Water tiger Coudray

Illustration of the maipolina by Philippe Coudray.

Water tigers are river monsters reported from the length and breadth of South America, often described as amphibious cat-like animals with tusks or long fangs. They include the maipolina of French Guiana, the aypa of Brazil, the yaquaru of Argentina, and possibly the entzaeia-yawá of Ecuador.

They are all described as having two large, protruding teeth or "tusks," and reported coat colour ranges from fawn, yellowish, and black to white, brown, and reddish. The coat is usually said to be unnmarked save for, in the maipolina, a large stripe along the back. One unnamed Guyanese water tiger is described as being white, with black spots and a striped head - it hunts in packs led by an alpha male, "the master," which plans the hunts carried out by younger individuals. Other water tigers are said to be aquatic predators which wait below the water to attack their prey, and sometimes snatch men from canoes. They live in caves in the riverbank, and are nocturnal. There are some discrepancies in physical descriptions: for instance, the maipolina is said to have drooping ears, whilst the yaquaru is said to have erect ears. Dr. Karl Shuker suggests that this is due to sexual dimorphism.

Jaguars and giant otters, perhaps a new species of giant otter, have been proposed as possible identities, but Dr. Karl Shuker feels that only an aquatic sabre-toothed cat can explain all the attributes of water tigers: cryptoartist Philippe Coudray suggests that the maipolina's long claws, which are described as anteater-like, could be an adaptation to the slippery soil of rivers.

If water tigers are aquatic sabre-toothed cats, they would represent a clear case of convergent evolution with the water lions of Central Africa, which are also described as nocturnal fanged cats which dwell in rivers, and are also theorised to be amphibious machairodonts. There are also reports of more normal living sabre-toothed cats in the montane forests of South America - just like in Central Africa.


  • Shuker, Karl (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors
  • Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
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