Horror lovers often indulge in exploring stories of mysterious creatures around the world. Often, these creatures are also referred to as cryptids, or animals not recognized by mainstream biology. A study of cryptids around the world can always yield interesting and sometimes scary results. This is certainly true of the legend of the Mngwa cat of Tanzania.

The Mngwa cat, along with other stellar mysterious animals like the Ningen, the Kongamoto, the Grafton Monster, and the Ahool, is a cryptid, and a famous one at that. The story of the Mngwa cat originates in Tanzania and is a fascinating one to explore. Let us look at the Mngwa mythology, history, and stories associated with the creature.

The Background of the Mngwa

The legend of Mngwa is a Swahili legend. The name, in the Swahili language, translates roughly to “the strange one.” The cat is also sometimes called Nunda, which is Swahili for “a fierce animal.” Over the years, a number of sightings of this cat, along with a number of harmful, even fatal attacks of people have been reported in Tanzania.

In appearance, the Mngwa is apparently close to a large cat. However, it is reportedly larger in size than most feline animals, with its size being closer to a donkey or a medium-sized horse. They have broad, muscular bodies and their tails are thick. The coats on the Mngwa are of grey color and have a brindle pattern, similar to a tabby cat or a civet, with spots near their eyes. Their tracks, while having the appearance of leopard tracks, are more akin in size to lion tracks.

The Mngwa might also have a mane like a lion, as evidenced by the grey tufts of hair found near or on the person of reported victims of this cryptid. Mngwa attacks have been reported in Tanzania since the early 19th century with the most recent being reported in the 1930s. Apart from humans, the Mngwa also reportedly attack livestock from time to time — similar to the infamous Chupacabra.

Understanding the Mngwa

The backstory of the Mngwa is rooted in Tanzanian folklore. According to legendary Mngwa stories, Sultan Majnun, a rich nobleman, had a pet cat that started growing at a rapid pace and eating animals like chicken. Soon, the cat started killing and eating bigger prey, progressing from calves and goats to a cow, a horse, and a camel. Finally, the cat started eating humans, first children and then fully-grown adults.


Throughout this time, the Sultan kept defending the cat and refused to take any steps to stop the killings. This continued over time as the cat kept terrorizing the town, driving it to near-desertion in the areas near its lair. People flocked to the Sultan’s court asking for help with the cat, but they were all turned away.

Eventually, a day came when the Sultan, along with his six sons, decided to go on a tour of the country. During this tour, the cat ambushed them and killed three of his children. The Sultan finally broke down, christened the beast “Nunda,” and ordered it killed. Eventually, the cat was found by the seventh son of the Sultan, who killed it and ended this reign of terror.

The Story So Far

According to legend, the Mngwa is carnivorous and possesses an extremely aggressive nature. Its primal instinct is to kill and eat. It lives alone, and it usually hunts and kills alone too. They are also extremely difficult to see or find. This is bolstered the fact that while many have reported sightings of the Mngwa, not one specimen has been killed or captured. There are reports of a few being killed by hunters but none would return with the bodies as evidence.

For the course of about a month, the Mngwa reportedly went on a spree in the fishing villages of Tanzania, killing and eating many people and leaving the villages terrorized. The victims of these attacks would often have grey hair with a brindle pattern lying around their bodies, bolstering the belief that this was the work of the Mngwa. The attacks suddenly stopped after a while.


William Hitchens, in 1922, reportedly sent a tuft of grey hair, seemingly from a Mngwa cat, to a lab for analysis, where the results were inconclusive. In 1954, hunter Patrick Bowen wrote a column on the Mngwa, specifying information about the tracks and nature of the animal. The most credible theory about the Mngwa so far comes from Bernard Heuvelmans, a cryptozoologist, who inferred that the Mngwa, like the genetically mutated King Cheetah, might be a color morph – an abnormally colored variant of a large cat species like the African golden cat.

An Enduring Legend

For centuries, the legend of the Mngwa cat has delighted horror lovers and those with interest in cryptids. Sightings, personal stories, and anecdotal experiences have added further fuel to the fire, keeping the the notorious Mngwa history and legend alive and well.


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#Monster horror | #Folk horror | #Capital M monsters

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Featured image courtesy of John Conway

Last Updated on May 17, 2022.

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