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The Last Dragons of Europe

Dirk Vander Ploeg's picture

A scientist named Ulysses Aldrovandus carefully described a small “dragon” seen along a farm road in northern Italy. The date was May 13, 1572. The poor, rare creature was so little that the farmer killed it just by knocking it on the head with his walking stick. The animal had done nothing wrong but hiss at the farmer’s oxen as they approached it on the road.

The scientist obtained the dead body and made measurements and a drawing. He even had the animal mounted for a museum. It had two stumpy forelegs, a very long tail and a fat body.

The following are some of the details available in the documentation by Aldrovandus (sometimes spelled Aldrovandi):

The dragon was first seen on May 13, 1572, hissing like a snake. He had been hiding on the small estate of Master Petronius near Dosius in a place called Malonolta. At 5 PM, he was caught on a public highway by a herdsman named Baptista of Camaldulus, near the hedge of a private farm, a mile from the remote city outskirts of Bologna. Baptista was following his ox cart home when he noticed the oxen suddenly come to a stop. He kicked them and shouted at them, but they refused to move and went down on their knees rather than move forward. At this point, the herdsman noticed a hissing sound and was startled to see this strange little dragon ahead of him. Trembling, he struck it on the head with his rod and killed it. Aldrovandus was surprised that the reptile did not run when he saw the man, but instead bravely raised its head and stood its ground.

Aldrovandus reported that it was definitely a reptile and the first of this type he had seen. The creature was rather strange in appearance, but seemed to be completely harmless. It was a small specimen; Aldrovandus believed that it was only a baby judging by the incompletely developed claws and teeth. It was about two cubits (three feet) long. The corpse had only two feet. It moved by slithering like a snake and by using its feet, he believed. It could hiss like a snake and hold its head up in the air. Its slender neck had white markings like circling its neck. Aldrovandus mounted the specimen and put it on display for some time in a museum. This event has been referred to as "The Last Dragon-Slaying in Europe"

—Ulysses Aldrovandus, The Natural History of Serpents and Dragons (Bologna, Italy: Mark Antony Bernia, 1640), p.402.

This is more likely an early report of the creature known in more recent cryptozoology as the Tatzelwurm. Both Bernard Heuvelmans and Willy Ley wrote of it, but neither one of them very thoroughly going into the subject. Here is a European cryptozoology site's summary on it.


The Tatzelwurm

Other (s) name (s): France (Arass), Tyrol (Springwurm), Switzerland (Stollwurm, Stollemvurm, Tazzelwurm), Austria (Lindwurm, Praatzelwurm), Slovenia (Kuschke) Daazelwurm, Hockwurm. Scandinavia (lindorm)

Type (s): Amphibian and/or reptile.
Transcript: Testimony, sketch.

Description: Animal having between 50 and 80 cm long. Thick body (the size of an adult forearm or even thigh) resembling that of a worm or a snake skin covered with fine granulation, rather round head, forked tongue sometimes seen, indistinct neck blending into the body , thick tail, and ending abruptly, has only front legs are atrophied although some accounts suggest two pairs of legs. It is assumed that the animal is poisonous.

Range: Austrian Alps, German, Swiss, French and Italian. According to some accounts, he would be present in the Spanish Pyrenees. He would live in caves or infractuausités located in mountainous areas between 500 and 2200 meters.

Assumed identities:

- Jacob Nicolussi proposes an unknown species of venomous lizard of the family Helodermatidés normally specific to North America.

- Ulrich Magin suggested a European species of salamander unknown related to the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) that can reach 6 feet long (about 1.80m).

- Robert Kirch suggested the possibility of the presence of unknown species of lizard of the family related to Anguidés legless blind worm (Anguis fragilis) and the European legless lizard glass (Ophisaurus apodus).

Concerning the distribution of Tatzelwurm, I think we can enlarge it. Indeed, as we have seen above, one of the other names of cryptids is Lindwurm. Should we not approach the Lindorm of Scandinavian mythology. From the description that we actually would correspond with that of Tatzelwurm. Its range include Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Moreover, according to the description we have to deal with two kinds of animal. One white and one cave and rather brown.

Lindwurm / Lindorm
Reptile often described with a pair of short forelimbs. / "Dragon Snake" with two front legs.
Would produce surprise. / Movement alive.
Colour: greenish brown or gray. / Color: green, gray or black.
Habitat: Mountains / Habitat: Forests and Cemetery
Diet unknown / Carnivore

Unfortunately, for Norway and Denmark, it seems that some of the descriptions referred to the Marin Horse [Waterhorse or Merhorse].

There are reports of hibernation Tatzelwurm.

Here is a representation, albeit free, what could this animal.

Flucher, Hans (1932) - Noch einmal die Tatzelwurmfrage, Kosmos.
Heuvelmans, Bernard (1950 - Tracking animals ignored. Pion.
Nicolussi, Jakob (1933) - Der Tatzelwurm und seine Verwaschaft. Der Schlern, 14.
Barloy, Jean-Jacques (1985) - Survivors of the Shadow.

Subject: Re: Tatzelwurm Tues, Feb. 5 - 16:56

Well I just found a vague description of a case of Tatzewurm Sicily.

"One of the last case of spectacular Tatzelwurm took place in 1954. Farmers near Palermo in Sicily observed an animal like a worm with two forepaws and head of a cat attacking pigs."

Well here is testimony regarding possible recent cases of Tatzelwürms.

1927-8. Italy / TS: The "berhof / Flaas / tsch" gglberg

One evening late in fall, 1927 or 1928, when the sun had already set Reiterer just got up from the mill with a sack of flour on his back when he almost stepped on a worm 'is a stone from the path. Reiterer, by narrowing a step back, thought that the worm was asleep, but suddenly the thing run a 'Wappler, 16) and is mounted like a snake in a threatening position, sitting, like a cat on its tail 'in a way that less than half its lenght remained on earth. At the same time he turned to the farmer and now Reiterer clearly saw a number of legs on her abdomen. The front legs were bigger, others decreased in size towards the tail, the last being "as big as the teeth of a saw-mine '. The legs have been equipped with a number of toes. Reiterer, with his bag of flour has declined slowly, step by step, keeping a watchful eye on the worm. The latter was only 40 inches long, as thick as the arm of a boy and it was shaped like a wedge, with a small tail, fine finish. Strange head, 8 or 9 inches long and sitting square on the neck , thick and highly mobile inch or so in length. In the open act out a sharp tongue has been seen as an arrow, darting. Reiterer could not repeat if it was forked or not. He could not also see the ears, the body was bald, but rough as a large snail. The body color was a dark gray abdomen a little clearer. Reiterer could observe the worm for a while until it went sideways and disappeared into the bushes. The movement, like a salamander wound simultaneously with each foot on one side and then with all feet on the other '. The father visited Trafojer Reiterer again in 1944 and a third time in summer 1947. At his request Reiterer has produced two sketches, presentation of the animal in the plan view, on the other side. In the first seven or eight pairs of legs are shown, but only five in the second. Reiterer has not yet counted the legs, but he was positive that the entire underside of the animal had been equipped with them.

1929.04.l. Austria / U: Tempelmauer / Mt.Landsberg

A teacher seeking the entrance to a cave watched an animal about 40 to 45 inches long like a snake and about 2.5 inches thick. He had two legs. The head was flat, the skin almost white and smooth. The animal did not move and looked at the witness intently with his eyes. When he tried to capture the animal quickly disappeared into a hole nearby. The witness believed that this could have been a rare species of newt (or salamander).

1929.05.l. Austria / T: Igls / Innsbruck

In searching for lily of the valley observed a trader in a place frequented only 17), a 'Lindwurm'. The animal had a flat head, the snout is broader. His eyes resembled those of humans, black. The neck was recognizable, the anterior legs clearly visible, five inches long and turned inwards. No pairs of hind legs were seen. The total length was about 70 to 80 centimeters [27 to 36 inches] and about 5 inches thick. Its tail was blunt, the body of a gray color with brown below. When the observer approached, the animal is initially remained in his position watching it. He then turned and crawled slowly into the thicket two meters away. The observer returned several times over the next few days in the same place but never saw the animal.

1931.b. Austria / St: Gesaeuse-Mts.

A poacher has seen an animal at a distance of 10 meters and described as follows: "the 'Bergstutzen has a length of between 50 to 55 centimeters long and has a round head with short ears. The color is gray Dark, very dark back. He has only two front legs, large feet like a basset hound and his appearance is scary. It moves with the help of its tail, which is very thick. "

1933. Austria / C: Spittal / Drau

Workers removing a stone wall found in a hollow space, a strange animal accompanied by a number of snakes. He was 60 inches long, five to six inches thick, with a blunt tail. His head was like the cat with big eyes. The look has been described as scary, angry, by shooting the eye. Before he had two small feet; on hind the witness is not sure there were. The skin was dirty white with a yellow tint. It was as thick as the arm of a man with an estimated weight of five to seven kilograms. He was so terrified he launched into the stream.

1954 Italy / Palermo

Farmers near Palermo in Sicily observed an animal like a worm with two front legs and a head cat attacking pigs.

1969.08. Italy / TS: Lengstein

In summer 1969 a native of the region reported the observation of an animal 'as thick as a baby, 70 inches long with two legs. When the animal saw the witness he has inflated his neck. It would have been easy for the witness to enter but did not dare, for fear that the animal is poisonous. A lady from Hannover, Germany, an academic and a zoologist, claimed to have seen the footprints of the animal.

A couple of people have been attacked near Rauris Austria with a tatzelwurm who jumped 9 feet (2.75m) into the air toward them. It was 2 to 3 feet long (between 60 and 90 cm), was gray and had a head like a cat.

Source: Frontiers of Zoology


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