These illustrations show how animals were imagined throughout history

Artist Mateo Pizarro's drawings are based on historical descriptions of animals - for the book 'Bestiary of Improbable Animals'.


Russia-based artist Mateo Pizarro has delved into the large stretch of time before cameras, where there was no Google to find out what the hell a Leaf-Nosed Vampire Bat looks like.

Instead, there were the words from the few who’d travelled overseas and your own imagination - and, if Mateo's drawings are anything to go by, your mind can come up with some pretty wild creatures.

Researcher Maria Del Mar scoured books from ancient times to the nineteenth century for  bonkers descriptions of animals. Mateo then drew a creature based on the text, but without the name of the animal. 

"The idea is to try to reproduce the experience of a person who reads about some beast he has never seen before (say a hyena or a shark)," said Mateo. "Before photography and google, this was not an uncommon experience."

People a few centuries ago must have been very, very scared of anything beyond their country’s borders if this was their impression of a Leaf-Nosed Vampire Bat (shown).

Image: Leaf-Nosed Vampire Bat

Flicking through these bizarre beasts gives a shot of the fear and intrigue felt in a world where iguanas were just as fantastical as unicorns. The drawings will eventually be collected in a book called Bestiary of Improbable Animals.

Image: Brazilian Striped Iguana


"The idea is to try to reproduce the experience of a person who reads about some beast he has never seen before (say a hyena or a shark)," said Mateo. "Before photography and google, this was not an uncommon experience."

Image: Serval

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We are so glad the loveable creatures don't really look like this. But Mateo's flair for convincing detail is suited to a time where drawings took the role of photos - and makes it easy to imagine these beasts actually existing. 

Image: Dolphin


With Mateo’s use of paper and pencil, it feels as if these drawings are hundreds of years old.


Image: Armenian Horned Chicken 

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Image: Camel Ostrich 


Image: Ibis


Image: Cockroach 

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Image: Fox-Shark 


Image: Bonaso 


Image: Apis

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Image: Alligator