‘A Brief History of Big Cats’ article by Sylvia Wix of the Paranormal network

As was detailed in the very first edition of NPNs Beyond the Line e-Magazine, cryptozoology has many and varied subjects within it, from the chupacabra to the domestic hamster. However in Britain, it seems, the Big Cats are the most well known of these enigmatic creatures. They’re not just the most well known, they’re also one of the most common mysteries encountered in Britain. So I have taken it upon myself to present you all with a brief history of Big Cat sightings and encounters in Britain.

The first ever possible recorded sighting of mysterious big cats in Britain was in a book from the 1760s, entitle Rural Rides by the radical writer William Cobbett. In it he details seeing a cat “as big as a middle-sized Spaniel dog” climb into a hollow elm tree in the ruined Westerley abbey in Farnham near Surrey. Later he saw a “lucifee” (North American lynx) “and it seemed to me to be just such a cat as I had seen at Waverley.” Another old report was found by David Walker from The Times in 1827 of a “lynx” being seen, and the Big Cats in Britain have a report of a tiger being seen in Scotland in 1927!

Even further back there’s a medieval Welsh poem, called Pa Gwr in the Black Book of Carmarthen, which mentions a Cath Palug, meaning “Palug’s cat” or “clawing cat”, which roamed Anglesey until it was killed.

Then there is a quiet period for many years, up until the 1960-1970s when it became fashionable for people to keep imported big cats of all sizes and species as exotic pets. It is unsurprising then that a spate of sightings of big cats roaming the countryside happened during that time. Even more so when you consider the Act that was brought about in 1976 when authorities realised that unless looked after properly these still wild animals were a danger to those who kept them. The Dangerous Animals Act of 1976 required all owners of their pet big cats to have a licence, insurance and one certain space where the animal could be kept. Of course, a lot of people keeping these animals could not afford this nor bear to part from them or have them taken away, so rather than handing them over they instead released them into the wild. It’s believed by a lot of people that this is the main reason for the sightings in Britain then and now, as it is possible that these released animals could have established a breeding population. I happen to {mostly) disagree, but that’s for another big cat related article.

The Nottingham Lion was first reported in 1976 by two milkmen in Tollerton, but despite a search by police and citizens for the animal, they could not find any evidence of it’s existence, despite the total of 65 reports they received.

The reported Beast of Bodmin Moor is (or was) more than likely one of these creatures, as it appeared shortly after the Act was put in place. From 1983 onwards, there have been at least 60 recorded sightings of big cats in that area to the present day. This at the very least signifies that a large cat like creature was roaming that area for a long time.

Then there’s the Beast of Exmoor, first sighted roaming the moors in the 1970s (escaped or released pet by a distraught owner perhaps?). However this particular beast did not gain it’s fame until 1983, when a farmer claimed to have lost over 100 sheep in the space of three months, all with injuries to the throat. There have been sporadic reports since then, even three photographs of the beast, but no conclusive evidence has yet been found.

The Surrey Puma of the 1960s has been joined by the Fen Tiger, the Beast of Ongar, the Pedmore Panther, the Beast of Gloucester, the Thing from the Ling, the Beast of Borehamwood, the Wrangaton Lion, the Beast of Shap, the Beast of Brentwood, the Lindsey Leopard, the Lincolnshire Lynx, the Wildcat of the Wolds, the Beast of Roslin, the Kilmacolm Big Cat, the Beast of Burford, the Chilterns Lion, the Beast of Castor, the Beast of Sydenham, the Shooters Hill Cheetah, the Beast of Bucks, the Plumstead Panther, the Beast of Bexley, the Beast of Barnet, the Nottingham Lion, the Durham Puma, the Horndon Panther, the Beast of Cricklewood, the Beast of Bont, the Beast of Gobowen and that’s not even all of them.

In 1993 an ocelot was tentatively identified living in Britain.

In 2001 in May, a Lynx nicknamed “Lara” was captured in Cricklewood, North London. No zoos or circuses reported an animal missing during that time, so either it was an escaped, unregistered and unlicensed pet, it was a part of a relic lynx population (the European lynx lived in Britain up until 500 AD, when it apparently became extinct), or it was a part of a population of those cats established during the mass release of the 1970s.

Many reports of big cats were made during the year of 2003, including sightings of lions. leopards and pumas.

In 2004, the BBCS reported over 2123 sightings of big cats in Britain, that was published in the BBC Wildlife Magazine. A Warwickshire gamekeeper reported seeing a large black cat poaching his pheasants before taking off when it saw him that same year.

In 2006 a man was trimming his hedge when a large black cat emerged from it, studied the stunned fellow and strolled off. A woman also reported a large black cat bounding across the road in front of her when she was driving near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

In 2007, reported by Big Cats in Britain, two people watched a big cat in their garden at High Hesleden.

In July 2008, a big cat was filmed near a military base in Scotland, as reported by The Telegraph.

There have been many reported sightings this year, many of course reported by the BCIB, including a couple who saw a very large cat in their garden near Haden Bridge hop the fence and walk away, a woman who saw a large cat near her home in Scotland chase some deer into a wood and a golden coloured cat running across the road from Hopwas Wood in Whittington. Fortean Times also reported two instances this year of people seeing lynxes-once with a cub! And this isn’t even the half of it, for this year alone.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and it has informed you all better on a very publicised, highly debated subject. Big Cats have been in Britain for a while, since even before the craze of the 1960-1970s, and they’re definitely not going anywhere soon – judging by the constant flow of reports. You never know, if you keep an eye out, you might get lucky and have a sighting of your own.

See you on the other side,

Sylvia Wix

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3 responses to “‘A Brief History of Big Cats’ article by Sylvia Wix of the Paranormal network

  1. Im really glad you took the time to write your article looks like you did your research. Its in my opinion very important to mention that Big cats arent an unexplained or paranormal phenomenon. but what they are is elusive and resourceful creatures – avoiding contact with humans. The ABC term of Alien Big Cats gives the different impression that they are from another world. which is why they are often associated with the paranormal. Truth is on that A as in Alien describes in this case they are not native (to UK). It is.a fascinating topic non the less

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