congo eel n [Prob of multiple origin; see below]
1 also congo: A salamander n 1 of the genus Amphiuma, native to the southeastern US, having four vestigial limbs, and superficially resembling an eel; especially either of the large species A. means or A. Tridactylum. [Alter of congo snake n 2, presumably because the creature looks more like an eel than a snake, though infl of conger eel may also have played some role] chiefly LA as a natural term, but also widely used as a book name Also called conger eel n 3, congo snake n 2, ditch eel n 1, eel n 4, four-legged eel n, lamp eel n 1, lamper eel n 3, lamprey eel n 2, lampus eel n 1, mud eel n 1, mud puppy n d, snake with legs n
1868 New Orleans Republican (LA) 29 Mar 5/2, A gentleman of Jefferson city who cultivates a very pretty and useful garden . . was surprised by finding among his vegetables a congo eel that measured four feet three inches in length and seven and a half inches in circumference after it was killed. The monster is one of the most poisonous reptiles known, and is now seldom seen. [DARE Ed: It is possible that this creature was a cottonmouth n, also called congo snake n 1.] 1876 New Orleans Republican (LA) 8 July 5/1, Three or four little boys last evening were greatly amused at the corner of St. Charles and St. Mary streets by watching the movements of what they called a black snake. . . They did not know that “the snake with tiny little legs and feet” was a congo eel and one of the most poisonous animals in this country. 1878 Royal Microscopical Soc. Jrl. 1.62 sLA, The Amphiuma tridactylum at New Orleans, vulgarly called “congo-eel” or “congo-snake,” belongs to the order Urodela. 1883 Science 2.159 New Orleans LA, A superannuated old negro presented himself one morning with a . . specimen of the three-toed siren [=Amphiuma tridactylum]. . . He called it a ‘Congo eel,’—a name which is indifferently applied by every one here, intelligent as well as ignorant, to both this reptile and Amphiuma means. [1920 Copeia 77.6 cNC, They [=Amphiuma means] are universally feared as poisonous, presumably on account of their snake-like form, but are always called “eels,” never “snakes,” the usual name at present among the ditchers being “ditch eel.” . . I have never heard the names “congo eel” or “congo snake” applied to the species.] 1942 Nat. Hist. 50.249, Yet with consistent and delightful inaccuracy, the Floridians call . . one of their true salamanders, a “congo eel.” 1953 Schmidt N. Amer. Amphibians 27, Amphiuma means. . . Common name.—Amphiuma, congo eel [etc]. c1970 DARE FW Addit csLA, Congo eel: A large salamander [that] gets as large as three or four feet. This is the only common local name. 2011 in 2019 DARE File—Internet cLA, [Response to “what is it?” query with photo of an amphiuma:] Looks like a congo eel or siren, not an eel at all its an amphibian. 2015 Ibid NYC, The first Amphiuma I encountered in a pet store was being sold as a “Congo Eel”. This name is rarely used today, but I have a photo of an Amphiuma labelled as such at the Bronx Zoo’s reptile house on opening day, over 100 years ago. 2019 DARE File—Internet, [Advt:] Preserved Congo Eel for dissection. . . Pack of 1 preserved Congo Eel 11 to 14 inches long.
[. . .]