On the Track of Unknown Animals

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On the Track of Unknown Animals
On the Track of Unknown Animals.gif
Cover-art for the 1995 edition
AuthorBernard Heuvelmans
GenreNon-fiction, cryptozoology
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

On the Track of Unknown Animals is a cryptozoological book by the Belgian-French zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans that was first published in 1955 under the title Sur la Piste des Bêtes Ignorées. The English translation by Richard Garnett was published in 1958 with some updating by the author and with a foreword by Gerald Durrell.[1] A revised and abridged edition was published in 1965, and a further edition in 1995. It is credited with introducing the term cryptozoology[2] and established its author as the "Father of Cryptozoology."[3]


As one reviewer explained, it is a book "about animals that might exist."[4] On the Track of Unknown Animals cites animals that had only been discovered relatively recently, such as the pygmy chimpanzee, coelacanth, Komodo dragon and giant panda; and those that are believed to have become extinct relatively recently, such as the moa and Tasmanian tiger. A major theme is that these animals were generally known to local peoples, but their stories were dismissed by visiting zoologists, particularly the okapi.[5]

The author then discusses evidence for mystery animals from all over the world including the Mokele-mbembe, sea serpents and the Yeti, with an extensive bibliography. He begins by complaining that "The Press has made such a laughing-stock of the Loch Ness Monster... that no scientific commission has ever dared tackle the problem" and ends with the wish that any new species are not merely slaughtered for trophies: "Have pity on them all, for it is we who are the real monsters."

Reviewers praised the breadth of study, careful citation and the author's knowledge[4][5] but it was criticized for being somewhat shallow and "overly long and rambling."[4][6]


  • Part 1: The Great Days of Zoology are Not Done
  • Part 2: The Man-Faced Animals of South-East Asia
  • Part 3: The Living Fossils of Oceania
  • Part 4: Riddles of the Green Continent
  • Part 5: The Giants of the Far North
  • Part 6: The Lesson of the Malagasy Ghosts



  1. ^ Holden, Raymond (28 June 1959). "Time Blurred Their Trail". Book Review. The New York Times. p. 14.
  2. ^ George Gaylord Simpson, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 128, No. 1 (March 30, 1984), pp1-19 "Mammals and Cryptozoology"
  3. ^ Peter Dendle Folklore Vol 117, No. 2 (2006), pp 190-206 "Cryptozoology in the Medieval and Modern Worlds"
  4. ^ a b c D. Johnson Science New Series, Vol. 130, No. 3384 (Nov. 6, 1959), pp. 1245-1246 (book review)
  5. ^ a b C. J. Reed American Scientist Vol. 47, No. 4, 1959, p 378A (book review)
  6. ^ Marshall, N. B. (7 December 1958). "Fact and Fantasy". The Observer (1, 736). London, England. p. 16 – via Newspapers.com.

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