Many families that live in the Ozarks (Northern Arkansas, Southern Missouri and Oklahoma) have been there for generations. It is these families that may truly be called "local" in the Ozarks without causing an eyebrow to be raised. It is also from these families that one is most likely to hear stories about the "ozark howler", a strange dark beast that is said to roam the more isolated parts of the heavily-forested mountain range.
Among locals, stories of the ozark howler are as familiar as tales about once-governor Bill Clinton's sexual conquests. Especially among hunters, the legendary ozark howler is recognized as part of the landscape.
A question of etymology
Although many researchers have visited the Ozarks trying to determine whether the Ozark Howler actually exists, any many other outsiders have spent a great deal of time in speculation about whether the ozark howler is a subspecies of cougar or lynx, very little attention has been paid to the folklore issues of the ozark howler's origins.
The Black Cat-Like Creature of Death?
Most striking is the similarity of the Ozark Howler to the Cu Sith, or traditional black dog of Death known well to all scholars of Irish, Scottish and English folklore. This creature was described as a large, dog-like beast with dark fur and glowing eyes. The appearance of the Cu Sith was supposed to be an omen of death.
There are similar elements to folklore about the ozark howler of America. First of all, there's the general size and shape of the animal: large, stocky, black fur and glowing eyes. Ozark "locals" describe the ozark howler as a "cat-like creature" three or four feet at the shoulder (much larger than any lynx, but also point out that the beast is supposed to have a rather stocky build. The difference between a stocky cat of such a size and a large dog is not so great as one might think, especially if they are seen at night. The ozark howler is reported to be a nocturnal beast.
The most recent sightings of the ozark howler do not include the immediate death of the observer, but older reports and the resulting legends recorded by visiting university students and newspaper reporters include references to the belief that the ozark howler could cause the death of any human so unlucky as to catch its attention, merely by staring at the person.
It is important to remember that most of the oldest families of the Ozarks are of Irish, Scottish and English descent, and may well have brought their folk beliefs about the Cu Sith across the Atlantic with them.
Some local historians have speculated that the locals' legends about the Cu Sith could have been combined with Native American ancestral memories of Smilodon (sabre tooth cats) that are believed to have become extinct several thousand years ago. Others, including several prominent cryptozoologists, insist that local belief in the ozark howler is based upon the existence of a real animal with at least some of the ozark howler's traits. Such ideas have their place, but may be more speculative than scientific.