Crocodile, crocodile, dog got your tongue

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During a short visit to Jamaica we were informed of the widely held belief among rural Jamaicans that crocodiles bark like dogs. The barking is differentiated from crocodile roaring or grunting, which is well known to some rural Jamaicans.

This belief is so widely held that a newspaper article in the national press showing a photograph of a large crocodile, reported that it swam up the river, “barking loudly”. Mr. Charles Swaby, of Black River, Jamaica, who holds several large crocodiles at his facilities, reports that his neighbors sometimes complain that, “Your crocodiles kept me up all night, barking, man!”

Mr. Swaby has attempted to discover the source of this belief and reports his only clue came from a very old woman who he observed collecting firewood at the river’s edge and calling, “Crocodile, crocodile, dog got your tongue.”

When questioned this old lady recounted a story that Charles believes may be of African origin. She recounted the legend that one day, as the crocodile lay asleep on a river bank with his mouth wide open, the dog crept up and bit out his tongue.

This explains, she said, why to this day the crocodile has no tongue and is always eager to kill dogs in revenge for this loss. The crocodiles bark to attract dogs to their fate.


P. Ross, Editor, from conversations with Charles Swaby, 1 Crane Road, Black River and Roderick Clark 8 New St., Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica.

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