Call of the Cryptid: Adjule, or the Kelb-el-khela (‘bush dog’) of North Africa


The African Adjule. Is it a wild animal “resembling a dog,” or just an actual wild dog? It’s easy to dismiss a crypid, but there may be unknown dogs out there.

In his “Just So Stories” (published in 1912), Rudyard Kipling wrote of a woman taming a wild dog. Offering it a roasted mutton-bone, she calls to it: “Wild Thing out of Wild Woods, taste and try.” The dog likes it very much and says, “O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, give me another.” She could have tossed it another, but has a bright idea.

The woman proposes that, in order to attain such treats, the beast must help her man hunt, and guard the family cave. In little time, the dog responds, “O my Friend and Wife of my Friend, I will help your Man to hunt through the day, and at night I will guard your Cave.” To this day, this largely summarizes man’s experience with canines.

Although dogs can still be wild, and still attack people, even then they are demystified. We usually understand dogs, even when they go rogue. In fact, we tend to understand them better than we do people. Nevertheless, some cryptids challenge the structural bonds of man and canine.

One such cryptid is the Adjule, or the Kelb-el-khela (“bush dog”) of North Africa. It is said to be different from regular dogs, though most descriptions aren’t very specific. Adjules are said to exist in the Sahara Desert — though it’s unclear what territorial limits they have. Frankly, there doesn’t seem like much information on what the Adjule looks like.

While this helps it look like hogwash, it’s possible that there are some freaky, largely unknown dogs out there. The nomadic Tuaregs claim to have seen Adjules. French naturalist and explorer Théodore Monod wrote of them as well, back in 1928. It’s just difficult to find an Adjule expert and say, “Tell me everything!” The Adjule appears in the video game Resident Evil 5, but that’s just a wild canine monster, and the Adjule legend exists apart from contemporary video game culture.

Is the “Bush Dog” Just a Wild Dog?

In a way, this is the wrong kind of question. By definition the Adjule is a wild dog. The question is, what kind of wild dog is it? Could someone find one and tame it, like Rudyard Kipling’s little legend? Could you feed it turkey scraps under the dinner table?

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Generally speaking, we know that dogs, and all living things, can attain genetic distinctions over time. Some species are more belligerent than others, and they’re bound to have different physical traits. So it’s not simply a matter of saying, “I believe!” If there is a mystery, people can take steps to solve it — as some have done with the infamous Chupacabra.

This legendary “bush dog” has some very mundane explanations. It could just be a dog with mange, like the Chupacabra is said to be. Also, it really could be an unknown — or rarely seen — dog species. For example, the New Guinea highland wild dog was thought to be extinct, but was proven to still exist in 2016. That species hadn’t been seen for about 50 years! Read more about it at National Geographic.

Similarly, where I’m from (Upper Michigan), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been downplaying the existence of cougars in the area, even though it’s well known that some are around. While I’m not sure why the DNR downplays or denies it, we at least don’t attempt to make the creature more mysterious than it has to be. It’s not as fascinating as a “monster” and legends are still fun, but we don’t necessarily confuse fact with legend.

How We Could Find an Adjule

For the sake of argument, let’s say a very weird dog species must exist out there? How would we find it and disprove the naysayers? Few people will play “Pokémon Go” in the Sahara Desert, looking for long-lost dog species. Still, some people could be inspired to look for such things. After all, anyone who watches nature shows knows that, even in today’s world, not everything is known.

Fortunately, there a size advantage to discovering certain creatures. If you’re looking for a cryptid, it’ll be easier finding (or debunking) a “vampire elk” than some elusive insect. In the world of cryptids, size matters. Knowledge of general animal behavior would also aid such a quest. In this case, we know of “alpha” dog behaviors, and how wild dogs generally hunt in packs. We can also envision a territorial range for the creatures, and look at historical accounts of comparable canines.

Why the Adjule is Fun

The Adjule is fun because it links something mundane — a dog species — with something mysterious and vaguely monster-like. Just as the Chupacabra has “vampire-like” abilities, Resident Evil 5 treats the Adjule as some sort of John Carpenter monster. In any case, the “Dark Continent” bush dog is an interesting cryptid, and I doubt its legend is over yet.

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