The Tatzelwurm is an Alpine dragon-like creature with two legs near the front of the body.
It is known in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. It is aggressive, reported to attack livestock and, sometimes, humans. It ranges in size from two to six feet, with two legs in front of the body forcing it to slither or drag itself along the ground. Many accounts claim it is stumpy, with short legs and a wide snake-like body. Very rarely it is said to have four legs, but these are usually too small to be useful. In either case, the animal is said to have three large claws on each foot. Rearing up to intimidate prey or threats is common, as is making disconcerting noises that scare humans. It is sometimes described as having cat-like features, including large eyes and ear-like structures, but it has an overall reptilian appearance. In some stories, it is highly poisonous.
The first known story involving the creature includes two of them appearing before a farmer, Hans Fuchs. In some retellings of this story, as well as one of the most popular paintings of the beast, the tatzelwurms are attacking a pig. No matter what their target, their appearance seems to have so upset Fuchs that he died of a heart attack after running home and telling his family about the horrible creatures he just saw. Reports have been made as recently as the 1970s, but in modern times interest and reports have dwindled to the point that cryptozoologist believe that if it ever did exist, it is now extinct. Two of the most famous reports involve “evidence” in the form of a skeleton supposedly donated to the Geneva Institute after a single photograph was taken before it was “lost” and a photograph taken in 1934 by Belkin. Both are considered to be falsified, although the photograph sparked enough interest for the Berliner Illustrierte to put together an expedition in search of the creature. Nothing was found, and public interest in the creature was lost.
This creature is a variant of the heraldic lindworm, and has several different regional names. While Tatzelwurm, the most common term for the creature, translates to “clawed worm,” other names include Bergstutzen (“mountain stump”), Springwurm (“jumping wyrm”), and Stollenwurm (“tunnel snake”). The latter name is also used for a creature found in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, which are built similarly to this monster. The tatzelwurm and stollenwurm, along with a beast with the alternatively spelled name “tatzlwurm,” also appear as monsters in the Final Fantasy video game series, although these renditions resemble more traditional western dragons, each sporting wings and legs capable of holding the body off the ground. Some cryptozoologists believe it is a relation of the Gila Monster, or even some variant of otter.