Posted by: John Kirk on February 28th, 2006
Tony Xavier was my mother’s first cousin. Tony and his family lived on a huge farm outside of the bustling metropolis of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Xavier family busied themselves with raising cattle, crops and enjoying the good life that a successful enterprise can bring.
Brazil is well-known for a number of cryptids such as the Sucuriju Gigante (a gigantic variety of snake), the Mapinguari (bipedal hominid) and the Holodeira a mystery aquatic beast with a serrated back known to inhabit the Amazon.
Tony Xavier was about to encounter another cryptid unbeknownst to him. One night while driving home to the farm Tony caught site of something on the side of the road, as he drew closer to the object, it moved out into the middle of the road. He could see, in the beam of his headlights, a very large cat, like none he had seen before.
This mystery felid was so different from the jaguars that haunt the Amazon forests and was certainly no cougar. After a moment or two the mystery cat bounded into the bush leaving Tony shaking his head at what he had seen.
Upon returning to his farm, he asked the farmhands about any strange cats thought to lurk around the farm and described what he had seen to them. They looked at him in amazement and could not believe Tony’s good fortune. You see Tony was born in Hong Kong to a respected Portuguese/Spanish family and had only moved to Brazil in the early 1950’s, for a foreigner to have seen an animal that few Brazilians ever had was indeed an astonishing stroke of luck.
The farm workers told Tony that this species of cat was unknown to most people and was only seen deep in the depths of the jungle. Most of them had never seen it for themselves and had only heard from others about their brief sightings. They said the creature had a light covered coat and part of the animal was spotted, I know not where, but it was not a leopard or a jaguar. The farmhands told him that the cat was known as an Onca, but not the jaguar that is known by that (Panthera onca), and that it was very rarely ever seen. For it to have been out on a road near a farm within earshot of Brazil’s largest city was even more remarkable.
Tony was so excited by this discovery that he felt compelled to write to my mother – who had an interest in the unusual – about his sighting. At that time I was in my mid teens and not yet interested in cryptozoology, but remember my mother vividly relating the contents of Tony’s letter to me. I can remember how great I thought it was that someone could run into an animal nobody has ever heard of before. This obviously was a precursor of what was to become my life’s passion some years later.
The description of the Onca and its name are remarkably similar to that of a cryptozoological cat that has only been reported from Mexico so far. In the Sierra Madre Occidental region the cat is known as the Onza. It is alleged to have faint stripes on its shoulders and back as well as spots on its legs. When I came to know the late Richard Greenwell, I told him about cousin Tony’s encounter with the Onca and he was stunned to hear of a report from a location that is over 1,500 kilometres from where the creature was previously thought to be lurking. Richard was keenly interested in the Onza and he listened with fascination to the suggestion that there was the distinct possibility that there might be a counterpart to this creature in Brazil.
Richard was given at least three purported Onza skulls during his lifetime and then, in 1986, Richard obtained a complete carcass of what was purported to be an Onza but in fact turned out to be a common cougar. The Onza mystery in Mexico has never been resolved.
Another animal in Brazil is known as the Onca-anguc which is alleged to be found in Mato Grosso state. The extraordinary Marc van Roosmalen, discoverer of several new monkey species in Brazil, heard from locals in the Aripuana that a mystery cat called the Onca-cangucu lived in the area. It had black fur with a white ruff and a tail that was tufted. The locals offered van Roosmalen a skin and skull of the animal in 2001, but so far have not lived up to their promises. This has left van Roosmalen pondering if the animal isn’t really a black species of the Jaguar (Panthera onca)
This is the extent of my limited knowledge of the Onca. I would be interested to know from any Brazilian readers to Cryptomundo, if you might have any other info you could share with us about this incredibly rare and unknown cat. You can share your info in the comments section below.
One of the founders of the BCSCC, John Kirk has enjoyed a varied and exciting career path. Both a print and broadcast journalist, John Kirk has in recent years been at the forefront of much of the BCSCC’s expeditions, investigations and publishing. John has been particularly interested in the phenomenon of unknown aquatic cryptids around the world and is the author of In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (Key Porter Books, 1998). In addition to his interest in freshwater cryptids, John has been keenly interested in investigating the possible existence of sasquatch and other bipedal hominids of the world, and in particular, the Yeren of China. John is also chairman of the Crypto Safari organization, which specializes in sending teams of investigators to remote parts of the world to search for animals as yet unidentified by science. John travelled with a Crypto Safari team to Cameroon and northern Republic of Congo to interview witnesses among the Baka pygmies and Bantu bushmen who have sighted a large unknown animal that bears more than a superficial resemblance to a dinosaur. Since 1996, John Kirk has been editor and publisher of the BCSCC Quarterly which is the flagship publication of the BCSCC. In demand at conferences, seminars, lectures and on television and radio programs, John has spoken all over North America and has appeared in programs on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, TLC, Discovery, CBC, CTV and the BBC. In his personal life John spends much time studying the histories of Scottish Clans and is himself the president of the Clan Kirk Society. John is also an avid soccer enthusiast and player.