The Michigan Dogman is an alleged human-dog cryptid from the folklore of Northern Michigan.
The dogman legend may have roots in the legends of the Odawa (Ottawa) tribes of the Manistee River area in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
However, the first alleged sighting of the creature in recent history occurred in Wexford County, Michigan, in 1887. The county is part of the northwestern Lower Peninsula area, but subsequent reported sightings came from other regions of Michigan.
Cryptozoologists have compared the Michigan Dogman with the Beast of Bray Road, another alleged human-dog cryptid native to Wisconsin.
Urban legend and alleged eyewitness accounts describe the Michigan Dogman as a humanoid creature with canine traits.
It is a human-dog chimera with a human upper body and a dog or wolf’s lower body.
According to DJ Steve Cook, whose song, The Legend, helped popularize the Michigan Dogman folklore, it is an “upright, walking creature that has both human and wolflike characteristics. It is not a werewolf per se, but an actual half-man, half-dog creature.”
Michigan Dogman: Bipedal creature about 7 feet tall
Accounts typically describe the Michigan Dogman as a bipedal creature standing about 7 feet tall on its hind legs. Some reports claimed it had blue eyes, while others claimed it had orange, red, or yellowish eyes that glowed in the dark.
The creature’s howl has both human and canine qualities. It sounds like a human scream, but it also has the resonant quality of a hound or a wolf.
An alleged witness compared the sound to a banshee’s howl.
Linda Godfrey, the reporter who investigated the Beast of Bray Road sightings in the 1990s, suggested that the Manistee River sightings may be related to the Bray Road sightings.
Sightings and Tales
Reports of dogman sightings come from across the United States, especially Wisconsin, Indiana, and Mississippi.
However, the Michigan Dogman is the version unique to Michigan.
An Ottawa-Chipewa elder reportedly told Cook that tribal legends say dogmen were shapeshifting skin-walkers (medicine men) who transformed into canid beasts and found they couldn’t regain their human form. Thus, they found themselves trapped in a biological half-man, half-dog limbo.
Native American folklore claims that a dogman creature terrorized the Odawa tribes of the Manistee River area in the past.
Wexford County sighting
In Traveling Michigan’s Sunset Coast (2007), author Julie Albrecht Royce wrote that the first reported sighting in non-Native folklore occurred in Wexford County, Michigan, in 1887.
A group of lumberjacks spotted an animal they believed was a wild dog.
They decided to entertain themselves by harassing the animal. The dog attempted to escape from its tormentors by hiding inside a hollow log, but the men used a stick to poke inside it.
The animal screamed, ran out of the log, and stood upright to confront its tormentors. When the men realized they’d been pursuing a half-man, half-dog creature, they fled in terror.
At a place near Buckly in 1897, locals found a farmer slumped over his plow. He appeared to have suffered a heart attack.
However, dog-like tracks in the soil around him suggested there was more to the story.
A woman reported visions of the dogman
Later in 1907, a woman reported having terrifying dreams about fiendish half-men, half-dog creatures running around her house at night, howling like banshees.
In 1917, a sheriff found four horses harnessed to a wagon dead with their eyes wide open. There was no driver around, only canid paw prints in the sand.
Veterinarians had no idea what had happened.
The Michigan Dogman was part of a pack of wild dogs
Another alleged sighting occurred in 1937. A boat captain reported that several crew members saw a pack of wild dogs roaming the area around Bower’s Harbor.
Shortly afterward, a man, Robert Fortney, claimed he had a close encounter with a pack of wild dogs on the banks of the Muskegon River.
He killed one of the dogs with his shotgun, and the rest ran off in fright, save one that stood on its hind legs like a man and glared at Fortney through yellowish eyes.
In 1987, the dogman allegedly tried to break into a cabin. The evidence for the allegation was deep canine claw and teeth marks on the cabin door.
Dogman sightings occur in years ending with number 7
Michigan Dogman folklore suggests that sightings follow a ten-year cycle that coincides with years ending with the number 7. Thus, sightings allegedly occurred in 1887, 1897, 1907, 1917, and 1937.
It isn’t clear whether there are any local sources supporting the ten-year cycle theory besides the lyrics of a song by Traverse City DJ Steve Cook. But Cook might have sourced the stories from locals (read more about Cook’s song below).
The legend of the Michigan Dogman was largely unknown outside the local communities in Michigan until Cook’s song popularized it.
The song, released in 1987, drew attention to the alleged creature, and renewed interest in the legend.
Fishermen battled the dogman
Two local fishermen also claimed to have seen the Michigan Dogman swimming in the Manistee River toward their boat at sunset.
One of the men thought it was his old hound, but when the animal got closer, he realized it was a half-man, half-dog beast.
The creature swam in a human paddle motion rather than the paddle motion typical of canines in water.
Terrified, the men grabbed their paddles and used them to fend off the creature as it approached their boat. They eventually managed to force it to retreat.
Joe Barger sighting
Joe Barger, a truck driver and army veteran, reported a frightful encounter with the dogman while driving through the Manistee National Forest in June 2017 (see video below).
While fixing his truck on the roadside, he realized he had company. He heard something “vocalizing” in an unnatural way. He looked around and saw a shadowy figure. He assumed it was a black bear.
He was driving away when he looked into his side mirror and saw a dark figure trotting alongside his truck at about 20-25 mph.
The beast looked through the window inside the 9-foot-high truck cabin. Barger described the beast as a jet-black human-dog creature with white teeth, pointy ears, yellowish eyes, and a human-like hand. It stood at least 9 feet tall.
He pulled out his .45 Colt and fired at the creature. He fired at point-blank range and felt sure he got it. When he doubled back to the spot, the creature had disappeared into the bush.
The Legend: DJ Steve Cook sings about the dogman
Traverse City’s WTCM-FTM DJ Steve Cook played a song, The Legend, as an April Fool’s Day joke in 1987.
The song, intended as an early morning radio station prank, referenced the Michigan Dogman.
Strangely, Cook later told the Huffington Post that at the time he composed the song, he’d never heard about the dogman legend. He added that he had no idea it was part of northern Michigan folklore and that some people claimed to have seen it.
After playing the song on air, many Michiganders began calling the station, saying they had sighted the creature. Cook reportedly received more than 100 calls from people who said they had either seen the creature or knew someone who had.
When he spoke with the Huffington Post in 2012, he said he had received more than 500 reports of dogman sightings.
13-year-old Courtney spied the Michigan Dogman
According to the Huffington Post, one of the reports Cook received came from a 13-year-old girl, Courtney, of Reed City, MI. She allegedly sighted the beast in 1993 while stealing a few puffs of smoke in her backyard hideout at night.
She claimed that while looking through the planks at a nearby ban, she saw a six-foot-tall humanoid creature with a dog-like head.
A neighbor later confirmed they also saw a buffalo-sized dog in the ban. But it was not clear from the account what she’d been smoking before she sighted a half-man, half-dog creature.
A fireman from Fowlerville also claimed to have seen an ape-like creature with a dog-like head from about 100 feet.
The Gable Film
A video emerged sometime in 2007 purporting to show the Michigan Dogman. The footage, known as the Gable Film (see the video below), reportedly taken in the 1970s, allegedly showed a dogman creature.
The video caused considerable excitement among professional and amateur cryptozoologists. However, the person who claimed to have captured the video later admitted it was a hoax.
Regardless of the veracity of the claimed sightings, the success of Cook’s song popularized the legend. It became the subject of multiple popular entertainment media productions, including the 2011 movie Dogman by Rich Brauer.
|Countryside, Farmland, Forest
Traveling Michigan’s Sunset Coast. Julie Albrecht Royce (2007).
Hidden Animals: A Field Guide to Batsquatch, Chupacabra, and Other Elusive Creatures. Michael Albrecht Newton (2009).
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/michigan-dogman-upright-canine_n_2019442, “Michigan Dogman, Mysterious Upright Canine Creature, Haunts State’s Backwoods,” accessed on February 19, 2023.
https://mynorth.com/2008/09/qa-the-man-behind-michigans-dogman-legend/, “Q&A: The Man Behind Michigan’s Dogman Legend,” accessed on February 19, 2023.
https://www.ourmidland.com/news/article/Michigan-trucker-believes-he-encountered-shot-17483185.php, “Michigan trucker believes he encountered, shot the Dogman,” accessed on February 19, 2023.
https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Steve-Cook-2/The-Legend-97, “The Legend ’97,” accessed on February 19, 2023.
https://www.michiganradio.org/offbeat/2019-10-30/whos-a-good-boy-not-the-michigan-dogman, “Who’s a good boy? Not the Michigan Dogman,” accessed on February 19, 2023.