The Beast of Bodmin

Beast of Bodmin Moor

Brown Willy from Roughtor
Bodmin Moor

There is no doubt that Bodmin Moor is a creepy place. Should you happen to find yourself alone there as dusk is falling, try not to think about the layers of legend, horror and mystery associated with this wild and rugged landscape, and in particular, whatever you do, try not to let your mind dwell on The Beast.

The Beast is the result of some sixty sightings of a black panther-like big cat, supposedly three to five feet long and sporting white-yellow eyes, combined with numerous reports of mutilated livestock. The evidence was robust enough that in 1995 the government ordered an official investigation into the existence of such a beast. The report finally concluded that there was no verifiable evidence of a big cat on Bodmin Moor, although it was careful to state that there was no evidence against it, either.

Big cat skull

Shortly after the report was published the public were flabbergasted when a small boy found a leopard skull lying on the banks of the River Fowey. Big cat speculation reached fever pitch. Had it escaped from a nearby zoo? Was it the author of the mutilations?
The Natural History Museum, boringly, soon found the leopard skull to have been imported into this country as part of a leopardskin rug.

Beast of Bodmin
Beast of Bodmin

Once again, the controversy died down. Although sightings were still reported with reasonable regularity, until, in 1998, video footage was released that clearly showed a black animal, probably a big cat, around three and a half feet long. The video, described by curator of Newquay Zoo and wild cat expert as 'the best evidence yet' that big cats do indeed roam Bodmin Moor, was part of another batch of information submitted to the government by local MP Paul Tyler.

Theories abound. If it does exist (and many swear it does), perhaps the animal is a big cat that escaped a zoo or a private collection and was not reported because it had been imported illegally, a hypothesis rejected by scientists on the grounds that the numbers needed to sustain a breeding population would be too large for the food supply. Some believe the animal is a species of wild cat that is believed to have become extinct in Britain more than a hundred years ago. Some, after reading reports not just of hissing and growling but of sounds like a woman screaming, are inclined to blame the paranormal. Meanwhile, the sightings continue.

You have been warned!