Another wonderful account from one of our favourites writers Andy McGrath of Beasts of Britain website, on the many accounts that come in each day to cryptozoologist and groups almost daily now in the UK as spring approaches I wonder how many more will come in this year?
The most commonly held opinion and theory on the presence of Big Cats in Britain is that they were released by owners in 1977 after the introduction of the ‘Dangerous Wild Animals Act’ and have since thrived in what is largely an island of cattle and countryside, filled with millions of livestock and easy prey species, which are in most cases lacking natural predators. Britain is for the most part an island in darkness, with poorly lit villages and dimly illuminated towns. Even its large cities have plenty of green spaces full of cover where a nocturnal and elusive animal could easily hide out. (This is evidenced by many sightings in cities and large urban areas in recent years).
So, how do we investigate this phenomenon? Unlike most cryptids, we are at least certain of the existence of these animals’, it’s just that they are not supposed to exist here in Britain!
Living in Symbiosis
Big Cat sightings in 2016
Usually, when investigating an unknown or out of place animal we would start with the theories of what they might be and how they came to be here and that in itself would normally be a good way to try to gain an understanding of their mysterious presence on our island. However, It would seem very likely in this case that the explanation is simple and that the introduction of an ‘expensive’ licensing act dictating the conditions ‘Wild Animals’ were to be kept under meant that some Big Cat owners were simply unable to foot the bill and let their pets go. I imagine that many were released into the wild, where their owners either believed they would perish or be protected by their largely nocturnal habits and rural isolation.
Norfolk, Suffolk, Devon and Cornwall seem to have the largest concentration of sightings and in some cases there have even been sightings of Big Cats with cubs, yet more proof, if any were needed that the animals are surviving quite comfortably in our little green island of fields and hedgerows.
When it comes to this particular ‘British Cryptid’, or perhaps we should say, ‘Out Of Place Animal’, there are simply too many significant sightings to recount here. They are in fact so numerous, that I am certain that several books could be written on the subject and yet still leave a wealth of untapped original reports for other authors to research.
Below I have listed 3 recent reported sightings, followed by 4 sightings personally known to the author:
The Tamworth Beast
One of the most recent sightings of a British Big Cat comes from a hiker, who wished to remain anonymous, who managed to capture the beast on video in a field in December 2016, whilst he was walking along Trinity Road, Tamworth. He described the beast as being about 5 feet in length, jet black, with round ears and piercing green eyes. He said that the beast was slinking through the undergrowth across the field from him, keeping it’s head very low and seemed to take no notice of him and his dogs . There have now been over 70 reported sightings in Tamworth since 2001.
The Fovant Panther – A resident of Fovant near Salisbury, says she spotted a “huge black shape” at 7 am one November morning which she believed was a big cat big cat. “She viewed the creature through binoculars and even crept out of the house and up to her garden wall to try to take some photos of the creature. She was convinced that what she had seen was a panther. she said. “I am 100% sure it was a big cat. I’ve seen enough wild animals where I lived in Canada.” she described it as being black, three to four feet long, with a long tail and round ears like a bear. The creature turned and looked at her before slinking away through the grass.
Beast of Cumbria – A former chief superintendent with Cleveland Constabulary photographed a large black cat on a railway embankment at Eden, Cumbria. The animal was first spotted by the witness’ wife at 7:40pm one Saturday evening in August, whilst standing outside their static caravan. She at first thought she was looking at a big dog walking along the railway lines, but was quickly corrected by her husband who recognised the animal as some kind of big cat. “I said to her, ‘That’s not a dog, that’s a cat.’ You could tell by the way it was walking. It also had a muscular lump on the back of its shoulder.” The witness reported the incident to the police out of concern for local farmers and their livestock. Cumbria police force admit that they regularly receive reports of these animals and had received another report of a large cat spotted in a field at Hackthorpe, near Shap, that same week.
In the following section I have detailed 4 sightings of Big Cats that were personally reported to me first hand by the people who had actually witnessed them. I have kept the names of the witnesses anonymous as their stories were related to me in a personal context many years ago and not shared for the purpose of being written in a blog or book about cryptozoology.
The Preseli Panther – sighted by the sister of an old ex-girlfriend. After an afternoon visiting a friend in a nearby farm, our witness was riding her horse home over the Preseli mountains, when she stopped briefly to rest and look back towards the farm she had just left. A usually sceptical person, she was very surprised to see a large black cat with small ears and a long tail, about the size of an Alsatian dog, chasing sheep in the field next to the farm. She said that she quickly rode home in fear of the creature.
The Crymych Cat – Another big cat sighting took place outside a home in which I was staying in the lovely village of Crymych, Pembrokeshire, on Christmas morning around 5 am in 1999. A guest of my host, a lady in her mid 50’s and a smoker, was smoking a cigarette at the front of the house, when she suddenly noticed a large black cat resembling a panther staring at her out of the darkness about 15 feet away. She watched the animal for about 30 seconds before it melted into the undergrowth. She was understandably in a state of shock at what she had seen and for obvious reasons decided not to come on our impromptu Big Cat hunt later that morning. I personally have a lot of trust in both of these sightings. Both persons were known to me and had no interest in or awareness of the Big Cat phenomenon. They both gave corroborating descriptions of the animal/s they witnessed and I think it can quite confidently be asserted that either they witnessed the same animals or the same type of animal on both occasions.
The Sandy Coloured Stalker – I am also aware of 2 other sightings that occurred in Devon. 1 of these sightings was passed to me by a roadie for one of my bands back in the 90’s who witnessed a sandy coloured large cat that resembled a puma, on a beach at night. The animal approached Him and his friends, stopping just short of the headlights of their car. It briefly observed them for around 30 seconds and slowly sauntered off into the night.
The Dog Catcher – The second of these sightings of these mystery big cats in Devon was passed to me by a, then current flatmate, in the year 2000. He had grown up in a small village in rural Devon and was walking his dog one summer evening at twilight, when he became aware of a black shape in the tree line moving towards them. At first he thought that this it was another dog, due to its size, but quickly realised that he was being stalked by what appeared to be a large black panther. He quickly ran with his dog to his home, which was close by and secured himself and his dog inside. He stated that he believed that the creature was stalking his dog and not him, but was fearful of what could have transpired if he had not escaped, due to the animal’s size and predatory demeanour.
I realise that these sightings are just the tip of a very large iceberg, and that there have been over 455 sightings logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2016. It is estimated 2,000 of these beasts are seen each year in The UK, many of which are not reported out of fear of ridicule. This extremely high number of reports and sightings would seem to defy the efforts of any sceptic to deny the presence of B.B.C’s here in the U.K. I would expect that anyone examining the wealth of evidence that has been presented through photograph, film, eyewitness reports, livestock kills and other signs of habituation, would seriously reconsider their position on this very exciting subject.
We live in a land of plenty for such skilled predators as Big Cats, a land that offers many places to nest and hide, filled with livestock and many smaller species of animals that could sustain quite a healthy population of these ‘Out Of Place Animals’. For many of us we probably believe these sightings are cases of mistaken identity or an occasional zoo escapee, but for our children, I believe that Big Cats will be an accepted and natural part of the fauna of the British Isles!
For people interested in Big Cat research and sightings I would suggest joining the following groups who specialise in the subject:
British Big Cats Society: Facebook
The CFZ Big Cat Study Group: Facebook