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Monday, July 16, 2007

The Beast of Exmoor

I told you I would get into accounts of big cats way back on the first blog, but I never did - not much, anyway. I did tell of my personal account of seeing an actual Wildcat near where I was raised. Even though our highschool team was named after them and older people in the region insisted they existed, even most of them thought they had been hunted out or simple died-out. I was lucky enough to see one as I drove home along a new road which had been built in a sparsely-populated area. This would have been in the early 1990s.

The Beast of Exmoor is said to be either jet-black or tan in color, with a very few reports of two cats being seen together (one of either color). Most agree that it resembles nothing so much as a panther, though authorities insisted the sightings were a case of mistaken identity (they were dogs, not cats). Though this idea has largely been abandoned, the Wildcat which I saw would easily have been mistaken for a dog, had it not been for its distinctly feline movements.

Sightings of the creature have been reported since at least the 1970s, but it wasn’t until a sheep farmer lost 100 sheep over 21/2 months in 1983 that the Beast of Exmoor became big news. Reports continued to pour in, even from local naturalists, until, in 1987, a distinctly catlike beast was photographed in the area. While the form is indistinct, the tail is obviously feline.

The Beast of Exmoor has been seen well into the 1990s and newer theories suggest a family of pumas may have been released into the wild by those who once kept them as pets. But giant cats have been spotted all over the British Isles. Undoubtedly, some of these accounts were “copycat” stories concocted by crackpots and others who simply wanted to draw attention to themselves or their areas, but the sheer volume of such reports suggest that the phenomena may indeed be widespread.

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