Friday 18 April 2014

Louis Feuillée and the Monster of Buenos Aires

Louis Feuillée (Louis Éconches Feuillée; Mane, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France, 1660 - Marseilles, France, 18th April, 1732)

Louis Feuillé

As long-time visitors to the salon will know, I am something of a home bird. Despite my gadding about in search of entertaining yarns and momentous memories, there is nothing I would rather do than settle in my tottering abode with a dish of tea, quill in hand. In contrast to myself, my guest today was not a man who liked to stay in one place. An explorer, scientist and astronomer amongst many other achievements, Louis Feuillée travelled the globe in search of new flora and fauna, bringing his discoveries home to Europe.

It was during a journey around South America in 1707 that Feuillée encountered what appeared to be a brand new zoological specimen, something akin to a monster. Whilst visiting Buenos Aires he was approached by locals who told him of a creature that had been born to a ewe. The animal was, according to those who spoke to Feuillée, part human, part horse and part calf and the French adventurer was keen to make his own observations.

Feuillé's Monster

Initially the man who had brought news of the creature to Feuillée on 26th August was loth to let him see it but eventually it was agreed that Feuillée might at least observe the animal from afar. He swiftly and surreptitiously sketched an impression of the specimen and immediately repaired to his lodgings to complete the illustration and note down his findings, even though he remained frustrated that he had been denied permission for a full examination.

Feuillée noted that the stillborn creature was 11 inches long and had a human head, though with a horn which hung down to obscure its single, central eye. Although the beast had a mouth, it had no nose and if its head was human, then its neck and ears were definitely equine, whilst its body resembled that of a calf. In closing his observations, Feuillée  commented that, had the creature been carried full term, its lack of a nose would have made survival impossible. However, he lamented that the fact that he was prevented from carrying out anatomical examinations meant that he could not be sure of the physiognomy  of the animal, so could not ascertain whether there was some other method by which it might have drawn breath.

Feuillée observed no further examples of his Argentinean monster on his travels, though he was keen to share his discovery with his followers. What it was we can never know for sure but Feuillée's illustration, above, gives us a tantalising glimpse of how he believed it might have appeared, had it lived to maturity. It certainly is a most peculiar specimen!


DL NELSON said...

Even though I travel a lot, I love being at home with a pot of tea and a good book. I do love your posts.

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you! There's something about settling down at home that's just irresistible.

Unknown said...

This is like those giant cows and sheep that the first US citizens used to publicise back in Europe! What a strange phenomenon to have observed. I suspect someone was yanking his chain...

Catherine Curzon said...

And of course, the dog-headed people so common to Medieval scholars!

Hamid said...

In which museum we can see it.