka Warak’in were sighted in Nebraska, Iowa, Alberta and Illinois. Mr. Hall also uncovered that a photograph of the a mounted hyena like animal, the so called “Ringdocus” originally shot by Ross Hutchins grandfather, existed, however its whereabouts remain unknown.
In 1995, following the discovery by Mark A. Hall, Lance Foster, an Ioway Indian, told renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman of a creature he and his tribe called the Shunka Warak’in that looked something like a hyena and cried like a person when it was killed. Foster, who heard of the mounted “Ringdocus” carcass speculated that it may be an example of Shunka Warak’in, which he knew from his own experiences and those of relatives in Montana and Idaho.
In December 2005 a strange wolf like animal began killing livestock in the McCone, Garfield and Dawson counties of Montana. By October of 2006 the animal, now known as “The Creature of McCone County,” had killed more than 120 various forms of livestock and appeared in several news articles including one in the May 2006 issue of USA Today. On November 2, 2006 the Montana Wildlife Service shot and killed a creature that may have been responsible for these killings.
Originally thought to be a wolf, the animal that was shot showed characteristics that were not common with any wolf species known in the area. The animal that was killed appeared to have orange, red and yellow fur, where as wolves known to live in the area are of a grey, black and brown color. Muscle tissue was sent to the University of California Los Angeles where DNA samples were taken in an attempt to compare it to the Northern Rockies wolf. The carcass was sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for genetic study, however no record of the results of these studies could be found at this time.
One theory suggests that the Shunka Warak’in may be a form of prehistoric mammal called the Borophagus, an ancient hyena like canine known to inhabit North America more than 13 ,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era. Another theory, which could only explain the 2005 to 2006 encounters and not the 1880’s ones , is that the creature shot in Montana was genetically altered and raised in captivity only to later escape it’s captors.
In 2007 , something remarkable happened. After reading a story about the “Ringdorcus” another grandson of Isreal Hutchins, Jack Kirby, managed to track down the exhibit to the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello where it had been on display unbeknownst to everyone in the cryptozoology community. Taking the specimen on loan, Kirby reported measurements of 48 inches from snout to rear (not including the tail) and 28 inches high at the shoulder. It is nearly black in color, just as Hutchins had originally described. Even stranger, the thing has faint impressions of stripes on its flanks making it a true mystery.
It is not easily identifiable as any known dog, hyena or wolf. So what is it? There are calls for DNA testing on the specimen, however this is where it gets a bit sticky. The creature is on loan to the museum where it currently resides, so the museum has no legal rights to order DNA testing. The museum that actually owns the creature is resistant to having the testing done, allegedly to retain the mystery surrounding it. For now, the mystery remains…………