Camahueto—The Chilean Water Bull/Unicorn


The indigenous people of the Chiloé Archipelago, an island chain off the coast of southern Chile, have a legend of a greenish cow-like creature with strong claws and teeth, and a single horn protruding from its head. The animal’s horn is said to hold immense power; machis (shamans), usually women, use the horn make medicines that treat all sorts of maladies.

Legend holds that a camahueto is born every 25 years. The creatures are born deep inside the earth under a hill by the sea. After birth, the camahueto violently burrows its way to the surface and rushes to the ocean where it will dwell. On its way to the sea, the camahueto scars the landscape with its horn cutting trenches. Machis are said to know exactly when a camehueto is being born; they await the camahueto’s violent journey to the sea, holding lassos. As the creature makes its way to the water, the machi lassos it and removes its horn. The machi then bandages the wound and sets the animal free. Supposedly, regeneration occurs and the horn of the camahueto grows back.

This unusual beast is most certainly a myth. There are few sightings, at least documented sightings, to draw from. However, legends and myths come from somewhere—how did this myth originate? It could be that the violence of the camahueto’s birth and migration to the ocean is a way that prehistoric people sought to explain seismic activity. The story could also serve as a creation myth of sorts—the gouges carved into the landscape by the creature is the origin of streams and other features.

The camahueto as we know it today might borrow from another myth—unicorns. Like the unicorn, the camahueto has mystical powers in its single horn. Unicorn legends flourished in Europe; some believe that the Spanish conquistadors brought the legends of unicorns to the New World; once there, the legends became intermingled with those of the camahueto.

Leave a Reply