Basic Information

Type/Species: Taniwha
Origin: Maori (Māori) Mythology, New Zealand

About Hotu-puku

Travelers going between Rotorua and Taupo (TaupŌ) started to disappear. [1] Within the Kaingaro Plains, a taniwha named Hotu-puku preyed upon those travelers. [2] Thinking that the foul play might be due to neighboring war bands, [1] the victims' relatives at Taupo (TaupŌ) went to investigate the missing travelers. [2]

When the band reached the place where Hotu-puku lived, the taniwha smelled human flesh and emerged from his den. [2] Not expecting a dragon to be behind the missing people, the band fled because they were entirely unprepared to fight him. Hotu-puku killed and ate more than a few of them, but some managed to escape back to their home. [1]

News reached Rotorua, and a man named Pitaka then arrived and organized a dragon-hunting party. [1] This party of men from Ngati (Ngāti) Tama set out to fight Hotu-puku. They plaited a rope and made an enormous noose. They traveled back to the plains to Hotu-puku's den, [2] where some of the bravest and fastest of the party, among them Pitaka, [1] went forward to entice the dragon out of its den. [2]

Again, as soon as Hotu-puku smelled human flesh, he emerged from his den. Seeing many people about, he thundered towards the men acting as decoys, who ran through the noose, leading the taniwha into it. Once inside the noose, the others in the party pulled it tight around him. [2] Hotu-puku thrashed erratically, but he could do nothing to throw off the noose. Soon he lay dead and tied up. The party saw that he looked like a tuatara, a lizard, but he was the size of a whale. [2]

They made sure that this was the same dragon by cutting him opened. There they found the remains of the other victims, and they buried them. After this, they roasted and ate Hotu-puku. [1] Finally, the party returned to their homes at Ohinemutu (Ōhinemutu). [2]

Physical Description

Hotu-puku had the form of a whale-sized lizard.


  1. A History of Dragons. Link defunct: <>
  2. Orbell 46

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.