Fur-bearing trout

From Kook Science

Fur-Bearing Trout
a.k.a. Beaver trout, furry trout, polar trout, shaggy trout
Prop. tax. Piscis tructa hirsutus[1]
Country Canada, Iceland, United States of America

The fur-bearing trout (furry trout, shaggy trout, polar trout, beaver trout) is a cryptid species of trout reported to exist in polar and sub-arctic waters, as well as select lakes of certain northerly states of the United States of America, noted for the distinctive fur coat, white or brown, that it is said to grow. It has been popularised as an object of taxidermy art.


Loðsilungur, the Toxic Shaggy Trout of Iceland (1854)

  • Davidsson, Olaf (Oct. 1900), "The Folk-Lore of Icelandic Fishes", The Scottish Review 36: 312-332, 

    On the shores of lakes in the north of Iceland there have sometimes been found strange and ugly fishes resembling trout, which neither dogs nor birds of prey would eat. These were doubtless specimens of the 'shaggy trout' (lod-silungur), also a very poisonous fish. One of these was cast on shore at Svína-vatn in 1854 and an illustration of it is given in the newspaper Nordri for 1855. It was very unlike an ordinary trout both in shape and in colour. On its lower jaw and its neck it had reddish hair, forming a kind of beard. There were also hairy patches on its sides and hair on its fins, so there can be no doubt it was a shaggy trout though the writer of the article in Nordri does not say so.

Fur-Bearing Trout of the Arkansas River in Colorado (1877, 1938)

A Leadville Legend

  • Ellis, Amanda M. (1959), "VIII. (On the Leadville Fur Bearing Trout)", The Strange, Uncertain Years: an Informal Account of Life In Six Colorado Communities, Hamden, Conn.: Shoe String Press, p. 203, 205,;id=mdp.39015013258739;view=1up;seq=227;num=203 

    There are a number of legends about Leadville. Among the most interesting is that about fur bearing trout. It says that in the winter of 1877 and 1878 the miners in Leadville, Colorado, ate so much venison that the venison tallow became so caked to the roofs of their mouths that they were unable to taste their coffee and other beverages. "Often they eliminated this handicap by wiring a bundle of pitch splinters on the top of their heads and setting fire to it. The result was that nearly ninety seven percent of the miners in the camp became baldheaded.”

    In the spring a “gentleman from Kentucky” who sold hair tonic came to Leadville to avoid trouble with government agents who tried to collect the heavy tax on his product. In the mining town, he manufactured hair tonic which he sold to the miners greatly in need of his product. One rainy summer evening as he was coming to town with four jugs of hair tonic, one in each hand and one under each arm, he crossed a trout stream emptying into the Arkansas. Somehow, he slipped and dropped two jugs which broke as they struck rocks in the stream.

    Before long, legend says, fishermen were amazed to find they caught fur bearing trout in that stream. The anglers soon found that by going down to the creek on Saturday afternoon, wearing a white coat, sticking a red, white, and blue barber pole in the bank, brandishing a copy of the Police Gazette and a pair of scissors, and yelling, “next”, they had no difficulty in getting all the trout they wanted. This practice continued "until the mill tailings riled the waters so that the trout could no longer see the barber poles”.

Angling near Salida in the Winter of 1938-39

John Bunker's Polar Trout (1913)

One of the freaks of the north country is a fur-bearing fish of the trout species, according to John Bunker of Northwood Center, N. H., known as the Isaac Walton of that state, who recently reached Boston from two months' exploring trip in Greenland. He brought photographs and actual specimens of the strange fish, which he has called polar trout.

This particular denizen of the polar regions resembles a square-tailed trout in shape and gameness, and reaches ten to fifteen pounds in weight. The skin is covered with a fish brownish fur, resembling the texture of moleskin. This fur is slightly spotted with white, as is a young seal in the spring. Bunker says this fact first led him to call the curiosity a polar trout.

Bunker caught all three specimens, two in a river and one in a small headwater pond, about two hundred miles north of Baffin's Bay.

This story circulated as an aside in many newspapers throughout the United States from late 1913 and into 1914.

Beaver Trout of Lake Memphremagog, Vermont (1860s, 1927, 1945)

Fur-Bearing Trout of Iceberg Lake, Montana (1927)

  • "'Tis No Fish Fiction That Heated Hook Lures Fur Bearing Trout From Ice", Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, CA): 18, 21 June 1927, 
  • "FUR-BEARING TROUT LATEST FISH STORY", Evening Sun (Baltimore, MD): 6, 26 Nov. 1930, 
  • "Believe It Or Not", Montana Wild Life (Helena, Montana: Montana State Fish and Game Commission) 5 (1), 1 June 1932, 

    All of which is remindful of the quaint story of the Fur-Bearing Trout from Iceberg lake, in Montana, which appeared in MONTANA WILD LIFE three years ago, in the May edition of 1929. Despite the fact that the story was written to be listed among fishermen's yarns, inquiries are still being received from writers who continue to be gullible, as to where the fur-bearing trout may be caught. At the request of many anglers who missed the original article, it is herewith reproduced, with the illustration. J. H. Hicken of Whitefish, Montana, is the sponsor of the fur-bearing trout and has full copyright protection. He has granted MONTANA WILD LIFE permission to reproduce the picture and the article.

    Here's the way he tells it, so believe it or not:

    "The discovery of this fur-bearing fish was made while traveling through Glacier National Park during a sudden drop in temperature, following up of which led to 'Iceberg lake,' located near Whitefish, Montana. Several hooks were tried, but were broken immediately upon touching the water. Finally, one was heated, and when this hit the water, the temperature tempered the hook, with the result that one of the fish was caught.

    "The water in this lake is so cold that nature has taken care of her own by providing the fish with a thick coat of fur. In fact the water is so cold that it is beyond the freezing point.

    "The beazel, a very rare specimen, is found only on Prince Edward Island and lives on the hum of the humming bird. They were found to be the only bait that these fish will bite except in extreme warm weather, when it has been learned that they will bite on 'ice worms.' Another peculiarity of this fish is that it follows the precept of the poet who said: 'In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.' So with these fish, and during this period with a portable phonograph, by putting on a love song the fish will come to the surface, and the quick transfer of a jazz record results in them shaking themselves to death, when they can be picked out of the water.

    "It has been found that these fish absolutely refuse to bite during the 'love' month of June, but, as there always a black sheep in every family, the one caught (picture of which has been taken) disgraced himself before the entire family and suffered the usual penalty.

    "They make a rare fight in landing them out of the water, due to the fact that nature has provided them with the fur, which ruffles and causes such resistance that it is practically impossible to land them only under most favorable circumstances. The fur also acts as an accelerator, and when they step on the gas with their tails and fins their speed is beyond any known fish at the present time. This, in turn also acts as a brake in reducing speed or stopping, by simply putting the fin against the grain, and is their protection against survival of the fittest.

    "The change of temperature from the water to atmosphere is so great that the fish explodes upon being taken from the water, and fur and skin come off in on perfect piece, making it available for tanning and commercial purposes, and leaving the body of the fish for refrigerator purposes or eating, as desired the body keeping the ordinary refrigerator cold for two or three month and no ice required. If fish is desire for eating purposes it will take several days cooking to reduce temperature to a point where ordinary people can dispose of it.

    "If the fur is made into a neck piece it has been found to be a cure for goitre and tonsilitis; the fur stimulating circulation to such an extent that all impurities are removed. The fish has been so recently discovered that information regarding their habits is very meager, but further details will be given when available."

Furre Piscis of Northern Wisconsin (1936)

Fur-Bearing Trout of Blue Bird Farm in Pulaski Co., Missouri (1937)

Orsinger's Leopard-Furred Trout (1946)

  • Fred G. Orsinger, first director of the National Aquarium, which was located in the basement of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., was noted in press reports to have hung a taxidermied trout clad in leopard fur on the wall of his office.

Furry Trout of Lake Superior off Gros Cap, near Sault St. Marie, Ontario (1959)