Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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In between each episode of OTT, we now present OTTXtra. Here are the last three episodes:


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Friday, April 08, 2011


I thought I should mention that currently I have a new blog on Coneheads:

Followed by a longer technical paper (not by me) relating cranial deformation with the rise of the Patriarchy, and making a case for a recent worldwide diffusion of the traits:


And that is followed up with a note about how an even earlier (basal-Neolithic) diffusion of the Cranial Deformation trait points to an earlier Patriarchy that failed, hence presumably Atlantis in its militaristic phase as described in the Egyptian myths passed through Solon and then Plato.

OLL LEWIS: Crypto Cons - More Rabbit Than Sainsbury’s - Part 1

In the 18th century very little was known about genetics, indeed it was not until the 19th century that Gregor Mendel came up with the concept of genes and even then his work was largely unknown for decades, and doctors, scientists and lay-people had no real idea how it was that humans came out of other humans in vaguely human shapes. To most people this didn’t really matter to be honest, they just plopped out looking all “humany” and that was an end to it, after all logic would dictate that because you don’t get animals giving birth to humans why would a human give birth to an animal? Following on from that logic this was proof to some of the unchanging and well ordered nature of the natural world, imagine the trouble you would have if fish gave birth to humans! Why, the person would drown! The general lack of baby corpses littering rivers was proof enough of the well designed order of nature.

Except nature, and humanity wasn’t always well ordered, sometimes there are birth defects or complications during pregnancies. These were, in the 18th century often blamed on some animal having interfered with the pregnancy in some manner. The more uncharitable doctors, midwives and gossips might insinuate that the mother had conceived the child from having had congress with an animal and the more tactful might have suggested that this was as a result of the mother having been startled or scared by a similar animal during the pregnancy causing the baby to take on the look or traits of that animal. This bizarre superstition persisted into Victorian times among the great uneducated masses of the city slums of London as it was used by sideshow exhibitors as the explanation for why Joseph “The Elephant Man” Merrick looked the way he did.

These hoaky home-spun theories would be pushed to the limit by a strange case in Godalming, Surry in 1726. Mary Toft, the wife of a clothing salesman, miscarried something that had the appearance of a rabbit but with exterior lungs and heart. About 14 days later Mary was said to have given birth to a live rabbit, followed by several more over the subsequent hours and days. None of the bunnies survived for more than a few minutes, but several people are said to have seen the births and the rabbits afterwards.

Reports of the event were published in Mist’s Weekly Journal and eventually reached the ear of King George I as a result. The king, who was very intrigued by the reports, was to send his own investigators, his surgeon Nathanial St Andre and the secretary to the Prince of Wales Samuel Molyneux, to Godalming to find out more about the case. It turned out the event had not been a one off and that Mary was still giving birth to rabbits and bits of other animals. One midwife, John Howard, who had initially been sceptical of the claims, had supervised at the birth of 3 cats legs, one rabbits leg, the guts of an animal Howard presumed was a cat and the backbone of an eel. The explanation for the rabbit and cat births was thought to be that Mary had dreamed about or strongly desired each creature during her pregnancy so her baby had turned into them.

Shortly after the arrival of the kings investigators Mary gave birth to the torso of a rabbit and St Andre examined her determining that the rabbits had indeed come from her womb. Later that evening Mary gave birth to another rabbit torso in their absence and a head in the presence of the two men. The investigators left either wholey convinced, or perhaps in on the scam although neither actually confessed to it, and submitted a report to the king.

Deciding that all this was so compelling that it needed further study the King then sent another surgeon, Cyriacus Ahlers to investigate Mary Toft and the ever present midwife John Howard. Ahlers was a lot more sceptical of the claims than St Andre and Molyneux had been especially because, when he arrived Ahlers was showing no signs of pregnancy but proceeded to plop out a few bunnies for him on queue. Ahlers noticed that prior to these births Mary had been holding her legs together as if to prevent something falling out and that John Howard insisted in delivering the bunnies with no interference from Ahlers and Mary would cry out in pain whenever Ahlers came too near. When he left he pretended to be convinced in order to get his hands on some of the birthed bunny bits to study further. Ahlers determined that they had been cut with a knife and found straw and grain in their digestive tract and faeces. All was not looking good for Toft and Howard’s story and things were also looking bad for St Andre as well who had endorsed the claims. Howard somehow caught wind of what was happening, probably via St Andre, and wrote a letter requesting the immediate return of specimens. St Andre returned to Surry to see Howard and was handed two more rabbits that Mary had supposedly given birth to. St Andre also used the trip to collect affidavits from all concerned just so he could use them to cast doubt on Ahlders’ version of events should he ever need to. St Andre then gave the king an anatomical demonstration of the births which led to the king asking for Mary Toft to be brought to London for more examination.

To be continued…




The Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) is one of the most poorly studied of cat species. What little is known of it comes from a few scant observations and a handful of skins. It is not much bigger than a domestic cat and has been liked to a miniature snow leopard in appearance and behavior. The cat was so little known that before 1998 there were only two photographs of it. The work of Jim Sanderson who photographed one in Chie and helped radio collar another in Bolivia. It lives above the tree line at heights of 11,500–15,700 ft. It is found only in the mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The Andean cat is classed as endangered with only around 2500 left. Human settlements, hunting of its prey and killing through superstition have all added to its decline.

It is therefore great news that the Wildlife Conservation Society has found a new population of the Patagonian steppe (bushy grassland) at much lower elevations than other populations of around 2100 feet.

Prompted by a lone photograph of two Andean cats in the foothills of central Argentina, the research team surveyed approximately 31,000 square kilometers (approximately 12,000 square miles) of Argentina's Mendoza and Neuquén provinces in 2007-2009. The team collected samples from several locations that included scat, skulls, and skin, all of which were confirmed with DNA analysis. In addition, the researchers conducted surveys with inhabitants of the region. The conservationists also found evidence of three other small cat species: Geoffroy's cat, pampas cat, and jaguarundi.

The Andean cat's range extension coincides with the known distribution of the mountain vizcacha, a rabbit-like rodent that inhabits both the Andes Mountains and Patagonian steppe and is the Andean cat's primary prey. "Discovering a new population of Andean cats is an important finding for this elusive and rare species," said Mariana Varese, Acting Director of WCS's Latin America and Caribbean Program. "Determining the range of the Andean cat in the Patagonian steppe will provide conservationists with a foundation for later conservation plans."

RAHEEL MUGHAL: The Jackalope

The Jackalope is a mythological jack-rabbit from the Midwest of America. The name itself is derived from the merging of both “Jack”, in jack-rabbit and “Alope”, from antalope (an archaic spelling of antelope). It is described as being quite fearsome; having an antelopes horns growing out from its head and pheasants back legs and tail. Tales of such creatures may well have been inspired by sightings of jack-rabbits infected with shope papiloma virus a condition that causes the growth of antler-like tumors all over the head and body in rabbits. Nevertheless, the concept of animal chimeras are present in the mythology of nearly all cultures the world over. Whatever the case, the Jackalope has enjoyed widespread appeal by both North American children and adults alike in such popular culture as diverse as comic books, cartoons and the silver screen, respectively.

This picture of a distressingly right wing jackalope was taken at Jackalope Joe's in San Antonio by Jon just about a year ago.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1860 the oldest audible recording of the human voice was made by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville.

And now the news:

Premier announces Canada's toughest animal cruelty...