Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that aims to prove the existence of entities from the folklore record, such as Bigfoot or chupacabras, as well as undetected animals otherwise considered extinct, such as dinosaurs. Cryptozoologists refer to these entites as cryptids. Because it does not follow the scientific method, cryptozoology is considered a pseudoscience by the academic world: it is neither a branch of zoology nor folkloristics.
As a field, cryptozoology originates from the works of colleagues Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian-French zoologist, and Ivan T. Sanderson, a Scottish zoologist. Notably, Heuvelmans published On the Track of Unknown Animals (French Sur la Piste des Bêtes Ignorées) in 1955, a landmark work among cryptozoologists that was followed by numerous other like works. Similarly, Sanderson published a series of books that assisted in developing hallmarks of cryptozoology, including Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961).
The term cryptozoology dates from cryptozoologist circles from 1959 or before—Heuvelmans attributes the coinage of the term cryptozoology ('the study of hidden animals') to Sanderson. Patterned after cryptozoology, the term cryptid was coined in 1983 by cryptozoologist J. E. Wall in the September edition of the International Society of Cryptozoology Newsletter. According to Wall "[It has been] suggested that new terms be coined to replace sensational and often misleading terms like 'monster'. My suggestion is 'cryptid', meaning a living thing having the quality of being hidden or unknown". The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun cryptid as "an animal whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated; any animal of interest to a cryptozoologist".
While biologists regularly identify new species, cryptozoologists focus on creatures from the folklore record and, in turn, cryptozoologists may consider any figure from folklore to be a cryptid. Most famously, these include the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, chupacabras as well as other "imposing beasts that could be labeled as monsters". In their hunt for these entities, cryptozoologists may employ devices such as motion sensitive cameras, night vision equipment, and audio recording equipment. While there have been attempts to codify cryptozoology approaches, unlike biologists, zoologists, botanists, and other academic disciplines, however, "there are no accepted, uniform, or successful methods for pursuing cryptids".
Some scholars have identified precursors to modern cryptozoology in certain medieval approaches to the folklore record and the psychology behind the cryptozoology approach has been the subject of academic study.
The 2003 discovery of the fossil remains of Homo floresiensis was cited by paleontologist Henry Gee, a senior editor at the journal Nature, as possible evidence that "in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as yetis are founded on grains of truth." "Cryptozoology," Gee says, "can come in from the cold."
However, cryptozoology is widely criticised for an array of reasons and is rejected by the academic world. There is a broad consensus from academics that cryptozoology is a pseudoscience. The field is regularly criticized for reliance on anecdotal information and because cryptozoologists do not follow the scientific method, devoting a substantial portion of their efforts to investigations of animals that most scientists believe are unlikely to have existed.
In a 2011 forward for The American Biology Teacher, then National Association of Biology Teachers president Dan Ward uses cryptozoology as an example of "technological pseudoscience" that may confuse students about the scientific method. Ward says that "Cryptozoology … is not valid science or even science at all. It is monster hunting." Historian of science Brian Regal includes an entry for cryptozoology in his Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia (2009). Regal says that "as an intellectual endeavor, cryptozoology has been studied as much as cryptozoologists have sought hidden animals".
In a 1992 issue of Folklore, folklorist Véronique Campion-Vincent says:
Campion-Vincent says that "four currents can be distinguished in the study of mysterious animal appearances": "Forteans" ("compiler[s] of anomalies" such as via publications like the Fortean Times), "occultists" (which she describes as related to "Forteans"), "folklorists", and "cryptozoologists". Regarding cryptozoologists, Campion-Vincent says that "this movement seems to deserve the appellation of parascience, like parapsychology: the same corpus is reviewed; many scientists participate, but for those who have an official status of university professor or researcher, the participation is a private hobby".
In her Encyclopedia of American Folklore, academic Linda Watts says that "folklore concerning unreal animals or beings, sometimes called monsters, is a popular field of inquiry" and describes cryptozoology as an example of "American narrative traditions" that "feature many monsters".
In his analysis of cryptozoology, folklorist Peter Dendle says that "cryptozoology devotees consciously position themselves in defiance of mainstream science" and that:
In a paper published in 2013, Dendle refers to cryptozoologists as "contemporary monster hunters" that "keep alive a sense of wonder in a world that has been very thoroughly charted, mapped, and tracked, and that is largely available for close scrutiny on Google Earth and satellite imaging" and that "on the whole the devotion of substantial resources for this pursuit betrays a lack of awareness of the basis for scholarly consensus (largely ignoring, for instance, evidence of evolutionary biology and the fossil record)."
According to historian Mike Dash, few scientists doubt there are thousands of unknown animals, particularly invertebrates, awaiting discovery; however, cryptozoologists are largely uninterested in researching and cataloging newly discovered species of ants or beetles, instead focusing their efforts towards "more elusive" creatures that have often defied decades of work aimed at confirming their existence.
Paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson listed cryptozoology among the examples of human gullibility, along with creationism: