Dogman: fact or fiction?July 28, 2017
Cryptozoology: defined by wikipedia as a pseudoscience that aims to prove the existence of cryptids, a.k.a. entities from folklore. This can include anything from Bigfoot to Chupacabra. Why am I bringing this up here? Well, simply put, it interests me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be running out into the streets shouting about how every cryptid under the sun is most definitely real, but I’m open to the possibility that there may be something to at least a few of them. The way I see it, if you were to show someone a picture of the lasiognathus regan a hundred years ago, they’d likely tell you that it was fake or from a B-movie. Working on that basis, some of the strange creatures described by cryptozoologists may well either be real or at the very least have their roots in something real. Today, I want to look at one of my favourite cryptids: Dogman.
Long-time readers of the site will know how much I love werewolves. They’ve been my favourite horror movie creature since my childhood, thanks in part to my love of real life wolves. The Dogman is quite similar to said beasty, though there is a major difference: they aren’t shapeshifters. As to what they look like, the most common description is that they have canine style legs with hocks and stifle joints, they sometimes appear to have disproportionately large heads, instead of hand paws they have something more akin to raccoon hands, and they often seem to be around seven feet tall when standing upright. A lot of eyewitnesses initially believe said creature to be a natural wolf, albeit a large one, until they stand up and start walking bipedally, though it should be noted that they do also run on all fours like a conventional canine.
The origins of the creature are believed by many to be the song The Legend, released as an April Fool’s prank by Michigan DJ Steve Cook in 1987. Cook concocted the song and it’s creature for fun, basing the details on various myths and legends that he’d collected from North America. In doing so though, he does seem to have stumbled his way into something not entirely unknown. The beast in his song does borrow somewhat from certain stories of Native American Skinwalkers, and there have been reports of similar monsters as far back as 1887.
When asked his view on whether a real Dogman could exist, Cook was quoted as saying:
I’m tremendously sceptical, because I’ve sort of seen the way folklore becomes built from the creation of this song to what it’s turned into … but I do believe people who think they saw something really did see something. I also think the Dogman provides them with an avenue to explain what they couldn’t explain for themselves.
In a way, that echoes my own thinking on the matter. I have no doubt that the vast majority of people who report encounters with the Dogman did indeed encounter something. Whether it was a Dogman or not is up for debate. There are certainly a lot of people who are fervent believers though, and many offer both support to people who have had encounters and an avenue for them to report the details of what they saw without being judged.
Case in point: Dogman Encounters with Vic Cundiff. It was actually through this particular show that I first heard about the Dogman, which may subconsciously form part of the reason that I enjoy the show so much. The different episodes essentially follow the same pattern: Vic has guests on the show that have either had an encounter themselves or that have collected an encounter or two from someone else. They discuss a little background, run through what happened, and then talk through things a little more with Vic sometimes asking questions to draw out some more detail.
Another of my favourites is Dark Waters. He does a great job of cataloguing various encounters, and not just with Dogman. In fact, he covers a wide variety of different entities, making the channel a hub for all things paranormal. While he doesn’t focus solely on on-air interviews like the show above, he does invite people to call in live during livestreams, which gives plenty of opportunity for some first hand accounts sans editing. Outside of this though, he does a stellar job of reading encounters, making full use of some on nifty production. Background music and sound effects are used to add a creative flair to it all, upping the entertainment factor and in turn increasing lsitener engagement.
What makes these two shows worth listening to for me is the sincerity of it all. Like I said, most people who report encounters undoubtedly came across something, and there is a lot of crossover between stories as it pertains to behaviours and descriptions, so it makes sense to think that they all encountered the same (or at the very least, similar) species of creature. The shows act as fantastic catalogues of these encounters, and it’s when you listen to a lot of them that you start to pick up on little things that may offer an explanation as to what is going on.
So, these two are my general go-to shows, but there are plenty of others that can be found with a quick search. For example, Swamp Dweller offers a similar multi-entity reading hub to Dark Waters. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma based Cryptid Brothers Investigations openly state that they wish to study Dogman and Bigfoot encounters from a scientific standpoint.
What’s interesting to see in these shows is that, while often called the Michigan Dogman, the creature is reported as being witnessed not just across the USA, but in multiple other countries, including my own dwelling of the UK. So, seeing as the beast seems to be on the same land mass as me, I figured that I’d give my own view as to what we’re dealing with here. There are a lot of theories about where Dogman could come from, including from government experiements and aliens to copulant meetings between humans and biblical angels. To me though, if Dogman exists, it’s a more mundane explanation that makes sense. That’s what I want to talk about here.
Now, one thing to note is that a lot of eyewitnesses state that they didn’t know about Dogmen before their encounter. Equally so, not everyone who meets the creature is a big werewolf fan, nor had they seen any media regarding said shapeshifter before their encounter. Yes, there is the possibility that some will have lied to avoid people using that to explain what they saw, and there is also the possibility that they will have heard something that seeped in subconsciously, even if they weren’t aware of what they’d heard. However, I cannot discount all encounters on this basis simply because, like I said, I do believe that the vast majority really did experience something. I’d also add that, much like in the case of the Van Meter Visitor, plenty of these eyewitnesses are far removed from the stereotypical type of eyewitnesses that you get for things like alien abductions. The tales come from everyone from business managers to homemakers, giving a wide spectrum of viewpoints on the matter. To me, that adds a little credibility, especially in cases where you cannot see any reason for them to lie.
So, let’s look at common traits of encounters. First of all, very few encounters culminate in an actual attack. For the most part, Dogmen act in an aggressive manner aimed at intimidating and scaring people away. This particularly seems to be the case where humans have come across them while they’re eating or hunting, or if they stumble into an area that could be the Dogman’s territory. Secondly, the bipedal stance doesn’t seem to be the default positioning until this behaviour kicks in. When eating, they squat on all fours like a dog, and are known to run on all fours too, though they’re often described as being equally adept at moving at speed in the upright position. In terms of sound, there are three distinct things to note. First is that, when a Dogman is stalking something, the area appears to go completely silent. Second is that Dogmen are known to have a deep, menacing growl/roar that can cause humans to feel a rumble in their chest and be struck by a great degree of fear. Finally, many also report hearing a loud ‘popping’ sound when Dogmen stand up or get back down onto all fours. Physiologically speaking, most reports define the Dogmen as being around seven feet tall when standing upright and usually cite them as having raccoon-like hands. There are also reports of both male and female examples of the species.
With these points in mind, I do think that the Dogman can be explained as a natural creature. Now, don’t get me wrong here; I’m not saying that the Dogman is a case of mistaken identity by default. While I do believe that some cases are likely to be bears, I wouldn’t want to dismiss all encounters as such off the bat. No, it’s more that I think I can see where such an animal could come from. Going through the common points above, I would say the following:
The territorial behaviour is perfectly natural for many wild animals. The fact is, a lot of critters (even the big ones) will be afraid of humans in their territory. Whether that be because we’re unfamiliar to them, they’ve seen the destructive power of our weapons, or they’ve had a run-in with a car, the fear is there. That makes them reluctant to outright attack unless they have a good reason to do so, and to resort to scare tactics to make you wary of approaching them is really not unreasonable. The point that I want to make here is that the behaviour described does correlate with many widely-known animals. But what of the bipedal stance? I’m sure that most of us have seen both cats and dogs stand up on their hind legs. In fact, my own dog is doing it right now in an attempt to make me pet her rather than type. I’ve not seen her actually walk in that position, but a quick YouTube search for ‘dog walks on two legs’ shows you that canines can not only do this, but do so at speed. It takes training and practice, but it can happen.
Moving on to the three sound points, we first come to the silent woodland. I’ve heard two theories about this quality. The first is that the other animals simply go quiet to avoid detection by a bigger predator. Not being a hunter, I couldn’t say if this is a common occurrence or not. The second theory is that something primal kicks in and the human brain tunes out all other sounds to focus on the biggest threat. You see this represented a lot in films, and with practice, you can tune certain things out, so it’s not an unreasonable idea, though not one that would be easy to prove. In terms of the loud growl and roar, that would in part be explained by the reported size of the creatures. Big animals make big sounds. As to why they would do so, that comes back full circle to the territorial behaviour. The popping isn’t necessarily as clear, though if we’re working on the assumption that Dogmen exist, then the sound is likely something to do with the shift in position from bipedal to quadrupedal and back again. While it’s possible for canines to walk upright, they aren’t built that way naturally, so the sound could well be joints popping in and out to assist with the change.
The hardest parts to explain are perhaps the height and the raccoon hands, though I do have a thought on that. In part, the height could be exaggeration caused by fear, though this is not necessarily the case. The easiest way to explain my theory would be to give a pseudo timeline, so I’m going to go with that. Please note though that these steps are pretty much interchangeable in terms of the order. The key would be that they all need to have happened for my theory to make sense.
- At some point, a large canine in the wild was born with a physical deformity that gave its front paws the appearance of being similar to the front paws of a raccoon. Whether this gave the canine an advantage at some point in time or whether it simply didn’t hinder it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that said canine was able to go on and breed. At that point, if the deformity was caused by dominant genes, the trait would potentially be passed on their offspring.
- One of two things happens to these canines:
- They encounter a large animal (likely either a bear or a human) that is lying down. As they approach, said animal stands up on their hind legs and makes a big noise to show that they are not to messed, scaring the canine off.
- They come across a human that encounters a predator such as a bear or a mountain lion. They witness the human stand up, make themselves look big, make as much noise and possible, and eventually scare off the predator.
- Understanding what has led to the fear reaction, the canine takes on this behaviour as a potential defence mechanism for when it encounters other predators. Eventually, they do come across something they perceive as threatening, be that bear, mountain lion or human, and deploy the method of standing up on their hind legs and roaring as loud as they can. It works, and the threat animal flees. From them on, this is a learned behaviour that the canine will pass down to their pups and fellow pack members. Over time, these canines will become more comfortable with the upright stance and learn to move around while doing it.
- At some point, this large canine will have bred with another large canine that is not of the same breed. I say this because coydogs (coyote/domesticated dog cross) and coywolves (coyote/wolf cross) can grow to be larger than either source species. That is key to how big Dogmen appear. I’ve heard of at least one malamute/wolf cross that came up to a little over six feet when it pushed itself up onto its hind legs. That being the case, is it really that unthinkable that a suitably big cross could grow over time to be even larger when deploying the bipedal stance defence? Of course not, though I do think that the height may at times be slightly off in estimate.
The upshot of my theory is that if Dogmen are real, then they are not entirely a new or undiscovered species. In my mind, the most logical explanation is that they are a form of canine that has simply adapted or evolved to use particular physical tools as part of their daily lives. It would also explain in part why they haven’t been seen by everyone that ventures into the woods. Adaption and evolution take time, so the numbers have likely been historically low. More eyewitnesses come forward now than they have before though. While the safe environment that internet shows have created will play into this, it could also be that, over time, more wild canines has taken on the same traits. On top of that, you hear about a lot of encounters taking place in areas that humans don’t often explore or live. As we expand our own reach, we’ll come across new things. Look at the fish that I mentioned earlier, the califorctenus cacachilensis spider recently discovered in Mexico. There is plenty out there that we don’t know about yet. Maybe Dogmen (and indeed, Dogwomen) are among them?
I hope you all enjoyed my ramblings there. So, what do you all think? Is Dogman potentially a real thing or is just a mix of fabricated tales and mistaken identity? Do you have any other favourite cryptids? Let me know below.
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