Having recently moved to the Ozark Mountains in North Central Arkansas I decided to do some research and see if there were any local cryptids. Imagine my surprise to find that there were actually a couple of lesser known cryptids in the Ozarks. After looking into them I found the Ozark Howler to be particularly interesting.
Reports of the Ozark Howler, also known as the Black Ozark Howler, Black Howler and Howler have been around since at least the 1940’s. The reports span three states, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Most of the reports come from ranchers and hunters that venture deep into the Ozarks. Country folk whose families have lived in the area for generations, are familiar with local wildlife and do not spook easily.
All reports of the Howler are fairly consistent. It is said to be four- legged cat like beast that stands between 3 and 4 feet tall at the shoulder. It has dark shaggy fur, is said to be stocky with glowing red eyes and horn like structures on top of it’s head. It’s most distinctive feature and the reason for it’s name is the long eerie wail it emits.
Most sighting reports are pretty much the same. A rancher or farmer notices his animals are scared and upset, goes to investigate and see a large cat like creature, assume it is probably a panther or cougar but then take a closer look and realize it has feature unlike those known predators. Or a hunter is deep in the mountains hunting deer and hears an eerie wail unlike anything he has ever heard in mountains he has been hunting his whole life then sees the creature.
There are a few theories as to what this creature could be. One is that is was a hoax started by a University of Arizona student who uses the web name “Irregular Jonathan”. He claimed to have started the stories. Now you could say “Ok, well there you go” except for the fact that there have been reports since the 1940’s and young Jonathan was not even born yet.
Some cryptozoologists insist that it is an actual animal. Either a misidentification of a known animal (Lynx (far to small) cougar (wrong color) or black panther ( not known for having long hair along the jawline or horn type structures on the head) or a previously unidentified breed of big cat, possibly a cross breed..
The theory that I find most interesting however is that it may have something to do with the Cu Sith.
The Cu Sith or Black Dog of Death should be ring a bell with anyone familiar with Irish, Scottish or English folklore. The Cu Sith is a 3 to 4 foot stocky black dog with glowing red eyes that is an omen of death for the person who sees it. The only differences is the Howler is reported as a cat, however since it is only seen at night a large stocky dog could be mistaken for a large stocky cat especially in an area where what you are expecting to see is a panther or cougar. The other difference is that while there are no reports of immediate death after an encounter with the Howler, older reports recorded by univerity students and news paper reporters do make reference to the belief that the Howler could cause the death of the person who encountered it just by staring at them.
The thing I find most intriguing about this theory is that if you look back into the history of the people of the Ozarks most of them are of Irish, Scottish or English descent. It is quite possible that they brought the legend of the Cu Sith with them to America and over the generations it has mutated a bit to fit the surroundings.
While there is no proof of the Howler, I will probably not be taking and long walks through the mountains at night.