Beast of Gévaudan: Wikis


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Beast of Gévaudan
(La bête du Gévaudan (French)
Wolf of Chazes
Lycopardus parthenophagus[1])
Artist's conception of one of the Beasts of Gevaudan, 18th-century engraving by A.F. of Alençon
Grouping Wolves or wolf-dog crossbreds
First reported 1764
Country  France
Region Gévaudan (modern-day Lozère)

The Beast of Gévaudan (French: La Bête du Gévaudan) is a name given to man-eating wolf-like animals alleged to have terrorized the former province of Gévaudan (modern day département of Lozère and part of Haute-Loire), in the Margeride Mountains in south-central France from 1764 to 1767 over an area stretching 90 by 80 kilometres (56 by 50 mi).[2] The beasts were consistently described by eyewitnesses as having formidable teeth and immense tails. Their fur had a reddish tinge, and was said to have emitted an unbearable odour. They killed their victims by tearing at their throats with their teeth. The number of victims differs according to source. De Beaufort (1987) estimated 210 attacks, resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten.[2] Author Derek Brockis claims 25 women, 68 children, and 6 men were killed, with over 30 others injured.[3] An enormous amount of manpower and resources was used in the hunting of the animals, including the army, conscripted civilians, several nobles, and a number of royal huntsmen.[2] All animals operated outside of ordinary wolf packs, though eyewitness accounts indicate that they sometimes were accompanied by a smaller female, which did not take part in the attacks. The story is a popular subject for cryptozoologists.



Woman defending herself from the Beast of Gévaudan, 18th century print.


The first attack that provided a description of one of the creatures took place on 1 June 1764. A woman from Langogne saw a large, lupine animal emerge from the trees and charge directly toward her, but it was driven away by the farm's bulls.

On 30 June, the first official victim of the beast was Jeanne Boulet, 14, killed near the village of Les Hubacs, not far from Langogne.

The beast also seemed to target people over farm animals; many times it would attack someone while cattle were in the same field.

Hunt for the beasts

Death of the first beast

On 12 January 1765, Jacques Portefaix and six friends, including two girls, were attacked by the Beast; they drove it away by staying grouped together. Their fight caught the attention of King Louis XV, who awarded 300 livres to Portefaix, and another 300 livres to be shared among the others. He also directed that Portefaix be educated at the state's expense. The King had taken a personal interest in the attacks, and sent professional wolf-hunters, Jean-Charles-Marc-Antoine Vaumesle d'Enneval and his son Jean-François, to kill the beast. They arrived in Clermont-Ferrand on 17 February 1765, bringing with them eight bloodhounds which had been trained in wolf-hunting. They spent several months hunting wolves, believing them to be the beast. However the attacks continued, and by June 1765 they were replaced by François Antoine (also wrongly named Antoine de Beauterne), the king's harquebus bearer and Lieutenant of the Hunt. He arrived in Le Malzieu on 22 June.

Antoine killing the Wolf of Chazes, 18th-century engraving.

On 21 September 1765, Antoine killed a large grey wolf measuring 80 centimetres (31 in) high, 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) long, and weighing 60 kilograms (130 lb). The wolf was called Le Loup de Chazes, after the nearby Abbaye des Chazes. It was agreed locally that this was quite large for a wolf. Antoine officially stated: "We declare by the present report signed from our hand, we never saw a big wolf that could be compared to this one. Which is why we estimate this could be the fearsome beast that caused so much damage." The animal was further identified as the culprit by attack survivors, who recognized the scars on the creature's body, inflicted by victims defending themselves.[2] The wolf was stuffed and sent to Versailles where Antoine was received as a hero, receiving a large sum of money as well as titles and awards.

However, on 2 December 1765, another beast emerged in la Besseyre Saint Mary, severely injuring two children. Dozens more deaths are reported to have followed.

Death of the second beast

The killing of the creature that eventually marked the end of the attacks is credited to a local hunter, Jean Chastel, at the Sogne d'Auvers on 19 June 1767. Later novelists (Chevalley, 1936) introduced the idea that Chastel shot it with a silver bullet of his own manufacture.[4] Upon being opened, the animal's stomach was shown to contain human remains.[2]

Controversy surrounds Chastel's account of his success. Family tradition claimed that, when part of a large hunting party, he sat down to read the Bible and pray. During one of the prayers the creature came into sight, staring at Chastel, who finished his prayer before shooting the beast. This would have been aberrant behavior for the beast, as it would usually attack on sight. Some believe this is proof Chastel participated with the beast, or even that he had trained it. However, the story of the prayer may simply have been invented out of religious or romantic motives.

Identity of the beasts

The wolf shot by François Antoine on 21 September 1765, displayed at the court of Louis XV

Various explanations were offered at the time of the attacks as to the beast's identity. Suggestions ranged from exaggerated accounts of wolf attacks, to a loup-garou (English: werewolf), all the way to the beast being a punishment from God.

Suggested species

Richard H. Thompson, author of Wolf-Hunting in France in the Reign of Louis XV: The Beast of the Gévaudan, contended that there can be satisfactory explanations based on large wolves for all the Beast's depredations.[5]

Another explanation is that the beasts were some type of domestic dog or crosses between wild wolves and domestic dogs, on account of their large size and unusual coloration.[2] This speculation has found support from naturalist Michel Louis, author of the book La bête du Gévaudan: L'innocence des loups (English: The Beast of Gévaudan: The innocence of wolves) and an episode of Animal X. Louis wrote that Jean Chastel was frequently seen with a large red coloured mastiff, which he believes sired the beast. He explains that the beast's resistance to bullets may have been due to it wearing the armoured hide of a young boar, thus also accounting for the unusual colour. He dismisses hyenas as culprits, as the beast itself had 42 teeth, while hyenas have 34.[6]

Certain cryptozoologists suggest that the Beast might be a surviving remnants of a Mesonychid seeing how some witnesses described it as a huge wolf having hooves rather than paws and it was bigger then any normal sized wolf.[7]:

In October 2009, the History Channel produced a documentary called The Real Wolfman. Renowned cryptozoologist Ken Gerhardt and (a very skeptical) veteran criminal profiler George Deuchar, performed a thorough modern-day forensic investigation in an attempt to reveal the truth behind a mystery built upon a century of exaggerated claims. Travelling to Gevaudan, the two (who often challenged each other's tentative theories) spoke with various local officials, researched local archives of original hand written accounts, and even questioned an expert researcher on wolf behavior.

Meeting with the direct descendants of Jean Chastel, they had the opportunity to listen to family accounts handed down, as told by Jean Chastel himself, as well as the chance to examine and actually use the original rifle (in the supposed exact location) where 'the beast' was killed. Later on, extensive forensic testing of the reported 'silver bullets' used versus normal bullets in various ranges and angles would reveal their inability to accurately and effectively kill anything, including 'the beast'.

Their research would also prove that wolves were incorrectly identified, as they are physically incapable of having enough bite force to easily cut through bone; decapitating or shearing off of limbs (as reported in the original archives). They also discovered through that area's museum that aside from the wolves originally and mistakenly presented to the king (as the culprits), that there is written record of an Asian Hyena being presented at the correct time, coinciding with the end of the killings. Not only did the local archive descriptions of the beast accurately depict what is an Asian Hyena, but researchers and caregivers of the animals today confirm that Hyenas are one of the few animals with known bite pressure, easily capable of biting through bone as described in the archived records. It was also determined that at that period in time, there are accounts of conflict and strife between Jean Chastel and members of the village. He also apparently was once in favor, but then had a falling out with the Church. He apparently became an outcast and kept to himself much of the time.

The investigation concluded that 'the beast' was an exotic animal in the form of an Asian Hyena (long haired species of Hyaenidae, now extinct), with a possibly bitter, vengeful human caretaker by the name of Jean Chastel. This is what would also explain why Jean Chastel was able to supposedly kill the animal with a silver bullet, which would be only possible at close range in a vital area (most likely after it was called by name). According to the King's museum curator, the records indicate that this original Asian Hyena is still in the museum's possession, but most likely today was used to complete other partial specimens. An actual Asian Hyena (Hyaenidae) specimen is shown, (with a shot of the tag listing the species Phylum) during this section of the show for the curious.[8]

Similar events

The Gévaudan attacks were not considered isolated events. A century earlier, similar killings occurred in 1693 at Benais, in which over 100 victims, almost all of them women and children, were claimed by a creature described as exactly resembling the Gévaudan Beasts. During the events in Gévaudan, another beast was sighted at Sarlat, a prehistoric cavernous region just outside Gevaudan, on 4 August 1767.[3] Four decades after the Gévaudan attacks, more attacks occurred between 1809 and 1813 in Vivarais, when at least 21 children and adolescents were killed by another beast. From 1875 to 1879, more attacks occurred in L'Indre. All these killings, including the Gévaudan attacks, seem to have occurred mostly in four year periods. Attacks by wolf-like creatures continued to be reported in France up until 1954.[3]

In the arts and popular culture


Robert Louis Stevenson traveled through the region in 1878 and described the incident in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, in which he claims that at least one of the creatures was a wolf:

For this was the land of the ever-memorable Beast, the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves. What a career was his! He lived ten months at free quarters in Gévaudan and Vivarais; he ate women and children and 'shepherdesses celebrated for their beauty'; he pursued armed horsemen; he has been seen at broad noonday chasing a post-chaise and outrider along the king's high-road, and chaise and outrider fleeing before him at the gallop. He was placarded like a political offender, and ten thousand francs were offered for his head. And yet, when he was shot and sent to Versailles, behold! a common wolf, and even small for that.

In the Patricia Briggs novel Hunting Ground, the Beast is a French werewolf named Jean Chastel, who has a penchant for hunting women and weak people. He has since learned to keep his killings more secret.


There are two recent films based on the attacks of the Beast: Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001),[9] directed by Christophe Gans, and La bête du Gévaudan (2003),[10] directed by Patrick Volson.

Brotherhood of the Wolf, while based on the records of the creature, also took several creative liberties in order to make the story more entertaining. Rather than a wolf or wolf-dog crossbreed, the movie portrays the creature as a lion equipped with armor to make it seem more threatening. The Beast is the instrument of the film's titular secret organization, which attempts to undermine public confidence in the king and ultimately take over the country by stating that the Beast is a divine punishment for the King's indulgence of the modern embrace of science over religion.


(see above) October 2009, The History Channel presented a new show with an in-depth investigation into the mystery of The Beast of Gevaudan titled, 'The Real Wolfman'. Travelling to the small village in France with a renowned cryptozoologist and a veteran forensic investigator, they try to unravel a local legend to reveal the truth surrounding the horrific and gruesome mystery killings. They conclude that all evidence points to a 'now' local hero, whom may have actually cared for, trained, and ultimately killed the beast, which was found in records (of the King's Museum) to be an Asian Hyena, a long coated species that is now extinct.

See also


  1. ^ Woodward, Ian (1979). The Werewolf Delusion. p. 256. ISBN 0-448-23170-0. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans" (PDF). Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  3. ^ a b c Brockis, Derek (2006). The Beast of Gevaudan: La Bête du Gévaudan. ISBN 1420872486. 
  4. ^ Robert Jackson (1995) Witchcraft and the Occult. Devizes, Quintet Publishing: 25
  5. ^ Thompson, Richard H. (1991). Wolf-Hunting in France in the Reign of Louis XV: The Beast of the Gévaudan. p. 367. ISBN 0889467463. 
  6. ^ La Bête Du Gévaudan - L'innocence Des Loups by Michel Louis, Librairie Académique Perrin, 2001
  7. ^ Hall, Jamie (2007). The Cryptid Zoo: Mesonychids in Cryptozoology. 
  8. ^ "The Real Wolfman". Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  9. ^ Le Pacte des Loups
  10. ^ La Bête du Gévaudan

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