A terrifying beast that has a particular penchant for ripping out the tongues of cattle, the Mapinguari is a violent thing that haunts the Mato Grosso, a huge Brazilian state, the name of which translates into English as “thick bushes,” and which is dominated by plains, plateaus, and rainforest – the ideal locations in which such beasts just might hide and thrive. Randy Merrill, who has studied the history of the Mapinguari, says that, according to local native legends, the Mapinguari is "...a prehistoric cryptid that reportedly lived (and is still reported to live) in the Amazon rain forests of South America, particularly in Brazil and Patagonia. It was consistently described as …having red hair, long arms, powerful claws that could tear apart palm trees...a sloping back, a crocodile-like hide that arrows and bullets could not penetrate, a second mouth on its belly and backwards feet (said to make a bottle-shaped footprint)."
We have to thank the late and renowned Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans for bringing much of the story of the Mapinguari to the attention of the media, the public, and the Bigfoot-hunting community. One story that really stood out in the menacing stakes occurred decades ago and involves a man identified only as Inocencio, an explorer taking part in an expedition on the Urubu River. Reportedly, Inocencio and his team were in hot pursuit of a group of monkeys they intended bagging and taking back to civilization. Unfortunately for Inocencio it didn’t quite work out as planned. It was one particular night, when the sun was long gone, and the area was bathed in darkness, that something vile and marauding put in an appearance. It was an appearance accompanied by something hair-raising: what sounded like the panic-filled cries of a man, echoing around the dense, jungle environment.
Then, something worse still happened: Inocencio’s ears were filled with the sound heavy feet, resonating loudly on the forest floor. There was no doubt in Inocencio’s mind what was going on: some, huge, lumbering, bipedal thing was racing towards him. That was not good news; not at all. Suddenly, the loud footsteps were replaced by something else: ear-splitting silence. To Inocencio’s horror, he could see something large, dark, and manlike lurking in the shadows – possibly waiting for the right time to launch an all-out attack. Inocencio was frozen to the spot, fearful of what might happen next. What did happen is that the beast let loose with an almighty, ear-splitting roar.
Acting on instinct, more than anything else, Inocencio fired his rifle in the direction of the creature, something which only enraged the crazed monster even more, as it hurtled towards him. Fortunately, another bullet deterred the mapinguari from coming any closer and it vanished into the undergrowth. Showing a high degree of common sense, Inocencio spent the night perched in a high tree, kept awake by the hideous, malevolent roaring of the unknown animal.
When morning finally came, and Inocencio finally plucked up the courage to climb down the tree, the only calling cards of the night’s turmoil were splashes of blood on the ground, and a strong, sour odor that filled the air. The violent visitor was never identified. Interestingly, local folklore suggests that the mapinguari has the ability to make a person disoriented, to induce a nauseous sense of vertigo, and even to instill unconsciousness in a person. This may not be mere myth and legend: it’s entirely possible that potentially like its American cousin, Bigfoot, the mapinguari has the ability to temporarily disable people via the use of infrasound.
Although many researchers of the worldwide man-beast mystery take the view that the mapinguari may be some form of unknown ape, or even an "ape-man," there is another popular theory to explain the existence and presence of the creature in the Mato Grosso. Namely, that the mapinguaris may not be unknown man-beasts, after all, but surviving pockets of massive creatures that are supposed to have become extinct thousands of years ago: giant sloths, possibly Mylodons, which could reach heights of around nine feet and that weighed in at a hefty 500 pounds. An unknown kind of ape or a presumed-extinct, massive sloth: either explanation would be amazing.