The Taxidermied Canid No One Can Identify

“All animals are equal — but some animals are more equal than others.” —George Orwell, “Animal Farm”

In A Nutshell

In 1886, a mysterious creature was on the loose in Madison Valley, Montana. Mormon settler Israel A. Hutchins shot and killed the animal the second time it roamed onto his ranch. He then sold it to local taxidermist Joseph Sherwood, who stuffed it, dubbed it the “ringdocus,” and put it on display. Over a century later, it has yet to be identified.

The Whole Bushel

One morning in 1886, Israel Ammon Hutchins awoke to find a mystery beast loose on his land.

Hutchins had moved to Madison Valley, Montana, for the same reason many Americans were settling west: fertile, cheap land provided more opportunity for his family than did anything back East. But Hutchins probably didn’t expect to run into an unknown predator—a ferocious-looking animal that seemed to be part wolf, part hyena.

The first time Hutchins spotted the creature—which was running after his cows—he took a shot at it and missed, accidentally killing one of his own cows. The second time it wandered onto his property, his shot found its mark: The creature was fatally wounded, though it exerted the remainder of its strength attempting to reach and harm the Hutchins family.

During the month between the creature’s visits to the Hutchins ranch, it had terrorized the livestock of Madison Valley, preying upon cows and sheep. Its bloodcurdling cries kept residents fearful. Hutchins traded the beast’s body to local taxidermist Joseph Sherwood for a new cow. Sherwood mounted the animal—which he named “ringdocus”—and displayed it in his shop across the Idaho border.

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The ringdocus was popularized by Hutchins’ grandson, naturalist Ross Hutchins, who mentioned it in his autobiography. Cryptozoologists Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark later linked the ringdocus to the shunka warak’in, a creature from Native American folklore in Cryptozoology A to Z. The mount went missing in the 1980s. Jack Kirby, also a grandson of Hutchins, made a mission of finding it. He tracked it to the Idaho Museum of Natural History in 2007, which then allowed the ringdocus to be displayed at the Madison Valley History Museum.

The ringdocus has never been scientifically identified. It’s unknown why the animal has yet to receive DNA testing or an X-ray analysis—the Madison Valley History Museum may lack the proper rights to authorize such inquiries, as the Idaho Museum of Natural History is still allegedly the owner. It’s also possible that a formal identification could ruin its quality as a museum exhibit.

Show Me The Proof

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Mystery monster returns home after 121 years
Travel Channel: Montana’s Mysterious Beast (video)
Cryptomundo: Shunka Warak’in: DNA Results?
Photo credit: Lance Foster