"It was huge and it's big eyes were shining back at us. It was unnerving to say the least. It didn't seem bothered by us at all. I had no idea at all that we had big cats in this country!!" She further described the creature saying: "It was about the size of a Great Dane, but much, much heavier built and definitely male. When it turned I could see its body was around 4ft long, and its tail was around 3ft long, the tail wasn't straight and almost touched the ground even though it curved at the end. The thickness of its tail was approximately as thick around as my wrist and it's legs were, well, stocky, thick or 'good boned' as we would say in horse terms; sturdy looking legs with a slinky walk for its size, moving effortlessly. It's ears were also strange, they were not pointed but round?! "
An interesting aspect of this case is that the witness said that she and her friend were late to collect their hay and would usually have arrived at the location earlier, which could indicate that the animal often frequents the area after hours and may not have expected a human presence to be there at that particular moment. The witness also said that the animal was staring right at her and seemed bold and unperturbed by her presence. As it sauntered towards her, its eyes, which were large and far apart, reflected yellow in the headlights of her Landrover Defender. As one might expect, she beat a hasty retreat back to her vehicle, before observing the animal disappear into a hedgerow; after which, herself and her friend sat motionless and stunned for 5 minutes, trying to figure out what it was they had seen.
It would appear that our witness did in fact have quite a close encounter with one of Britain's mysterious Big Cats, an experience that seems to be quite common these days. Our witness like many other people in the UK, who experience a sighting of one of these creatures, wanted to know how these out of place animals came to be roaming our countryside and was surprised to learn of the sheer scale and frequency of Big Cat sightings in Britain. For those readers unaware of this phenomenon, it is important to give a brief background of the possible cause of this unofficial population of predatory cats roaming our countryside. Probably the most popular theory and I think the most plausible, is that they were released by private owners after the introduction of the 'Dangerous Wild Animals Act' in 1976 , when people no longer felt they could afford to financially maintain them or were perhaps just unhappy with the restrictions placed upon them as owners. Since then it would seem that these creatures, or more properly their descendants, have thrived in relative isolation due to their nocturnal habits.
|Black Panther, |
Photo by Magnus Manske (wikimedia commons)
The reality of the Big Cat phenomenon is incrementally becoming one of unconscious acceptance amongst the British public. Sightings are so common and reports reach us so regularly through the press and social media, that your average Brit, in possession of even a modicum of mindful intelligence, can see quite clearly that we are looking at a widespread population of an indeterminate number of large, non indigenous predatory cats, that have managed to propagate successfully in the British countryside. The number of reports is seemingly growing, not declining, and interactions with people and proximity to human habitation is becoming more and more commonplace.
Written by Andrew McGrath
'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle
Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter
For people interested in Big Cat research and sightings I would suggest joining the following groups:
British Big Cats Society: Facebook
The CFZ Big Cat Study Group:Facebook