The tailypo is a creature from African American folk tales.
Descriptions of the creatures vary wildly, though it almost always has thick, brown to black fur and red or yellow eyes that glow eerily. It has a long tail, sharp claws, and is generally about the size of a dog. Its body shape ranges from felid, to canid, to an ape- or rodent-like creature. Most often, it is a chimera of multiple creatures.
In the story it features in, the tailypo's tail is reduced to a bloody stump.
In the original myth, the tailypo demonstrates the ability to speak. This is most often described as a raspy, feral voice. It is likely carnivorous, as in many versions of the story, it devours (or is implied to devour) humans and dogs. They are persistent creatures who treasure their prized tails, and will stop at nothing to get them back. They have also been shown to be destructive creatures, going so far as to burn houses down even after accomplishing their goals.
During a season of considerable hunger and a lack of suitable game, the tale begins with a hermit and his three hounds. The man is out at night, looking for the evening meal, and manages to shoot a small hare, which he shares with his dogs. Understandably still hungry, the man presses on and discovers a bizarre shape with bright eyes and a long tail. The hermit quickly severs its tail. Screaming, the cat creature runs off into the darkness and its tail is then taken back and made into a stew or simply eaten by the man.
On the brink of sleep, a rustling and clawing wake the man. Sitting up, the hermit is able to see the gleaming eyes of the Tailypo leering at him from the foot of his bed. In an otherworldly voice, the ravenous cat creature demands the return of its "tailypo." Terrified, the man calls for his hounds, which immediately come to his aid, chasing the beast off into the night.
With the creature chased back into the woods, two of the hermit's dogs return, but one is missing. The man tries to sleep, but the Tailypo soon returns, beckoning even more forcefully for the return of its tail. Again the man sics his hounds on the Tailypo, and again one is missing upon the return of the survivor. Unable to sleep, the man clutches his weapon (usually an ax or gun) and waits for dawn, his remaining dog nearby. When the Tailypo appears for the third time, the man once again orders the hound to attack the Tailypo. Predictably the dog chases the creature away and does not return.
The man, now left with no real protection, having exhausted his three hounds, cowers under his bedsheets, praying for dawn. Hours before daybreak the man hears the familiar rustling sound, hoping it is one of his dogs. Unfortunately the man is leapt upon by the Tailypo and is either disarmed or has dropped his weapon in terror. The ravenous beast is now eye to eye with the man and demands once more the return of his "tailypo."
The man, scared to death, finds the courage to push the creature away and yell, "I haven't got your taily-po!", hoping the creature will leave. However, the ravenous creature, angrier than ever, yells back: "Yes, you have! Yes, you have!" and jumps back on the bed, mutilates the man and destroys the cabin.
In less violent versions, the beast is simply said to attack the man with such force that when the sun rises, all that remains of the cabin is the chimney. Either way, it is understood that the Tailypo has exacted revenge for the loss of its tail. Supposedly, during the darkest of nights, the creature can be heard whispering for its "tailypo." Another version by folklorist S.E. Schlosser simply states that the hermit was never seen again and the whispered phrase is "Now I got my Tailypo!"
One less common version takes place in a small city in the Southern United States and is about a young boy (usually named Kenny Ray). In this version, the creature comes through the boy's window and sheds his tail, instead of it getting chopped off or shot. The boy, needing money, sells the tail instead of eating it. Later that night, the creature comes to the boy's room and demands its Tailypo. The boy yells, "I don't have your Tailypo!", which scares the creature away.