What do we know about Uruguay? Wel,l it did host the first ever World Cup and has won the contest twice, which is far more than some countries have managed. As well as football it has a cryptozoological claim to fame: the Minhocão.
The Minhocão is a most interesting mystery animal with many contenders with a claim to be the animal behind the name. The name itself is Portuguese for 'giant earthworm'; descriptions give the animal a thick, bony, armoured skin or scales, and a head that sports a pair of horns and a pig-like snout. With a body length of 150 feet and a track measuring a mighty15 feet in width it is hardly surprising that its trail is marked by fallen trees, collapsed roads and new river channels.
It was in 1849 while travelling in Termas del Aparey that Lebino Josė dos Santos heard of a dead Minhocão that had managed to expire while caught in a narrow cleft of rock. He would describe the skin as being as thick as a pine tree’s bark and that the body was covered in scales like an armadillo.
For an animal described as a big worm the Minhocão does seem to have generated a number of theories about its possible origin. It has been suggested that it could be an undisclosed giant scaly lungfish whose pectoral fins could be mistaken for horns. Or perhaps it’s a giant species of caecilian, a worm-like amphibian that burrows underground; however, the Minhocão is considerably longer than the 5 feet recorded for the longest known burrowing caecilian. But at least it is worm-like, which is more than can be said for the next candidate for the Minhocão: a late surviving form of glyptodont, a heavily armoured large armadillo that grew up to 10 feet long. There is one drawback to this theory: the animal is not suspected of having been a burrower. Of course it could always be an example of that often mentioned South America cryptid the giant anaconda.
Next stop: Paraguay.