We’e all familiar with mythological creatures such as the Sphinx, with the head of a man and the body of a lion. But what about the more obscure animal combinations, ones that truly looked like science experiments gone awry? Combos such as the following aren’t nearly as famous, probably because they’re more than a little bizarre and freaky. Which, to be honest, is also why they should be more famous.
Otherwise known as an ant-lion, this guy had a lion’s head on the body of an ant. It wanted to eat meat, but couldn’t, because the ant body could not digest it. Interestingly enough, the idea of these creatures probably originated because of a mistranslation. Apparently, the Hebrew word for lion can be easily misunderstood as a lion/ant combo. Someone copied it down as such, and this left people in later generations to explain what an “ant lion” was. The text of likely origin for this creature is thus found in the Bible at Job 4:11- “The lion perishes for lack of prey.” Later writers used this short-lived mythical creature as a metaphor for the inevitability of there being things beyond our control.
This was a whale with a neck like a snake, and a giant turtle shell on top of its back. Commonly known as a “snake whale,” this fantastic animal was said to be 50-100 feet in length, around the length of an average blue whale. Like real whales, they mainly fed on very small fish, snapping their long snake necks out to grab them, and then engulfing them like a whale. Although these monstrous creatures could have easily been portrayed as a menace to sailors, they instead were described as passive creatures, only attacking humans if provoked.
8. Bishop Fish
This creature had the lower body of a fish, and the upper body and clothes of a Catholic monk. These were somewhat like male mermaids except, instead of falling in love with people on land, they loved God. These sea people were first recorded in 1433. According to legend, one was found swimming in the Baltic Sea, and then was taken to the King of Poland. He wanted to keep it, but a group of Catholic land bishops freed it after it showed them the sign of the cross.
A Hippocampus had the head of a horse, and the body of a dolphin. So it was a literal sea-horse. It was featured in both Phoenician and Greek mythology. The poet Homer described Poseidon, the God of the seas, as having a chariot pulled by brazen hoofed horses over the surface of the water. These beasts spawned other stories about similar creatures, such as sea-goats. On modern flags and emblems, a real life sea-horse is referred to as a hippocami, a reference to these ancients.
Adlets were said to be werewolf-like creatures, that resulted as the son of a woman and a giant red dog. Yes, like Clifford. This huge “wolf-man” type creature originated in Inuit stories in Greenland and the Eastern coast of Canada. They were usually portrayed as being in conflict with men, most often with the men ending up victorious. They were also sometimes described as being cannibals. We aren’t sure if that means they ate men or dogs … or perhaps other adlets, which we assume they would have few opportunities to do.
This thing was said to have the head of a rooster, the wings of a dragon, and the tail of a snake, but with a deadly stinger on the end. It also has poisonous breath, and could kill with one look from its eye. Related to the Basilisk monster, it was born from a chicken’s egg laid from a serpent. Why a snake would lay a chicken’s egg is unclear. This legendary beast was first mentioned extensively in English tales in the 12th century. It was mentioned in some later translations of the Bible, in symbolic passages. Later editions most often changed the translation to viper.
This was a half-horse, half-rooster concoction, the oldest known representation of which dates back to the 9th century BC. It appeared on Athenian vase paintings and shields, most often with a rider included. This particular animal combination probably arose due to the dual symbolism of the horse and rooster. The horse represented a safe voyage to the afterlife, and the rooster represented the driving away of demons. The symbolism of the rooster arose because the rooster made its noise as the day began, and thus many saw this as the driving away of night, which represented demons and death.
This was a half-bull, half-serpent, that originated in ancient Greek mythology. It was first mentioned in Fasti, a Latin poem written by Ovid. In this work, the dead remains of the animal were said to grant the power to defeat the Gods if burned. That’s correct; the way to destroy the most powerful beings in the Universe, was to burn the guts of a half-cow, half-snake. According to legend, the original creature was killed during the war between the Titans and the Olympians, but the innards were retrieved by an eagle sent by Zeus. We aren’t sure why the father of the Gods would save a creature that could destroy them.
A Scylla had a body that consisted of twelve tentacle-like legs, a cat’s tail, and six dog-heads around her waist. Mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, she was a monstrous sea goddess who haunted the rocks of certain narrow strait, opposite the whirlpool demon Kharybdis. Ships that sailed too close to her would have six of their crew gobbled up by her dog mouths. Late classical writers say that she was once a beautiful nymph, who was turned into a deadly creature by a witch, who was jealous of her love with the sea-God Glaukos.
These were four magical beings, who invented the art of metalworking. It was said that they designed Poseidon’s signature trident, as well as the sickle that Kronos used to castrate his father. They were described as having the heads of dogs, and fish-flippers for hands. We aren’t quite sure how one could learn how to perfect, much less invent, the art of metalworking without any fingers, but cleearly they knew something we did not.
They eventually angered the Gods (not a hard thing to do, apparently,) because they began to use magic for treacherous purposes. Specifically, they began to dabble in alchemy, mixing water from the river Styx and sulfur, producing a hybrid that killed plants and animals. Accounts vary on how the Gods dealt with them. Some stories said that Zeus’s thunderbolt, or Poseidon’s trident, killed them; others claim that he merely cast them down beneath the sea.