The Michigan Dogman is a cryptid with an interesting history. Largely regarded as a series of hoaxes, it is easy to fall in with those who do not take the “legends” seriously. While there is some evidence that could point to falseness, there are some elements to the Dogman stories that would link it to something like the rougarou or shape-shifters, although the cryptid that behaves most like this one would have to be the Goatman, which bears the similarity of being a human-beast hybrid as well as the habit of appearing near bridges and rivers.
The Dogman does not carry an ax, nor any weapon of any kind. He is usually described as a being that stands upright like a man, has the hairy body of a wolf or dog, and then a face lost somewhere between an ape and a canine. Usually the Dogman is described as being wolf-like, but there are a few cases where the witnesses described it as resembling a greyhound or wolfhound. Fur color is usually somewhere between silver or black, usually ranging on the darker end of the spectrum.
Dogman stories have no clear timeline. The creature did not garner a whole lot of attention until April 1, 1987, when a local radio station created a song about the creature titled “the Legend” as a kind of prank, intending to worry the locals or cause some sort of outbreak of rumors. What they got, however, was not the panicked calls of alarmed citizens, but rather serious-minded, well-educated folk calling to ask who wrote it, for they had seen the beast described and wanted to speak to someone who might have also had an encounter. As pranks go, it fell rather flat, and the punch-line was never really delivered, but it propelled the Dogman to fame. Stories from various time periods in the 1900’s surfaced, and even one account from the early 1800’s, where a French explorer penned an encounter with an animal he called a “loup garou”, or a werewolf.
The thing that separates the Dogman from the rougarou or other werewolf-type animals is its behavior. While surreal and strange, encounters with the Dogman are never frightening in the sense that the beast is hostile. Seeing any strange animal in the dark, which is when sightings most occur, will leave anybody with the willies, but the beast itself never becomes agitated or snarls, or even makes any advances toward those who see it. In fact, most of the time the Dogman seems to be minding his own business, and upon realizing he is being watched, he quits the scene with all due haste.
In 1961, a night watchman living in a rural area wedged between Big Rapids and Chippewa, Michigan, was fresh off a shift and was settling down on his back porch with a beer to unwind. As he sat there, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye and honed in on what he first thought was a man of some kind moving along the fence near the edge of his property. What he saw stood six to seven feet tall, with broad shoulders and a sharp, tapered snout. It was when the thing continuously switched back and forth between walking on two legs and four that he realized whatever he was looking at was more beast than man. Moving quietly as possible, he retrieved his camera from inside and snapped a picture of the beast. The sound of the lens clicking caused it to freeze, and then suddenly it was hastening away with all speed. He snapped another shot as it bounded down the road, which was the shot he submitted when he sent his story to newspapers and magazines all over the state.
Another family had multiple encounters with a strange creature near a place in Michigan called the Sandies Trails. In the mid-1970’s the father of the family was out fishing with a friend when they spotted a dog-like creature paddling toward them from the shore. They watched it with some amusement, but then noticed the creature’s body shift, its head and shoulders rising above the water as though it were wading through the shallows rather than swimming. Alarmed, the pair of friends paddled away until the strange thing was well behind them. Nearly thirty years later, the man’s son returned to the area with his own children, two daughters, and his wife and friend. They canoed out to an island in the river and intended to camp there for the night, but the son spotted something that he could not explain. It was a full moon, so the natural light was rather strong. On the opposite side of the island he could see someone standing, silhouetted like something out of a horror movie. He only caught a glimpse, but he described it as having a lupine-esque form. Like his father, he was quick to leave the area, just in case the thing he saw turned out to be a danger.
Just outside of Reed City in 1993, a young hellion snuck out to the back of her parents’ property to have a smoke. Inside her neighbor’s old, rotted barn, she saw and heard something heavy moving about, only visible to her through the fist-sized holes in the weather-beaten planks of wood. It was nighttime, so she retreated to the house for a flashlight, but upon her return could find nothing in the barn. It was empty. The very next day, however, she spoke to the neighbors, and the old woman who owned the property admitted that she, too, had seen a strange, black creature in the barn on a few different occasions over the course of the past month. They never saw it again, thankfully, as its presence filled everyone with unease.
A year later, in 1994, another girl was rollerblading in the evening in Cheboygan County when she heard a rustling in the bushes on the side of the road. Thinking it might be a deer, and wanting to observe the animal, the girl lay flat on the ground with her chin resting against her arms. But what emerged from the trees was no gentle doe. At first she thought it to be a bear, but quickly realized that the longer muzzle and tail marked it as more of a wolfish creature. She stated that the creature’s face seemed more “primitive” than a wolf, though what exactly that meant is rather unclear. The point she seemed to be trying to get across was that it looked unusual for a wolf, and these suspicions were confirmed as the animal rose up onto its back paws, standing with ease like a man as it sniffed the air before stepping into the trees on the other side, still no longer on all-fours. The girl was so stunned that she did not move for a long time, nor did she share the story with anyone until years later.
Perhaps the strangest case surrounding the Dogman occurred in 1987, oddly enough the same year that the song “The Legend” came out. Two men were on their way home after having dinner in town. Their friend owned a cabin in Sparta, Michigan, and they were visiting him. On their way into town, however, they passed something on the side of the road that startled the both of them fairly badly. A tall creature, easily seven feet tall, was just standing and watching them as they passed. They both saw it, describing it as a wolf standing on its hind legs. But the thing that makes this Dogman sighting strange is that as they drove into town and made their way to the cabin, they suddenly found themselves passing the welcome sign at the start of town for a second time. Somehow, without realizing it, they had been set back several minutes. This, of course, is quite freaky, and not something that is normally attributed to Dogman sightings. Sudden setbacks like this are a property of alien abductions, and the men also lost an hour or two as well, which they only realized when they returned to their friend and found that it was very late at night, later than either of them had expected to be back.
Dogman sightings are definitely not exclusive to Michigan, either. Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado, all have similar tales, though none so many as the state of Michigan. If you come across a strange animal in any of these states, you had better hope it is the Dogman and not a werewolf or something else. All the Dogman seems to want is to be left alone… and should his wishes be honored, he will do the same for you.