Wolfgang Peter. Ho Chi Minh City Market. 1994. The hustle and bustle of the bright lights and rainbow of colours combine to create an ethereal canvas, almost majestic in nature. The crowd, thousands of people, busy searching among the variety of scintillating treasures buried among the hotchpotch of tacky souvenirs lapped up by the tourists. But the treasures are there, waiting to be discovered. Peter thought he was one such person. A biologist by profession, scouring the market for something unusual, a rare item from the heart of Vietnam. Suddenly, amongst all the noise and chaos on that hot summer’s day, he spotted something. The market seemed to fall quiet. His breath calmed as his heart raced. There in front of him were a set of horns, but they did not belong to any animal Peter had seen before…
This wasn’t some mythical creature. And they didn’t look like fakes, either. Peter was excited but cautious. Tales of the bones of bizarre and malformed creatures being found and flogged in markets the world over have plagued science for centuries. But Peter was adamant the horns he found were no forgery. 20 inches long and belonging to a bovid mammal. Peter didn’t understand, then, just what he had bought.
He soon developed a picture in his mind’s eye of a magnificent cow-like animal with spectacular twisting horns, just over one and a half feet long. Upon further investigation, he realised that many natives had stories of just such a creature. Some unusual cryptid wandering the rural and remote lands of Vietnam and neighbouring Cambodia. A creature with spotted fur, no less, and, by some accounts, one that loved to eat snakes.
Yet all Peter had were those darn horns. The very existence of the creature they belonged to, one Peter suspected was long extinct, became the stuff of controversy among the scientific communities. Peter was sure the creature was, in some way, related to the antelope, due to the similarity of the horns. Others strongly disagreed, saying they were from a small bovine animal of some sort. Many clambered for DNA testing to be undertaken on the horns, but the tests too were subject to controversy. Many say the results were contaminated, some say accidentally, others, on purpose. Why? We’ll never know…
The analysis of the suspect DNA found the horns to be artificially shaped cattle horns, a forgery after all. But Peter and many others were adamant they were real, and soon claimed the results were untrustworthy. But, for as many natives who claimed the horns came from an extinct creature, there were those claiming they were created and shaped from cattle horns, used as an anti-snake talisman.
This vigorous controversy has sparked many debates and papers on the subject, but the bickering continues. When old news surfaced recently that British tiger hunters shot two creatures matching the Kting Voar’s description, animals killed for use as tiger bait, many refused to believe what the hunter’s claim to have seen. Yet others say this is the smoking gun and thus the debate rages forever more. So just what is going on here?
Some think it’s a mythical creature, with cow horns regularly found in Vietnamese markets under the guise of Kting Voar horns. But in the western world, many scientists now think the root of the tale is real. That all these stories of a mysterious bovine can trace their origins back to a real animal, a long extinct and extremely rare wild bovine. Once it became extinct, it became a legend, a mythical tale handed down through the generations. Perhaps a creature hunted to extinction or the victim of deforestation.
The ICUN Red List, a list of the conservation status of biological species, said recently of the Kting Voar, “The existence [of the animal] is currently being debated. There are undoubtedly manufactured trophies (‘fakes’) in circulation, but the precautionary principle requires us to assume the species did exist and may still exist.”
We don’t know the truth. It’s unlikely we ever will. Debate will always rage as to the very nature of this creature. One that we should regard as questionable, but certainly not implausible…
So I’ll give this creature a 147 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 11th in the list of 40, with the Basilisk still bottom and the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
The Kting Voar. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
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