A Mythical Man-Eater: the Wobbo or Mantillit

"In Science-Gossip for June, 1867 (p.128), in an article upon an old natural history more than a century old, I described a strange beast called the Lamia. This creature is said to be bred in Libya; to decoy men to it by exposing its bosom; to have a face and breast like a beautiful woman; and its hinder parts like a goat. This is said to be the creature mentioned as the Lieliath in the 34th chapter of Isaiah and the 4th chapter of Lamentations. So runs the old chronicler.

Never having heard of the monster I was amused to read of a legend existing in modern Abyssinia regarding it, which seems to require some explanation, as it is so very circumstantial. Mansfield Parkyns says, in his very interesting work entitled "Life in Abyssinia" published by Murray in 1868 (on p.404): 

"There is an animal, which I know not where to class, as no European has hitherto succeeded in obtaining a specimen of it: it is supposed by the natives to be far more active, powerful and dangerous than even the lion, and consequently held by them in the greatest possible dread. They call it 'wobbo' or 'mantillit,' and some hold it in superstitious awe, looking upon it more in the light of an evil spirit with an animal's form than a wild beast.

Their descriptions of this animal are vague in the extreme: some say that its skin is partly that of a lion, but intermixed with that of the leopard and hyena; others, again, assert that its face is human, or very like it. It appears int he valleys, happily only rarely; for they say that when it takes its abode near a village, it pays nightly visits, entertaining the very houses, and carrying off the children, and even occasionally grown-up persons. One had been killed some years ago on the river Weney, and its skin presented to Oubi (king of Tigre); but i could never discover what became of it. I heard of a village which had suffered considerably from its depredations, and for several days watched every night in the neighbourhood, but without success."


 Hardwicke's Science Gossip, 1874.

Martigora engraving.jpg
Not really a Wobbo but a Manticore. Looks a bit similar. From Joannes Jonstonus's 1678 book.

FF Notes:

Abyssinia (Ethiopia) is nowhere near Libya so I think F.A.A's conflation of the biblical Lamia and the contemporary Wobbo is very imaginative indeed, especially considering their descriptions only coincide with their human-like faces.

But the idea of the Wobbo or Mantillit is rather interesting - that the creature sneaking up on them in the night isn't merely a big cat after some dinner, but something more supernatural.

Mr Cryptozoology, Karl Shuker, says on his blog:
The Ethiopian wobo is known chiefly from the baffling pelt formerly exhibited at the principal cathedral of Eifag. According to Ethiopia's Amhara and Tigré inhabitants, the wobo is larger than a lion and yellowish-brown or brownish-grey in colour with black stripes. Sceptics dismiss the Eifag skin as a tiger Panthera tigris pelt brought there from Asia by a traveller or merchant, but as the wobo is a familiar beast to many Ethiopians, this is not a satisfactory explanation - especially when an identical creature, dubbed the abu sotan, has been reported from the mountains near the River Rahad in neighbouring Sudan.
Curiously, I don't see any place called 'Eifag' in Ethiopia. Or anywhere.  There's a Ifag / Yifag but I don't know if it's a big enough sort of place you'd find a cathedral (this page suggests it was once important for trade and had excellent wine). Maybe I'm wrong, but the internet is certainly devoid of much information. So that's a bit bemusing. And it's been copied all over the internet. Naughty Mr Shuker and lazy copiers. I wonder if it's been taken from the original Mr Cryptozoology, Bernard Heuvelman's book (in French)  'Les Felins Encore Inconnus d'Afrique' and is some sort of translatery misunderstanding.

So beware of repeating things you've read on the internet. Obviously I don't doubt in the human-faced Wobbo. But it sounds as elusive as the Eifag cathedral.