the online database of Japanese folklore

Ushi oni


Translation: ox demon
Alternate names: gyūki
Habitat: usually along the coast or near bodies of water; found in West Japan
Diet: varies from type to type, but always carnivorous

Appearance: A terror from Western Japan, ushi oni is a class of monster that lives near water. The name literally means “ox demon,” and it refers to a number of different monsters with bovine traits. Most Ushi oni resemble an ox from the head up and a demonic horror below. Many variations are known to exist; the body of an ox with a head like an oni’s; the head of an ox on a body like a spider’s or a cat’s; or even an ox’s head on the body of a kimono-clad human (a Japanese version of the minotaur).

Behavior: Despite their unique and varying morphology, all ushi oni share a number of characteristics, pointing to a common origin. They are exceedingly cruel and savage. They breath toxic poison, and eat humans. Some ushi oni are lurkers, attacking people who draw too close to their lairs; others are hunters, roaming the coasts seeking prey. The cruelest ushi oni ravage the same towns over and over, inflicting terrible curses or bringing diseases. Although a few roam the mountains of the island of Shikoku, most ushi oni live along the rocky coasts and beaches of Western Japan.

Ushi oni frequently work together in cooperation with other yōkai. The spider-like version from the coasts of the islands of northern Kyūshū and western Honshu frequently partners with nure onna and iso onna. These siren-like yōkai use their charms to lure unsuspecting men towards the water’s edge. When they approach, the ushi oni pounces and bites the victims to death. The meal is then shared between the yōkai.

Alphabetical list of yōkai