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Sanglier marin

The sea boar pictured next to a bonito

The sanglier marin (sea boar) was a sea animal from Madagascar described by Étienne de Flacourt in his 1658 book Histoire de la grande isle de Madagascar. The cow-sized creature bore physical traits of both a seal and a dolphin, including fur, pectoral flippers with seal-like claws, a dorsal fin, a blowhole and a tapering tail. The body of the animal was washed up on the southeast coast of Madagascar by a storm.

Its name mirrors the French name for seal, loup marin (sea wolf).


English translation:

There is the Sea Boar, I saw one washed up near our Fort, which was almost as big as an ox, having no scales; but hairy like a wild boar or like a seal, he had a hole where his head was and a fin on his back, feet like those of a seal, or a crocodile, two small eyes and well fifty teeth on each side of the mouth, claws like the fingers of a man, equally bare and equally hairy, a hairy tail which ended in decreasing in length by more than a Braff. The animal was dead and began to fester badly, which was because I didn't have him skinned. It was while fleeing a storm that he ran aground on the rocks near Fort Dauphin.

Original French:

Il y a le Sanglier de mer i’en ay veu vn efchoiié pres noftre Fort, qui eftoit gros prefque comme vn bœuf n’ayant point d’efcailles; mais velu comme vn Sanglier ou comme comme le Loup Marin, il auoit vn trou où efvent fur la tefte & vne nageoire fur le dos, les pieds comme ceux d’vn Loup Marin, ou d’vn Crocodille, deux petits yeux & bien cinquante dents de chaque cofté de la gueulle, groffes comme les doigts d’vn homme, autant deffus & autant deffous, la queuë veluë qui fe terminoit en diminuant de la longueur de plus d’vn braffe, cet animal eftoit mort & commençoit à fetir mauuais, ce qui fut caufe que ie ne le fis pas efcorcher. Ce fut en fuite d’vne tempefte qu’il efchoüa fur les roches prochele le Fort Dauphin.

- Histoire de la grande isle de Madagascar, 1661 edition, pages 168-169

The actual illustration of the sea boar can be found between pages 150 and 151, where it sticks out compared to other more easily recognizable species.


Étienne de Flacourt was governor of Madagascar from 1648 to 1655, and while living there he observed and recorded many of the island's unique species. He is one of the few westerners to describe elephant birds, giant lemurs, giant fossa and dwarf hippos before the species ultimately went extinct. However, little attention has been given to his description of the sea boar, so whether or not this is another unique Madagascan species that went extinct during the age of colonization is left up to speculation.