Elwetritsch, Bestia palatinensis

The Elwetritsch is reported to be found in southwest Germany and is a bird-like mythical creature that inhabits the underbrush and under vines of the region. Its origin is believed to be a result of crossbreeding between chicken, ducks and geese, and mythical creatures such as elves and goblins.

They are described as a type of fowl with long beaks and sometimes having antlers; and that they lay eggs during the breeding season. They are considered to be very shy but curious creatures. An inspiration for the Elwetritsch could be derived from wild rabbits infected with a virus that causes tumors that resemble antlers to grow on the animal.

The stories of these mythical creatures are widespread around Germany. There are also fountains and sculptures of the Elwetritsch that were created in various cities around Germany. The Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants in America are believed to have brought Elwetritschen with them so they wouldn’t become homesick, and tales of the creature are also popular amongst the Amish communities.

Elwetritsch are also part of a traditional hunt similar to a hunting snipe, where a catcher is equipped with a lantern and potato sack to capture the creature. The catcher is led into an area where the Elwetritsch lives and waits for the beaters to scare the creature to the catcher. The lantern is supposed to draw the curious creature toward it, then the catcher can capture it. However, the only one who doesn’t know that this is a prank is the catcher; all the others in the hunting party will leave the catcher alone and eventually the catcher will realize it was a prank when no creature comes.

There are clubs in several cities that encourage the myth of the creature. The oldest club was formed in 1982 named the Elwetrittche-club in Landau. There is also a square dancing club that annually promotes an Elwetritsch hunt, an academy named after the creature, a college for tritschology, and exhibitions of this mythical creature in the zoos of Landau and Kaiserslautem.

Displays of the creatures can be found in Dahn — a fountain, a lecture trail, a hiking trail, and a memorial in the municipal park, as well as a local club having the Elwetritsch as a mascot. In Winnweiler, a local brewery also uses the creature as a mascot.

Image Caption: Statue of a male Elwetritsch. Credit: Ramessos/Wikipedia