British big cats: Wikis


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British big cats, also referred to as ABCs (Alien, or Anomalous, Big Cats), phantom cats and mystery cats, are Felidae which are not native to Britain which are reported to inhabit the British countryside. These sightings are often reported as "panthers", "pumas", or "black cats". Their existence is unproven, but many suggestions exist to explain how these animals might have come to inhabit Britain, including animals released after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 came into force,[1] or that they are surviving Ice Age fauna.[2]


Evidence for their existence


First sightings

In the 1760s the great radical writer, William Cobbett recalled in his Rural Rides how, as a boy, he had seen a cat "as big as a middle-sized Spaniel dog" climb into a hollow elm tree in the grounds of the ruined Waverley Abbey near Farnham in Surrey. Later, in New Brunswick, he saw a "lucifee" (North American lynx – Felis lynx canadensis) "and it seemed to me to be just such a cat as I had seen at Waverley."[3] Another old report was found by David Walker from The Times in 1827 of a "lynx" being seen.[4]

Farther back there is a medieval Welsh poem Pa Gwr in the Black Book of Carmarthen which mentions a Cath Palug, meaning "Palug's cat" or "clawing cat", which roamed Anglesey until slain by Cei. In the Welsh Triads, it was the offspring of the monstrous sow Henwen.[5]

Captures and remains

A Eurasian lynx was shot in summer 1991 near Norwich, Norfolk. It had killed around 15 sheep within two weeks. The story was only reported in 2003, and the lynx is apparently now in the possession (as taxidermy) of a collector in Suffolk. For many years this incident was considered to have been a hoax, particularly by the hunting community, But in March 2006 a police report confirmed that the case was true. It was probably an escapee from a facility in the area that bred animals including Eurasian lynxes.[6]

Video and photographic evidence

In June 2006 a large black cat was recorded in the countryside of Banff, Aberdeenshire. Footage of the cat was broadcast by the BBC on 24 May 2007.[7]

In July 2009, photographs and video footage of a large black cat were taken by an off-duty Ministry of Defence Police officer. The animal was walking along a railway line in Helensburgh, Argyll. Large cats, either black or tan have been reported in the area before.[8]


A melanistic jaguar, sometimes called a black panther

The research group Big Cats in Britain[9] publishes reported sightings annually by county. The "top ten" counties or regions of Great Britain between April 2004 and July 2005 were:[10]

Area Devon Yorks Scotland Wales Gloucs Sussex Cornwall Kent Somerset Leics
Number of Sightings 132 127 125 123 104 103 99 92 91 89

Species that have been noted only occasionally include the Leopard Cat, which is the size of a domestic cat but has leopard-like spots, the Clouded Leopard, a specialised species from the tropics which was captured after living wild in Kent in 1975, and there are even extraordinary cases of lions being reported in Devon and Somerset.[11]

Reported British big cat sightings

Government involvement

In 1988, the Ministry of Agriculture took the unusual step of sending in Royal Marines to carry out a massive search for the rumoured Beast of Exmoor after an increase in the number of mysteriously killed livestock, and farmer complaints over subsequent loss of money. Several Marines claimed to have seen the cat fleetingly, but nothing other than a fox was ever found. The Ministry concluded that reports of the Beast were nothing more than mass hysteria.[12 ] The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published a list of predatory cats that they know to have escaped in the United Kingdom, although most of these have been recaptured.[26]

See also

Further reading

  • BCIB Yearbook 2007, Ed. Mark Fraser, CFZ 2008
  • Beer, Trevor The Beast of Exmoor: Fact or legend? Countryside Productions 1988
  • Brierly, Nigel They stalk by night - the big cats of Exmoor and the South West Yeo Valley Productions 1988
  • Francis, Di The Beast of Exmoor and other mystery predators of Britain Johnathan Cape 1993
  • Francis, Di Cat Country David and Charles 1982
  • Harpur, Merrily Mystery Big Cats Heart of Albion 2006
  • Moiser, Chris Mystery Cats of Devon and Cornwall Bossiney Books 2002
  • Moiser, Chris Big Cat Mysteries of Somerset Bossiney Books 2005
  • Moiser, Chris Mystery Big Cats of Dorset Inspiring Places 2007
  • Shuker, Karl Mystery Cats of the World: From Blue Tigers to Exmoor Beasts Robert Hale 1989


  1. ^ "Naturalist Simon King (interview)". BBC Radio 4 "Saturday Live". Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
  2. ^ "Di Francis of Big Cats in Britain (interview)". BBC Radio 4 "Saturday Live". Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
  3. ^ William Cobbett: Rural Rides (1830), p204 in Penguin 2001 edition
  4. ^ "Inverness Big Cat". 1927-01-14. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  5. ^ "Arthur and the Porter". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  6. ^ [1] BBC News
  7. ^ [2] 'Big cat' sighting on video, BBC Scotland, 24 May 2007]
  8. ^ "Policeman takes 'big cat' photo". BBC News. 28 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-7-28.  
  9. ^ "BCIB". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  10. ^ BBC Wildlife Magazine, April 2006
  11. ^ "Dartmoor Lion". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  12. ^ a b Toile Solutions - Neil Meads. "The Definitive Guide To UK Big Cats". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  13. ^ "Beast of Bodmin Moor". Unexplained Mysteries. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ "The Surrey Puma". 1985-01-30. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  16. ^ "British Big Cats". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  17. ^ [4]
  18. ^ Bucks Examiner 23rd June 1995
  19. ^ joe tozer. "It's Basingstoke NOT Boringstoke". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  20. ^ "Beast of Bevendean strikes again (From The Argus)". 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Bristol Evening Post: Big cats seen in Forest of Dean, 6 January 2009". 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  23. ^ "'It was like no other animal I've ever seen before' - Harborough Today". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  24. ^ "Policeman takes 'big cat' video". BBC. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  25. ^ "Rutland & Leicestershire Panther Watch".  
  26. ^

External links


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