What are Cryptids?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Cryptids are animals which are generally believed to be legendary in mainstream biology. These animals are studied by people known as cryptozoologists, who are either interested in proving that they exist, or interested in studying the myths and cultural beliefs which have arisen around such animals. Strictly speaking, cryptids are not mythological; creatures like unicorns, for example, are not considered cryptids, because they are accepted as myths. Rather, cryptids are animals which some people think could actually exist.

The Olympic National Forest was reported to be a popular area for the tree octopus.
The Olympic National Forest was reported to be a popular area for the tree octopus.

In some cases, cryptids are rediscovered extinct species, or animals which people originally thought were hoaxes. In these cases, the animal is considered a cryptid because only a few unverified sightings have occurred, but eventually enough scientific evidence accumulates to prove that the animal really does exist, in which case it is no longer a true cryptid. One example of this is the coelacanth, a fish thought to be extinct until living versions were discovered. Another is the platypus, which European scientists thought was a hoax until numerous proofs were brought back to show that it really did exist.

Other cryptids include humanoid creatures such as the Abominable Snowman or Yeti and Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot. Creatures like the Loch Ness Monster, known affectionately as Nessie, are also considered cryptids. Other legendary animals may be more animal like in nature, such as the chupacabra, drop bear, Northwest Tree Octopus, and the Montauk Monster.

Some supporting evidence does exist for most cryptids. This evidence can include reported sightings, historical claims, grainy images, and sometimes even video. However, the evidence does not hold up to rigorous scientific examination, and thus is not accepted by the scientific community. On occasion, scientific rejection of these animals has resulted in egg on the face of scientists as zoologists manage to verify that a supposed cryptid really does exist; several animals believed to be extinct, for example, have been rediscovered and treated as cryptids for some time before the evidence finally indisputably proved that they exist.

Many cultures have legends featuring mysterious animals, with various versions of legendary beasts swimming, flying, and crawling across all the corners of the Earth. In some cultures these legends are treated primarily as fun fiction, and not taken seriously, while in others, people genuinely believe that these cryptids exist. They may ascribe various social and cultural problems such as the loss of livestock or disappearance of children to these legendary animals, for example.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@matthewc23 - Quite strong feelings on here against crytozoology. It may be true that the field is pseudo-science, but regardless it is something that is a bit fun and does appeal to people who are fascinated with the unknown.

Myths and legends of monsters and beasts exist and this field simply creates a medium for which to study these stories. Some may be reliable and most can be explained, but sometimes there are things out there and evidence comes to light that makes people wonder as to what in the world it was and that is where crypto-zoologists come in to study.

As long as the crypto-zoologist is honest they will look at the claim and see whether or not the animal could exist. I am sure some people, who claim to be crypto-zoologists, will try and be glory hounds and get as much attention and press as possible, but I am sure there are honest ones out there that want to contribute to the scientific community with something that is not studied enough.


@JimmyT - I completely agree with your strong point. The area of cryptozoology is not a scientific field of study, but is rather seen as pseudo-science by the scientific community.

This field is mostly filled with enthusiasts as well as people who do not know what they are doing. There are a few people who may be qualified in fields of biology to take a legitimate look at some of these creatures, but for the most part it mostly consists of people play acting as scientists and biologists.

Now as far as their contributions go, they simply add a field of study that investigates legends and mythological beings that may have some outside chance of existing, however this does not mean that they take serious scientific studies of the creatures and really find anything to contribute to society besides furthering the legends.

As far as "discovering" animals like the platypus goes, sorry I do not buy into the field discovering this. It was merely a legend that turned into fact when someone happened to find one and science labeled it as fact.


@titans62 - That is the thing though, the field of crypto-zoology is in fact a pseudo-science and is not accepted by the various fields of biology.

The field of cryptozoology is seen as a joke by many people in the scientific community and it is only because most are just enthusiasts that have little scientific training and only hope to prove conspiracy theories and myths.

Yes, there have been a few in the past that have been proven as fact, like the platypus and the coelacanth, but these were not done by crypton-zoologists, but rather through someone just happening to find one.

It was not the field of cryptozoology that turned these myths into fact, but rather, they simply continued the legend until someone just happened to find it. The field may claim that they discovered these animals and proved they were real, but it is not a true claim and is just a matter of luck and convenience that it was found.


The perception of crypto-zoologists is that they only research the mythological and make wild claims and accusations about these creatures actually existing, however it seems like that this is a real type of study and that they do try to provide a service to humanity and the world of biology.

Although some mythological creatures, like unicorns, are considered myths, these are eliminated by crypto-zoologists as being pure myth and they do try to look at myths like bigfoot as being possibly legitimate and worth looking into.

Although they may be made fun of all the people in this field will be laughing and celebrating their scientific discovery when one of these creatures is proven as being real and would only have happened because people devoted time to this pseudo-science.

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