Monday, 15 April 2013

The Big Cat Mystery

Okay, so this is a picture of a very small cat, and that is because I have never been fortunate enough to spot one of the famous Dorset Big cats. But there are plenty of people who claim they have.

In fact there was a sighting only a couple of weeks ago where one was spotted in a field near Dorchester by a passing lorry driver.

Dorset is by no means the only place where big cats have been seen – we’ve all heard of the Best of Bodmin – and there have been sightings in many other places too.

Now it’s very easy to dismiss these sightings as mis-observation, especially after the Essex Lion turned out to be a rather large tomcat. But the fact remains that many people have seen something out of the ordinary – so unusual in fact that they have risked ridicule in order to report it.

When we visited Exmoor Zoo we saw black panthers and the keeper spoke to us about the big cat observations on the moor. There was no doubt in his mind that big cats were living and breeding wild in the UK. Where they came from though is the question.

There is one line of thought that when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force in 1976 people who did not wish to hand their pets in, or have them destroyed, let them loose. And these were the ancestors of the big cats that are seen today.

There is another line of thought that they are creatures from the spirit world that pass across occasionally into ours; the rationale behind this theory being that the cats described by witnesses are so variable in appearance.

This in itself is interesting. Maybe there is more than one species of big cat living wild in our countryside, or maybe it’s down to the way we perceive and our minds interpret the unusual. And these witnesses certainly saw something unusual.

I find this whole thing fascinating. It seems unfeasible that a whole sub species of big cat could be living among us and yet be unknown. But at the same time it would be wrong to dismiss what perfectly rational people believe they have seen.

Panthers or demons? What do you think?


  1. Miaou!I think I would prefer to remain a domesti-cat! :)

  2. Hi Kate - With regard to your last question, it's interesting that in past centuries there were many sightings of "phantom black dogs" in Britain, which seem to have been superseded these days by "black panthers" and "black pumas" etc (in the real world, melanistic big cats are very rare). Last year I tried to set up a Big Cats database for Jon Downes, which works on some browsers but not others - If you can't get it to work, there is a video on YouTube -

    1. Thank you Andrew, that's a really interesting link.

  3. I'm no stranger to big cats. I live in the US, but where we are, big cats are marked not by their phantom like approach to living, but by the missing pets and mauled livestock. Which is to say, if you have a big cat in residence, there's usually evidence. They have to eat something. In the US we have Fish and Game to keep tabs on the big guys as they move closer to inhabited areas, but even then, these big cats come through (drink from the swimming pool and everything) and surprise neighborhoods.

    In the Isles though? Why not. But I would expect other evidence. I hate saying it but big cats eat little cats, and little dogs, and anything that's slower than they are.

    1. That's really interesting, Rena, to hear this from someone who really does have big cats living wild nearby. And a very valid point about the evidence that we would expect :-)

  4. I really like the idea of there being big cats. Anything wild that we have not hunted out of existence has to be good news. i also like the idea that they spirit creatures. I think that crypozoology is a fascinating topic.


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