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The Winged Serpent of Wales   

             From Dragons, A Natural History By Dr. Karl Shuker

       As recently as the mid-1800s, flying snakes of amazing beauty, with ornate feathered wings, were believed to inhabit Glamorgan in Wales. According to one old man who lived at Penllyne in Glamorgan and died early in the twentieth century, the woods around Penllyne castle contained many of these extraordinary creatures when he was a boy. They were said to be brilliant in color, as if spangled with sparkling gemstones, and, like the peacock's train, their wings often bore eyes; some also had rainbow-hued crests.

        Yet despite their exquisite appearance, the winged serpents were slaughtered by local people as if they were merely vermin because they preyed upon the farmers' poultry. Indeed, the old man's father and uncle had killed several when he was a youngster. Now, they were apparently extinct. Flying serpents were also reported at Penmark Place, where one elderly woman claimed that there had even been a "king" and "queen" of these winged wonders.

         If such serpents really did exist, what could they have been? Millions of years ago, Britain was home to Kuehneosaurus, an elongated lizard-like beast, whose ribs were extended to form a pair of membranous wing-like structures that may have enabled it to glide through the air. Today, a similar creature still exists in the humid jungles of Southeast Asia and is aptly known as Draco volans, or "flying dragon." It is not native to Europe, however, and even if some had escaped from captivity into the woodlands of Wales, they would not have survived in its climate.

         It has been suggested that brightly colored serpents with feathered wings spied in the Vale of Edeyrnion in 1812 may have been cock pheasants, which were unfamiliar there. But this theory doesn't explain the serpents' liking for poultry, and it is not likely that a pheasant could be mistaken for a flying snake. There might once have been proof of their existence, for the Penmark woman stated that her grandfather had killed one of these beasts and kept its feathered skin until, after he died, his relatives discarded it. If they had been less eager to do so, science may have been able to unveil the identity of Wales's winged serpents.


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