Recently, a post on a group page I am an admin of brought up the subject of what have come to be known as Dogmen — Bigfoot-type creatures in that they are large, bipedal and covered with hair, but with a noticeable muzzle more reminiscent of a canine humanoid, hence the name. Dogmen reports are far fewer in number than those involving Bigfoot, either because they are few in number and seldom encountered or because of the extra stigma attached to reporting what sounds like a werewolf from one of the old movies my generation grew up on. I have no doubt that many of the witnesses who do come forward with such accounts are sincere, but the human mind has ways of playing tricks on our perception that can be quite convincing. If a person sees a large hair-covered, upright figure under poor viewing conditions and only gets a quick, unclear look at the face, imagination takes over to fill in the gaps. If they immediately assume it is a Bigfoot, they are going to perceive it as having the classic primate facial features. If they are immediately reminded of a scene from one of the old movies where the hero or heroine got a brief glimpse of Lon Chaney slipping stealthily through the forest in full makeup, well, you can guess what they will imagine.
Does this mean that I discount and discard all such accounts as either honest mistakes or blatant hoaxes? Not at all. There are numerous species of primates that have a pronounced snout or muzzle. The concept of a rare mutation or subspecies in the Bigfoot family with this feature is not beyond the realm of possibility. Researchers are already recognizing regional variations in the size, appearance and personality common to reports from different areas. Typically, for example, the description of a southeastern Skunk Ape will be radically different from the larger and more robust Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest.
Where I draw the line — which is always subject to being erased and redrawn somewhere else, based on new evidence — are the reports that witnesses or researchers have found bipedal paw prints that are virtually indistinguishable from those of a large dog aside from the fact that it was clearly on two legs. A pair of paws in the size range described would be virtually useless for bipedal locomotion by a creature having a large body of significant weight. Even a trained dog in a circus act can only walk on its hind legs for a relatively short distance and appears somewhat uncomfortable and awkward doing so.
The workings of the human mind — including my own at times — never ceases to amaze and perplex me. I have more than once heard some variation of the theory that the European legends of the werewolf were in fact inspired by glimpses of a rare creature similar to what are now called Dogmen in this country in modern times. There is only one drawback: The legends described individuals who in some manner, such as being bitten by a wolf or cursed by a witch, transformed into a wolf, not a wolf-like humanoid, but a somewhat larger and meaner-than-average wolf. One ancient tale even involved a ravenous wolf that was killing livestock and people in and around a small village. Hunters were out looking for the beast in the full moonlight and one of them saw it and fired a shot at it. The following day the naked body of a local man was found, dead from a bullet wound. The punch line was that he had been bitten by a rabid wolf and became a wolf himself under the light of a full moon.
We do not have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to find such tales, either. Many native tribes, especially in what is now the southwestern U.S., had stories or legends telling of shape-shifters, who could don the skins, feathers or other parts of an animal and become one of that species. Depending upon the morals and purpose of the individual performing this ritual, they could utilize their animal form for good or evil.
So there you have it: My thoughts on one of the more controversial elements of the murky world of the unknown. What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, let me know at the email address below.