The Nandi Bear
In the 19th century, the Keiyo and Marakwet lived in the cliffs of the second Rift Valley escarpment, tending over irrigation furrows left to them by the Sirikwa who vanished mysteriously. Back then, there was a belt of forest that stretched thinly near the valley’s edge, from Cherangany all the way to the Mau. The Keiyo would at times cross the forest to seek salt licks in Sergoit but they would not go further so as to avoid the Maasai and Karamojong who wandered in the Uasin Gishu plateau. It is said that beasts called the chebokerit lived in this forest, and they were described as having the limping gait of hyenas and having long, shaggy coats. They also had long whiskers that would whistle in the wind and would hide in bamboo thickets in the daylight, only to walk about in the night, where their haunting wails sounded like the voices of a thousand tortured demons.
The chebokerit feared men and avoided the valley when they were around, but when they would step out for raids, the kerit would go down the valley to the villages to prey upon women and children. On dark, moonless nights, they would climb onto hut rooftops and wait patiently for someone to walk out to answer a call of nature, upon which the chebokerit would jump on the person, take off the head, run off to the darkness where it would eat only the brain. Women would resort to wearing large pots on their heads when they walked out so that when the chebokerit would pluck the pot instead of their heads and they could rush back to the hut and hide as it did so.
A story is told of a boy who was strong enough to wield a spear who was instructed to carry some pieces of meat to the sentries who stood guard on Sergoit hill. The sentries kept check on any spontaneous invasion from either the Nandi or the Karamojong. The boy walked up the valley with the meat stuck on his spear, and followed a narrow path all the way to the forest at Kamariny. In the vast canopy of the forest, where light trickled down as thick as liquid jade, he heard the voice of a woman wailing in the distance. He walked on, for he was used to the ways of the leopard and other forest creatures, and could defend himself. The wailing sound came closer and something about its tone chilled him to the bone, because it sounded distinctly nonhuman. The boy proceeded to hide behind a tree and wait.
Moments later, a beast walked by and paused at the tree he hid behind, sniffing. Blood had clotted around its mouth and hordes of flies were buzzing around it. It stood on its hind legs like a person and began pawing in the air, wailing in an ear-splitting crescendo. It finally went down on its fours and ran off. When warriors from the hill arrived, the boy was so panic-stricken that he could not speak. The men followed the beast all the way to Sing’ore but then rain began falling and they lost the spoor. They abandoned the search and guided the boy back to the valley.
Sightings of the chebokerit were recorded extensively by the early Scottish and Boer communities in Uasin Gishu and N.E.F Corbett, the District Commissioner of Eldoret, reported an encounter in 1913 saying:
“I was having lunch by a wooded stream, the Sirgoi River, just below Toulson’s farm … to my surprise I walked right into the beast. It was evidently drinking and was just below me, only a yard or so away … it shambled across the stream into the bush … I could not get a very good view, but am certain that it was a beast I have never seen before. Thick, reddish-brown hair, with a slight streak of white down the hindquarters, rather long from hock to foot, rather bigger than a hyena, with largish ears. I did not see the head properly; it did not seem to be a very heavily built animal.”
There has been no significant archaeological research to date regarding the beast, and cryptozoogists are left wondering whether it was a giant baboon, a striped hyena, a bear, an unknown animal species or simply the powerful imagination of the tribes living along the valley.