From Bruce Van Patter: illustrator & author

Mythical American Animals

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Mythical American Animals

Many people know about legendary animals. Dragons, unicorns, griffins, Pegasus, and the Sphinx are just a few examples. But they’re Old World animals. Few people know about the strange beasts imagined by settlers in our country. Let me tell you about a few of my favorites, most of which were invented by lumberjacks:


The Argopelter

Also called a forest monkey, this cute little squirrel-like animal was so friendly, it was nearly hunted to extinction. Then the lumbermen taught argopelters to protect themselves by throwing bits of wood at anyone who would come near their tree-holes. They became chunk chuckers. If you’re walking in the woods and get hit by a falling branch, it was probably thrown by an argopelter.

The Squonk

Pity this poor creature. Its loose, wrinkly skin is covered with bumps and moles. The squonk feels so sorry for itself it just sits and moans. When faced with danger, this little animal quickly dissolves itself with its tears. If you want to catch one, try it in winter. They move around less and their tears fall slower.

The Billdad

Imagine a small kangaroo with a flat tail, webbed feet and a bill like a hawk. That’s the bildad. Since it’s such a good jumper, it waits by the shore of a pond for a fish to rise. Then it leaps over the fish and smacks it with its flat tail. Jumping half the length of a football field is nothing to the bildad.

The Shagamaw

This animal confused woodsmen for a long time, because its front legs are those of a bear, but its back legs are just like a moose’s. It walks 440 steps with its front legs, then quickly hops to its back legs, leaving very confusing trails. The shagamaw’s favorite snack is a lumberjack’s drying shirt on a laundry line.


Wouldn’t it be fun to make up your own animal?

all material ©2004 Bruce Van Patter

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