Folklore of the United States has an endless array of characters and creatures to choose from, so Call of the Cryptid covers the ball-tailed cat with caution (and scant information). The primary (and almost only) source of “information” on this creature is Henry Harrington Tryon’s 1939 book, aptly titled, F E A R S O M E C R I T T E R S. This book is apparently the main umbrella source for practically all information on this imaginary species of animal. You can find it in Google Books, or by following this handy dandy link.
So, what can be said about this creature? For starters, it’s a cat with a bulbous mass on its tail that can be used as a weapon. That’s sort of cool, so it’s odd that this mythic creature doesn’t get more attention, or that people haven’t pretended it’s a real thing. There are other cool creatures like it, too, such as the digmaul or silvercat (which has a nice ring to it). In fact, I could only find vague, tenuous allusions to the creature in modern pop culture, with the most prominent being the “Silvercat Ring” powerup in the Dark Souls video game franchise. It’s a stretch, but the tail of the cat in the ring does vaguely resemble drawings of a ball-tailed cat (and I do emphasize the word “vaguely”).
Ball-tailed cat and the main source
I suck at remembering people’s names, let alone those of dinosaurs, but the ball-tailed cat instantly reminded me of a dinosaur whose name I had to rediscover: The Ankylosaurus. Discovered in the early 1900s, the bad-ass Ankylosaurus most likely used its own ball-tail as a weapon. As Fearsome Critters author Henry Harrington Tryon was apparently born in 1888, he (and others) certainly could have heard of the Ankylosaurus and its built-in bodily weapon. On that note: Who couldn’t be inspired by the idea of a deadly, reptilian, whip-like tail that might be powerful enough to decapitate a man?
The ball-tailed cat is also a very deadly mythic cat. Henry Harrington Tryon explains that “this species has the stealthy habit of lying out on a limb, and when the unsuspecting lumberjack passes beneath, the Cat drops on its victim and pounds him to death with the ball. In the rutting season, the male uses this instrument to call the female by drumming on a hollow log.” Now that would be a strange yet compelling National Geographic segment!
Is it a cryptid (are there any reported ball-tailed cat sightings)?
It could be I’m a bad cryptid researcher, but I personally couldn’t find anyone claiming to have truly seen a ball-tailed cat, and it doesn’t seem like it was frequently depicted in popular works of fiction during the same time period of Henry Harrington Tryon’s book. The ball-tailed cat’s origin does not appear to be a subject of much debate.
For example, I couldn’t find authorities claiming it to be simply a misidentification of the Puma concolor (or cougar). Of course, if the ball-tailed cat did exist, every expert would assert that the wildcat is (or was) a distinct species.
Despite the creature’s less familiar bulbous tail, it seems the ball-tailed cat shares many traits with the puma, including general size, musculature, claws, and a similar sinewy tail. Additionally, one reasonably assumes both the wildcat and the “ball-tailed cat” would have similar cat faces, with flat noses and thin black lips.
While the first mention I could find of the ball-tailed cat was made by Tyron, it’s possible he didn’t just make it up himself but gathered the info from folk tales. Lastly, Wikipedia mentions the fictional being as named “Felis caudaglobosa.” Of course, all great, reputable researchers use Wikipedia as a primary source!
What are your thoughts on the ball-tailed cat? Meow, roar, or hiss at us in the comments!