Lemisch

The lemisch, meaning “water tiger” in Tehuelche, is an aggressive otter-like creature native to Patagonia. It is described as comparable in size to a cougar, with short, coarse, brown hair, a circle of lighter hair around the eyes, and large canine teeth. It has webbed toes and a long tail similar to an otter’s. It is also described as having either very small or no external ears. 

The first recorded sighting of a lemisch was in the 1870s, when a Tehuelche man named Hompen told Argentine paleontologist Carlos Ameghino that while he was going by the Senguer river in Santa Cruz, he saw a lemisch on the road, blocking his way. It refused to move, so he killed it. In his report, it also said that many Indigenous elders told him that lemisches were much more common when they were children, which would have been roughly in the 1810s.

In 1870, British explorer George Musters heard stories of lemisch from the local Mapuche people. In the same stretch of river Hompen killed a lemisch, Musters claimed to have seen two mauled rhea carcasses floating in the river, with wounds consistent with a lemisch's attack.

In 1900, French naturalist André Tournouer saw a round-headed, earless animal about the size of a cougar pop its head out of the middle of a stream during his expedition into Patagonia. He shot at it, but either missed, or it somehow had no effect.


In 2014, a man contacted Austin Whittall, a cryptozoologist specializing in Patagonian cryptids, claiming he saw a lemisch near Puerto Natales. The man said that when he was travelling back into town in the early morning on route 9, an animal suddenly crossed the road, and he had to brake to avoid hitting it. He claimed it appeared almost identical to Whittall’s sketch of a lemisch, but it had a swollen stomach, which the witness assumed because it may have been pregnant. Unlike most descriptions of lemisches, this witness claimed it was only about the size of a dog.

The Lemisch is very similar in appearance and behaviour to the Amazon giant river otter, a known species of otter that can grow to be just under eight feet long, comparable to the lemisch. Perhaps Amazon giant river otters have a larger range than what is currently thought, or have a more southern relative living in Patagonia.

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

Lemisch (unknown artist)
press to zoom
An Amazon giant river otter
press to zoom
The Senguerr River, where various lemisch sightings have occurred
press to zoom
Lemisch (unknown artist)
press to zoom
An Amazon giant river otter
press to zoom
The Senguerr River, where various lemisch sightings have occurred
press to zoom