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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Friday, May 29, 2015

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: An ox-like horse or a horse-like ox? The Ushi-uma, A mystery quadruped from early 20th century Japan


I came across this story from the English language Japan Times of October 8th 1928

By Mock Joya for the Japan Times.

Zoologists and others may probably say that there is no such animal, but on the island of Tanegashima, Kyushu, they are raising a creature called the Ushi-uma (ox-horse). This animal looks like a cross between an ox and a horse. But even in Tanegashima it is a rare and strange animal, there being only about twenty of these quadrupeds at present existing. This animal, however, is no illusion, and if anyone doubts its existence, he may visit the horse exhibit that will be soon opened at the Uyeno park,Tokyo, as specimens of this strange animal will be exhibited there by the Kagoshima prefecture authorities.

There are many doubts as to the real nature of this animal, and  scientists have not yet agreed on the status of the Ushi-uma, though they have already made long studies of it. Of course all know that no cross between a horse and an ox is possible. But it is not known whether the Ushi-uma is a kind of horse that looks like an ox, or an ox with some of the characteristics of a horse. But because the animal retains the characteristics of the two different animals, it has been called the Ushi-uma.

Ushi-uma looks like a horse,and is only much smaller than the ordinary Japanese ponies. Its general appearance gives one the impression that it is a kind of horse, but it has no main. It has a coat of short, black and glossy fur. Around its mouth, it has tassels of long white hair just like camels have. These tassels make it look very comical. Its tail is not like that of a horse, but it is more like an ox tail, being narrow and long. The animal is quite timid but tame..

In the island of Tanegashima where this animal is being raised, it is commonly believed that the Ushi-uma is really a cross between an ox and a horse. But of course, that belief has no foundation, and it is believed so simply because the animal is given such a compound name.

It is certainly a rare and strange creature, possessing characteristics of both an ox and a  horse. It will be the first opportunity for the Tokyo people to see this strange animal of Tanegashima at the coming horse exhibit where the Ushi-uma will be a curious but strong drawing card. (1)

Richard Freeman mentions the Ushi-Oni in his The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia , a kind of ox demon, a bull`s  head, carnivore`s teeth and the body of a spider (2)

  1. The Japan Times 8/10/1928
  2. R.Freeman. The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia page  357

CARL MARSHALL: Gynandromorph butterfly from Stratford Butterfly farm.

Hi Jon,

A gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics. The term gynandromorph, from Greek "gyne" female and "andro" male, is mainly used in the field of entomology - the scientific study of insects. 

These characteristics  can be seen in the butterfly below where both male and female characteristics can be seen physically because of the sexual dimorphism butterflies display. Cases of gynandromorphism have also been reported in crustaceans, especially lobsters, sometimes crabs and even in birds. A clear example in birds is the gynandromorphic zebra finch. These birds have lateralised brain structures in the face of a common steroid signal, providing strong evidence for for a non-hormonal primary sex mechanism regulating brain differentiation.

A gynandromorph can have bilateral asymmetry, one side female and one side male (as seen below) or they can be mosiac, a case in which the two sexes are not so clearly defined. 

Bilateral asymmetry arises very early in development, typically when the organism has between 8 and 64 cells, later the gynandromorph is mosiac.

The cause of this mutation is typically, but not always, an event in mitosis during early development. While the organism is only a few cells large, one of the dividing cells does not split its sex chromosomes typically. This leads to one of the two cells having sex chromosomes that cause male development and the other cell having chromosomes  that cause female development.

For example, an XY cell undergoing mitosis duplicates its chromosomes, becoming XXYY. Usually this cell would divide into two XY cells, but in rare occasions the cell may divide into an X cell and an XYY cell. If this happens early in development, then a large portion of the cells are X and a large portion are XYY, Since X and XYY dictate different sexes, the organism has tissue that is male and tissue that is female.

In his autobiography, Speak, Memory, the writer and lepidopterist  Vladimir Nabokov describes a gynandromorph butterfly, male on one side, female on the other that he caught in his youth on his family's Russian estate.     

Gynandromporphic butterflies such as this are unfortunately non-viable - note the kink in the abdomen (half male, half female) of this  specimen.  

In my 8 years as a professional entomologist at Stratford Upon Avon Butterfly Farm I have still not been fortunate enough to witness a gynandromorphic specimen in the flesh this perhaps testifies to the extreme rarity of this bizarre mutation.  About a month ago we sent about 500 south American pupae to the Vannes Butterfly Farm in France and a few days ago we received these photographs from them of a superb gyandromorphic Queen Swallowtail Papilio androgeus

How I wish this individual had emerged with us as we've had only four gyandromorphic specimens successfully develop in the last thirty years as they are an extremely rare, nonviable mutation.

Hope you enjoy



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What has Corinna's column of Fortean bird news got to do with cryptozoology?

Well, everything, actually!

In an article for the first edition of Cryptozoology Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that cryptozoology is the study of 'unexpected animals' and following on from that perfectly reasonable assertion, it seems to us that whereas the study of out-of-place birds may not have the glamour of the hunt for bigfoot or lake monsters, it is still a perfectly valid area for the Fortean zoologist to be interested in.


The hunt for British Big Cats attracts far more newspaper-column inches than any other cryptozoological subject. 

There are so many of them now that we feel that they should be archived by us in some way, so we are publishing a regular round-up of the stories as they come in. 

The worldwide mystery cat phenomenon (or group of phenomena, if we are to be more accurate) is not JUST about cryptozoology. At its most basic level it is about the relationship between our species and various species of larger cat. That is why sometimes you will read stories here that appear to have nothing to do with cryptozoology but have everything to do with human/big cat interaction. As committed Forteans, we believe that until we understand the nature of these interactions, we have no hope of understanding the truth that we are seeking.

  • NEWSLINK: Natrona County woman finds mountain lion...
  • NEWSLINK: North Shore cougar sightings prompt warn...
  • NEWSLINK: Wildlife officials find no sign of mount...

  • NEWSLINK:Radio collar help to study tiger behaviou...

    The Gonzo Daily - Friday/Saturday
    Those jolly nice folks at Fruits De Mer Records sent me a present this morning - a CD promo of what Rough Trade describe as: "Fruits De Mer's most lavish and impressive release yet. 4 LP set - 600 copies on coloured vinyl. Eight side-long excursions into 60s / 70s psychedelia, progressive rock, jazz-rock and Krautrock. 18 months in the making with exclusive covers of Pink Floyd, Aphrodite's Child, The Byrds, Yes, Donna Summer etc by Sendelica, The Bevis Frond, Arcade Messiah, The Soft Bombs, Wreaths, The Luck Of Eden Hall, Superfjord and Julie's Haircut". I am listening to it now and it is a suitably wacky excursion into the soundscapes of my mind, to ensure it a place on my playlist for ages to come.
    The Gonzo Weekly #131
    Boomtown Rats, Midlake, Beatles, George Harrison, Apple Scruffs, Roy Weard, Dogwatch, That Legendary Wooden Lion, Hawkwind, Jon Anderson, and Yes fans had better look out!
    The latest issue of Gonzo Weekly (#131) is available to read at www.gonzoweekly.com, and to download at http://www.gonzoweekly.com/pdf/. It has The Boomtown Rats on the front cover together with some exciting news about a hitherto lost video from 1978 inside. There is a look at Midlake by Doug, Jon examines a book by one of the Apple Scruffs, and discovers the sad story behind it, and talks about a very peculiar week dogged by Mercury Retrograde, whilst the legendary Roy Weard continues his regular column. Xtul gets even more peculiar, and there is a radio show from M Destiny at Friday Night Progressive. There is also a collection of more news, reviews, views, interviews and pademelons trying to choose (OK, nothing to do with small marsupials having difficulty in making choices, but I got carried away with things that rhymed with OOOOS) than you can shake a stick at. And the best part is IT's ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!
    This issue features:
    David Crosby, Garry Johnson,Eric Clapton, Noel Gallagher, Steve Hackett, Genetics, Marillion, Edison's Children, System 7, Steve Hillage, Karnataka, Friday Night Progressive, Sam Zaman, Mick Abrahams & Sharon Watson, Tommy James, Hugh Hopper, Third Ear Band, WMWS, David Peel, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Eliza Carthy & Jim Moray,The Boomtown Rats, Midlake, Roy Weard, Hawkwind, Yes, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Wyrd, Martin Eve, Xtul, Elvis, onkees, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Pink Floyd, Ozzy Osbourne, Keith Richards, FängörN

    Read the previous few issues of Gonzo Weekly:

    Issue 130 (David Peel cover)
    Issue 129 (Clepsydra cover)
    Issue 128 (Louie Louie cover)
    Issue 127 (Roy Weard cover)
    Issue 126 (Atkins-May Project cover)
    Issue 125 (Mick Abrahams cover)
    Issue 124 (Karnataka cover)
    Issue 123 (Cream cover)
    Issue 122 (Anthony Phillips cover)
    Issue 121 (Annie Haslam cover)
    Issue 120 (Frank Zappa cover)
    Issue 119 (Eliza Carthy cover)
    Issue 118 (Dave Brock cover)
    Issue 117 (Daevid Allen cover)
    All issues from #70 can be downloaded at www.gonzoweekly.com if you prefer. If you have problems downloading, just email me and I will add you to the Gonzo Weekly dropbox. The first 69 issues are archived there as well. Information is power chaps, we have to share it!
    You can download the magazine in pdf form HERE:

    * The Gonzo Daily is a two way process. If you have any news or want to write for us, please contact me at jon@eclipse.co.uk. If you are an artist and want to showcase your work, or even just say hello please write to me at gonzo@cfz.org.uk. Please copy, paste and spread the word about this magazine as widely as possible. We need people to read us in order to grow, and as soon as it is viable we shall be invading more traditional magaziney areas. Join in the fun, spread the word, and maybe if we all chant loud enough we CAN stop it raining. See you tomorrow...
    * The Gonzo Daily is - as the name implies - a daily online magazine (mostly) about artists connected to the Gonzo Multimedia group of companies. But it also has other stuff as and when the editor feels like it. The same team also do a weekly newsletter called - imaginatively - The Gonzo Weekly. Find out about it at this link: www.gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.com/…/all-gonzo-news-wots-fit
    * We should probably mention here, that some of our posts are links to things we have found on the internet that we think are of interest. We are not responsible for spelling or factual errors in other people's websites. Honest guv!
    * Jon Downes, the Editor of all these ventures (and several others) is an old hippy of 55 who - together with an infantile orange cat named after a song by Frank Zappa puts it all together from a converted potato shed in a tumbledown cottage deep in rural Devon which he shares with various fish, and sometimes a small Indian frog. He is ably assisted by his lovely wife Corinna, his bulldog/boxer Prudence, his elderly mother-in-law, and a motley collection of social malcontents. Plus.. did we mention the infantile orange cat?

    NEWS FROM NOWHERE - Friday/Saturday

    ON THIS DAY IN 1660 - Charles II was restored to the English throne after the Puritan Commonwealt
    And now some more recent news from the CFZ Newsdesk

  • From worker to queen at the drop of a gene
  • 'Loud wakeup call' over critically endangered dolp...
  • Galápagos Islands volcanic eruption could threaten...
  • Animal welfare threat as Japan makes plans for dol...

  • Who is the world’s wildlife favourite airline?

  • AND TO WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK... (Music that may have some relevance to items also on this page, or may just reflect my mood on the day)