The ahool is a flying cryptid, supposedly a giant bat, or by other accounts, a living pterosaur or flying primate. Such a creature is unknown to science and there is no objective evidence that it exists as claimed.
Like many cryptids, it is not well documented, and little reliable information – and in this case, no material evidence – exists. Named for its distinctive call A-hool (other sources render it ahOOOooool), it is said to live in the deepest rainforests of Java. It is described as having a monkey/ape-like head with large dark eyes, large claws on its forearms (approximately the size of an infant), and a body covered in gray fur. Possibly the most intriguing and astounding feature is that it is said to have a wingspan of 3 m (10 ft). This is almost twice as long as the largest (known) bat in the world, the common flying fox.
According to Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, it was first described by Dr. Ernest Bartels while exploring the Salak Mountains on the island of Java.
One speculation on its existence by the cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson is that it might be a relative of Kongamato in Africa. Others have suggested it were a living fossil pterosaur, on account of its supposedly leathery wings. As is known today, most pterosaurs seem to have had wings that were covered with a downy fluff to prevent heat loss; this may or may not have been necessary in a tropical environment depending on these animals’ metabolism. On the other hand, there might be an entirely mundane explanation:
Two large earless owls exist on Java, the Spotted Wood-owl (Strix seloputo) and the Javan Wood-owl (Strix (leptogrammica) bartelsi). They are intermediate in size between the Spotted Owl of North America or the Tawny Owl of Eurasia, and an eagle owl (horned owl), being 40-50 cm (16-20 in) long and with a wingspan of perhaps 1.20 meters (4 ft). Despite this discrepancy, wingspans are usually overestimated in flying animals not held in hand (see also Thunderbird), especially by frightened observers.
Size nonwithstanding, the Javan or Bartels’s Wood-owl seems an especially promising candidate to resolve the ahool enigma: it has a conspicuous flat "face" with large dark eyes exaggerated by black rings of feathers and a beak that protrudes but little, and it appears greyish-brown when seen from below. Its call is characteristic, a single shout, given intermittently, and sounding like HOOOH!. Like most large owls, it is highly territorial in breeding season and will frighten away intruders by mock attacks from above and behind. Its flight, being an owl, is nearly completely silent, so that the victim of such sweeps usually becomes aware of the owl when it is homes in snarling and with outstretched talons (held at "breast" height to the observer), and would just have time to duck away. The Javan Wood-owl is a decidedly rare and elusive bird not often observed even by ornithologists, and hides during day. It is found in remote montane forest at altitudes of probably around 1000-1500 meters, and does not tolerate well human encroachment, logging and other disturbances.
From its appearance and behavior, the Javan Wood-owl matches the characteristics of the ahool surprisingly well, despite the cryptid at first glance giving the impression of a mammal. Observer error due to the circumstances of being dive-bombed in a remote gloomy forest by a fierce snarling and clawing bird may well account for the apparent discrepancies. Nonwithstanding, the wood-owls of Java are not generally mentioned in cryptozoological discussions of the ahool, and most authors of cryptozoologial works seem to be entirely unaware of the birds’ existence. Be that as it may, it is not resolved how well the owls are known to locals, especially the local name – if any – and whether they are present in locations of ahool reports would seem to be highly relevant. It is also possible that the cry and the flying animal are not identical; even the local population is sometimes unaware which jungle animal makes which vocalization.
1. Coleman & Clark (1999), page 26.
2. Named in honor of M.E.G. Bartels, the father of Ernest
3. Description details from Holt et al. (1999)
4. Bats, including megabats, are either silent to the human ear or produce high-pitched shrieks; if threatened they may also snarl. The known bats are physically incapable to produce the loud calls ascribed to the ahool
5. For example, though it can be reasonably well conjectured from its relatives little actual field data exists at which altitudes they are found (Holt et al. 1999).
- Coleman, Loren & Clark, Jerome (1999): Cryptozoology A to Z: the encyclopedia of loch monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabaras, and other authentic mysteries of nature. Fireside, New York. ISBN 0-684-85602-6
- Holt, Denver W., Berkley, Regan; Deppe, Caroline; Enríquez Rocha, Paula L.; Olsen, Penny D.; Petersen, Julie L.; Rangel Salazar, José Luis; Segars, Kelley P. & Wood, Kristin L. (1999): Family Strigidae (typical owls). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (eds): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds: 76-242, plates 4-20. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-25-3
- Shuker, Karl (2003): The Beasts That Hide From Man. Paraview, New York.ISBN 1-931044-64-3
A free article from Wikipedia under the terms of the GNU. Date retrieved: May 27, 2008.