We all grow up hearing stories of mythical creatures and incredible beasts – unicorns glowing in the forest, hippogriffs and dragons flying through the skies, and huge Kraken lurking beneath our oceans – but never do we expect to see them outside of our book covers or television screens.
But recently, an animal that could've been straight out of one of these fairytales was seen in real life. People were mystified when they saw the creature loping around on its own in Chelyabinsk, Russia. It had a strange hybrid appearance of a bear's face, with it's long, broad snout and round ears, together with a dog's body and movements.
And it's only now that experts have been able to identify what this mysterious Russian bear-dog really is. The animal was taken to local animal sanctuary, Nash Dom, where the owner of the shelter, Polina Kefer, says staff have managed to work out the origin of the mythical creature.
Unfortunately, the news isn't all that happy. Kefer believes it is a cross between the "puffy lion dog" Chow Chow and a wild "long-nosed" stray dog. Local animal rights activists said they'd never seen anything like it before in the region, and Kefer suggests it's because the animal was irresponsibly bred. She said the male Chow Chow cross-breed looks to have been bought as a pet but then later abandoned by his owners because he became too aggressive.
"This dog is a ‘badly-made’ Chow Chow… by those pet markets where irresponsible breeders sell pets pretending that they are a pure breed," Kefer explained to The Siberian Times.
"People buy such puppies and once they grow into something like this dog, they just throw them out like a broken toy."
Kefer added that she believes the mixed-breed only became more aggressive and hostile once it was out on its own. Vets estimated it was around four-years-old and are saying it's under "serious stress" right now.
The beast has since been nicknamed Medvebaka – a combination of the Russian words for bear ("medved") and dog ("sobaka"). The unique animal is currently at the shelter awaiting a new home, but his distrustful temperament due to his previously traumatic experience with humans is not making things easy.
According to The Sun, an animal activist named Igor said Medvebaka's "difficult character" made it challenging to get the help and care the dog needs in its current state.
"It has a difficult character, actually a little noxious," he said. "We had a tough time with it, while we were transporting it."
"The new owner would have to spend a lot of time in order to figure out an individual approach to this animal."
One person offered to take in the bear-dog and look after it at home. But sadly, they've already had to return him to the shelter.
"The dog hid inside an outdoor kennel and refused to come out," a shelter volunteer explained. "With his new family he was trying to escape."
"He hated the leash, and showed no interest whatsoever in making friends. We tried our best foods on him, but the dog is clearly so stressed that it might take weeks, if not months, to help him trust people again."
Here's hoping the poor creature gets better soon and manages to find a new home that isn't so stressful for him.