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Ahuízotl are aquatic mammals from Aztec folklore that look similar to small dogs. Their name means "thorny one of the water"[1]. They are predatory, and will wail like a human child to lure prey. When a person comes close enough to the rivers in which they live, they use their prehensile tails to drag them into the water and devour their eyes, teeth, and nails.

Appearance Edit

Atl

An Aztec depiction of water.

Ahuízotl are dog-like animals with smooth fur that clumps into spikes when they leave the water, leading to their name[1]. their coats are described as either black or mottled brown. They have long, thin snouts and small, pointed ears. In most depictions, their most distinctive features are their long, black tails, which are tipped with a monkey-like hand; however, in some accounts and most visual depictions, their tails are simply prehensile without the added hand[2]. Their limbs also sport hands, described as looking like a monkey's or raccoon's[3]. They are described as being a foot long nose to rump[2], about the size of a small dog[3].

While many modern depictions feature a row of spines or mane along their back, this is a misinterpretation of the symbol for water in traditional Aztec art[4][5]. The symbol is often shown wreathing around the animals, which is meant to represent their affinity for water rather than a part of their bodies.

Behavior Edit

Ahuizotl Drowning

An ahuízotl drowning a man in the Florentine Codex.

Ahuízotl live in the waters of warm countries, according to historian Javier Clavijero, although they live primarily near Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City)[2]. They ambush prey on river banks and use their tails to drag prey into the water, usually by the ankles. They are also known to prey on fishers by pulling them out of their boats. The victim is then drowned, and the ahuízotl eats the eyes, teeth, and nails, leaving the rest intact. Days later, the body is often found floating on the surface with bruised skin.[1]

When especially hungry, they can make cries similar to a weeping child, which often lures people to the water for them to devour[3]. They have never been described capturing prey other than humans, though that does not necessarily mean that they don't eat other animals.

Cultural significance Edit

It was said that those who died from an ahuízotl would live in the paradise of Tlalocan. They were chosen for such a death because they had been kind in their life, or because they had selfishly hoarded precious stones instead of offering them to the gods. The bodies of their victims were precious, and could only be touched by a priest of Tlaloque, or water deities.[1]
AhuitzotlGlyphHarvard

An ahuízotl glyph.

Yapok

A yapok, or water opossum

Some Aztecs believed that if they threw their nail clippings into the water, the ahuízotl would ensure that their nails would grow back healthy and strong.[2][6]

Ahuitzotl was also the name of a warlike Aztec ruler.[1] He was named for the animal, not the other way around.

Anthropological information Edit

The most comprehensive account of the ahuízotl was its description in the Florentine Codex, a dubious source as it was written with the intent to smother Aztec beliefs rather than document them.[3] However, the creature also appears in numerous Aztec glyphs and statues, indicating it was more than simply a conquistador invention.

Many theories exist as to what the ahuízotl may have been. It's often thought to be an otter, but it seems odd that the Aztec, being familiar with the local wildlife, would have such a fantastical description of the creature. A more likely candidate may be a yapok or water opossum, a small, aquatic mammal with a prehensile tail.[2] In the cryptozoology community, it is sometimes theorized to be an undiscovered or extinct animal.

Gallery Edit

In pop culture Edit

MLP Ahuizotl

Ahuizotl as he appears in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Aipom

Aipom, from the series Pokémon.

Similar creatures Edit

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Flood, Julia. "The Ahuizotl", Mexicolore.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 McDavitt, David. "Water-Dog Detective", Mexicolore.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Taming Monsters", American Museum of Natural History.
  4. Mursell, Ian. "The Aztec symbol for war", Mexicolore.
  5. Flood, Julia. "God of the Month: Tlaloc", Mexicolore.
  6. "The Journal of American Folk-Lore", The American Folk-Lore Society (1897). Pg. 274.