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Onza
Topic Started: Jan 9 2012, 01:01 AM (4,044 Views)
DinosaurMichael
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Onza

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Grouping: Cryptid
Sub grouping: Big Cat
First reported: 1938
Country: Mexico
Region: Sinaloa
Habitat: Unknown

The Onza is a species of wild cat considered to be a legend and one of the numerous creatures studied by cryptozoology. It can also refer to the jaguarundi (P. yaguarondi). It is known as a type of cryptid.

In 1938 and again in 1986, animals in Sinaloa were shot and identified as onzas (the legendary cat that resembles a cougar, not the jaguarundi). Only one viable specimen has been taken: A rancher named Andres Murillo in January 1986 saw what he thought was a jaguar attacking him while deer hunting, so he shot it. It turned out not to be a jaguar, and he brought it to Vega, who owned a nearby ranch. He told Murillo that the specimen he had greatly resembled the onza his father had shot in the 1970s, the skull of which he still had. The specimen was a female that weighed 60 lb (27 kg). The body, not including the tail, was 45 inches (1.1 m) long, and the tail added another 23 inches (58 cm). The cat had the appearance of a cougar with a very long, thin body and long, thin dog-like legs. It had eaten recently because deer had been found in its stomach. These animals were much like cougars but had lighter frames, longer legs, and longer ears and were spotted.

After examination of a frozen onza corpse in the 1990s, Texas Tech University researchers concluded that the onza is most likely a genetic variant of cougar, but not a distinct cat species. Owing to DNA testing, it is now known that it is in fact a puma and that there are no significant differences between that corpse and any other puma in a zoo or in the field.

There is another legend that is not well known by cryptozoologists. According to that legend, there are two species of jaguarundi living in Mexico. One of them is usually called onza and the other one is referred by any other local name.

Name

The Spanish name "onza" derives from the Latin lynx, lyncis, and is equivalent to the English word "ounce", originally applied to the lynx, but now more commonly to the snow leopard Uncia uncia. There are old texts written by Spanish conquistadors about the onza, but they might refer to the jaguarundi. The jaguarundi is known as onza in many Mexican states. Onça is the Brazilian/Portuguese word for jaguar, Panthera onca. In its stronghold, the Amazon jungle, the spotted jaguar is known as onça pintada, the black one as onça preta. A very real animal, the onça is spread as far north as Mexico and possibly into the southwest of the USA.

History

A Mexican feline identified as an onza by biased cryptozoologists first appears in Aztec texts. The Florentine Codex, Vol. 13, a compilation of Aztec customs, beliefs and natural history, describes the cuitlamiztli, which they say resembled a cougar but was far more aggressive. Christopher Columbus sent a letter from Mexico to the Spanish kings describing an amazing animal: "A marksman killed a beast like a cat, but pretty much longer and with a humanlike face. He pierced it with an arrow... Nevertheless, it was so wild that he had to cut a foreleg and a rear leg from it. When a boar saw the beast, it got the creeps... In spite of that, the huge cat was dying... It immediately attacked the boar, surrounded his snout with his tail and strongly pressed it. Then with the foreleg that was left, it strangled it." When the conquistadores arrived in Mexico from Spain, they were shown the great zoo of the emperor Motecuzoma (Montezuma). One of the Spaniards, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, said that the zoo contained "tigers and lions of two kinds, one of which resembled the wolf".

After the Spaniards settled Mexico, the animal was seen more often, and they christened it with the name onza. "It is not as timid as the [cougar]", wrote Jesuit missionary Father Ignaz Pfefferkorn in 1757, "and he who ventures to attack it must be well on his guard".[citation needed] Another missionary, Father Johann Baegert, wrote that an "onza dared to invade my neighbor's mission when I was visiting, and attacked a 14-year-old boy in broad daylight... A few years ago another killed the strongest and most respected soldier" in the area.

It is very likely that Spanish documents from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries that refer to the onza do not refer to any cryptid animal, or even to the feline known as onza in 20th century Sinaloa as most cryptozoologists think, but to a plain and well-known jaguarundi. Therefore, these texts might be unrelated to the legendary onza. Normal and boring jaguarundis are referred as onzas in most Mexican states.

Twentieth century

In 1938 hunters Dale and Clell Lee, with Indiana banker Joseph Shirk, shot what locals identified as an onza near La Silla Mountain in Sinaloa. Dale Lee was certain that the animal they shot was not a puma. Although somewhat resembling a puma in coloration, its ears, legs, and body were much longer, and it was built more lightly than a puma.

Finally, in January 1986, Mexican farmer Andres Rodriguez Murillo, who owned a ranch in the San Ignacio District of Sinaloa, killed an animal resembling the cat shot by the Lee brothers. Rodriguez and Ricardo Zamora were deer hunting at about 10:30 p.m. when they came across a large cat which seemed ready to charge. Rodriguez, fearing a jaguar attack, shot the cat. After seeing that the cat was not a jaguar or a puma, Rodriguez and Zamora took the cat's body back to Rodriguez's ranch. A Mr. Vega, who owned a nearby ranch and who was an experienced hunter, was contacted by Rodriguez. Vega said that the cat was an onza and that it was nearly identical to one that his father had shot in the 1970s (the skull of the Vega animal had been preserved). Vega in turn contacted Ricardo Urquijo, Jr., who suggested taking the animal's body to Mazatlán for examination.

The cat was found to have a large wound on one of the rear legs, which both Rodriguez and Vega believed was inflicted by a jaguar. The specimen was also found to have been in good health with a fully functional reproductive system.

Identity

Most cryptozoologists felt that the onza represented a new subspecies of cougar, or possibly an entirely new species of cat.[citation needed] German mammalogist Helmut Hemmer even suggested that the onza represented an extant specimen of the prehistoric American cheetah Miracinonyx trumani.

International Society for Cryptozoology (ISC)'s J. Richard Greenwell concluded as far back as 1986 that the onza was not to be identified with M. trumani on the basis of examination of skulls of that animal.

There is another problem surrounding the legend of the onza. In Mexico, the term onza is in fact used for more than just one species. DNA testing confirmed that the Sinaloa specimen was a well-known subspecies of cougar and not an M. trumani or an unknown species of big cat. Nevertheless, in other states of Mexico, the jaguarundi is also referred as onza. Furthermore, there are also local legends that state that there are two species of jaguarundi. One of them is usually called onza.
Edited by DinosaurMichael, Feb 23 2013, 12:28 AM.
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