There are many cryptids that were once verified living creatures that allegedly went extinct over time. One example of this is the Honshu Wolf from Japan. At one point in Japanese history, the Honshu Wolf was a very real creature that populated the forests of Japan until they gradually went extinct. As the years since their alleged extinction have gone by, many people living in Japan have reported interactions and sightings with the Honshu Wolf, though science has not yet verified any of these claims. Is it possible that this species of wolf has not gone extinct as scientists claim? Let’s take a closer look at the Honshu Wolf in order to get a better understanding of the claims modern Japanese people are making regarding this allegedly extinct animal.
The Honshu Wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) is one of two species of wolf that once inhabited Japan. In Japanese it called Nihon Ōkami and yamainu as well as the mountain dog. This wolf at one point primarily lived on the Japanese islands Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyūshū until 1905. In 1905 it is alleged that the last surviving member of this species of wolf, died in captivity in Nara Prefecture. Their population overall began to dramatically decline starting around 1732 when rabies was reported to have first appeared in Japan.
No one is entirely sure why the species went extinct but several factors have been thought to have been responsible for the demise of this wolf. The first contributing factor is the arrival of rabies in Japan. During the period from 1732 to 1905 many local inhabitants reported seeing sick and dying wolves, which lends credence to the idea that rabies and other contagious diseases might have been a large factor in their population decline. It has also been proposed that the rabies may have caused the wolves to interact rather aggressively with the people which led to the people responding back with aggression. Along with this is the familiar relationship between farmers and wolves, as wolves (particularly in winter months) target local livestock for easy meals. The overall idea (though this has not been scientifically proven yet) is that rabies and other diseases in conjunction with human hunting led to the overall extinction of this species.
The Honshu Wolf was the world’s smallest known wolf averaging a length of about 35 inches (nose to tail) and a height of 1 foot. Physically they resembled coyotes and jackals rather than the more well-known wolves of North America and Europe. They were strictly carnivorous, primarily eating a wide range of animals to include wild boar, monkeys, deer, etc. They also ate smaller animals considered to be pests such as rodents and rabbits.
They once roamed the mountains and because of this local Japanese inhabitants have long associated mountains with the Honshu wolves, seeing them as guardians and protectors of the mountains and forests. Two villages are even named after the Honshu Wolves, Okami’iwa which roughly means “Wolf Rock” and Okamitaira which roughly means “Wolf Plateau”. There are many local legends that elevate this wolf to more spiritual realms, placing them as protectors of travelers for instance. There are also legends of abandoned infants being raised by these wolves which are similar to many other wolf legends from various parts of the world. The spiritual form of this wolf is called makami and has several shrines in different parts of Japan dedicated to it. Makami as the spirit is believed to understand human speech, offer protection, and reward those who do good as well as punish those who do great evil.
There are some people who are avidly researching the idea that this wolf could still exist, one example being a man named Hiroshi Yagi. Hiroshi Yagi has spent 40 years researching, searching for, and studying sightings of the Honshu Wolf, convinced that this wolf still exists. Sightings have been reported since the 1905 alleged extinction which include a report that a wolf was killed and photographed in 1910. Many have reported seeing this wolf, hearing it, and even interacting with it in various parts of Japan though currently there have been no scientific verifications of these claims.
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Coleman, Loren. “Honshu Wolf Survival?.” Cryptomundo. Cryptomundo, 8 Mar 2007. Web. 25 Jun 2015. http://cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/honshuwolf/
Yajima, Daisuke. “Man continues 40-year search for extinct Japanese wolf.” The Asahi Shimbun. The Asahi Shimbun Asia & Japan Watch, 23 Jan 2013. Web. 25 Jun 2015 http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/people/AJ201301230008.
“Honshu Wolf.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, Web. 25 Jun 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honshu_wolf.