Kristin Hugo, Global Animal

There are many mythical beasts that exist only in our imagination. People swear to their friends and to the media that they’ve seen Bigfoot, or a living dinosaur. Many of these accounts can be and are discounted as far-fetched. However, what if some animals that we thought were too incredible to be real, really do exist?

Cryptozoology is the study of “hidden” animals, or animals that we might not recognize or thought were extinct. This field sits between science and superstition. Enthusiasts will pursue anecdotal evidence, which most often leads to hoaxes, like the Loch Ness Monster. 

However, not all species on the planet have been discovered. New species are being discovered every day, and it’s important to keep an open mind. These “former cryptids,” at one point, seemed too unlikely to be real. 

1. Okapi

Photo Credit: Jack DW Photos
Photo Credit: Jack DW Photos

Is that a cross between a zebra and a deer? This animal is actually more closely related to the giraffe. The okapi is a forest-dwelling animal that is the only living member of the giraffidae family other than the giraffes. The International Society of Cryptozoology is so proud of this creature that they use a picture of it as their logo.

2. Playpus

Photo Credit: Stefan Kraft, Wikipedia

With the tail of a beaver, the fur of an otter, the bill of a duck, the venom of a cobra, and eggs of a bird, this chimeric animal was once considered to simply be something of a sideshow gaff, with animal parts sewn together. In fact, this is a monotreme, or egg-laying mammal. The only known surviving monotremes are the platypus and species of echidna. 

3. Coelacanth

Photo Credit: Mark V. Erdmann

The coelacanth was thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs. It was discovered in a fishing net in 1938, and is related to the lungfish. The coelacanth is in the logo of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

4. One-eyed shark

Photo Credit: National Geographic News

This one is unique in the list in that it is not a former cryptid. Since the use of photoshop became widespread, it’s important not to believe every picture you see on the internet. However, this is a real fetal shark, with one eye socket (but apparently no eye.) While cyclopic animals are rare, they are not unheard of. Several freakshows and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museums around the country feature cyclopic animals, including calfs, baby goats, and kittens.

5. Giant Squid

Photo Credit: Celebdu on flickr

Long thought to be the stuff of legends, the giant squid really does swim the ocean depths. Unlike the kraken, however, it’s more interested in escaping their predator, the sperm whale, than attacking your ship. 

6. King Cheetah

Photo Credit: Ranveig, Wikipedia Commons

This is not a new species or subspecies of cheetah, but a mutation caused by receiving two recessive alleles. Melanin is a pigment that makes your skin or fur dark, and these animals have an abundance of it, making it look like they have large, blotchy spots and even stripes. They are also said to be larger than normal cheetahs.