British big cats, also referred to as ABCs (Alien, or Anomalous, Big Cats), phantom cats and mystery cats, are Felidae which are not native to Britain which are reported to inhabit the British countryside. These sightings are often reported as "panthers", "pumas", or "black cats". Their existence is unproven, but many suggestions exist to explain how these animals might have come to inhabit Britain, including that they are animals released after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 came into force,[1] or that they are surviving Ice Age fauna.[2]

Evidence for their existenceEdit

First sightingsEdit

In the 1760s the great radical writer, William Cobbett recalled in his Rural Rides how, as a boy, he had seen a cat "as big as a middle-sized Spaniel dog" climb into a hollow elm tree in the grounds of the ruined Waverley Abbey near Farnham in Surrey. Later, in New Brunswick, he saw a "lucifee" (North American lynx – Felis lynx canadensis) "and it seemed to me to be just such a cat as I had seen at Waverley."[3] Another old report was found by David Walker from The Times in 1827 of a "lynx" being seen.[4]

Further back there is a medieval Welsh poem Pa Gwr in the Black Book of Carmarthen which mentions a Cath Palug, meaning "Palug's cat" or "clawing cat", which roamed Anglesey until slain by Cei. In the Welsh Triads, it was the offspring of the monstrous sow Henwen.[5]

Captures and remainsEdit

File:Puma 1.JPG

A Eurasian lynx was shot in summer 1991 near Norwich, Norfolk. It had killed around 15 sheep within two weeks. The story was only reported in 2003, and the lynx is apparently now in the possession of a collector in Suffolk (as taxidermy). For many years this incident was considered to have been a hoax, particularly by the hunting community, But in March 2006 a police report confirmed that the case was true. It was probably an escapee from a facility in the area that bred animals, including Eurasian lynxes.[7] Another lynx and a puma have been captured alive.[8]

Video and photographic evidenceEdit

In June 2006 a large black cat was recorded in the countryside of Banff, Aberdeenshire. Footage of the cat was broadcast by the BBC on the 24th May 2007.[9]

In July 2009, photographs and video footage of a large black cat were taken by an off-duty Ministry of Defence Police officer. The animal was walking along a railway line in Helensburgh, Argyll. Large cats, either black or tan, have been reported in the area before.[10]


The research group Big Cats in Britain[11] publishes reported sightings annually by county. The "top ten" counties or regions of Great Britain between April 2004 and July 2005 were:[12]

Area Devon Yorks Scotland Wales Gloucs Sussex Cornwall Kent Somerset Leics
Number of Sightings 132 127 125 123 104 103 99 92 91 89

Species that have been noted only occasionally include the Leopard Cat, which is the size of a domestic cat but has leopard-like spots, the Clouded Leopard, a specialised species from the tropics which was captured after living wild in Kent in 1975, and there are even extraordinary cases of lions being reported in Devon and Somerset.[13]

Reported British big cat sightingsEdit

Current interest in Big cat reports appear to stem from the late 1950s, with news stories of the Surrey Puma[14] and Fen Tiger.[15] In 1963 the Shooters Hill "cheetah" was reported from that area of London.[16] and in 1964 came similar reports from Norfolk.[17] From the 1970s reports spread across the country; the Beast of Exmoor was reported from Devon and Somerset[18] and the Sheppey Panther has been rumoured to exist since that decade.[19] In 1980 came the first modern report from Scotland,[20] and the Kellas Cat was shot there in 1984.

Greater interest in phantom cats grew from headline stories of the Beast of Bodmin from 1992,[21] and Dumfries and Galloway (the Galloway Puma). There were many more news stories from different parts of the country.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

Government involvementEdit

In 1988, the Ministry of Agriculture took the unusual step of sending in Royal Marines to carry out a massive search for the rumoured Beast of Exmoor after an increase in the number of mysteriously killed livestock, and farmer complaints over subsequent loss of money. Several Marines claimed to have seen the cat fleetingly, but nothing other than a fox was ever found. The Ministry concluded that reports of the Beast were nothing more than mass hysteria.Template:Citation needed The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published a list of predatory cats that they know to have escaped in the United Kingdom, although most of these have been recaptured.[32]

Mythological explanationEdit

For many hundred of years the myth of the spectral Black Dog has persisted in Britain — a supposed mythical creature appearing as a large black animal in remote moorland with no firm evidence beyond hearsay for its existence. Such stories inspired the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. It has been suggested that the stories of "Black Cats" are merely a modern continuation of such myths and stories, sharing the same elements but with the idea of a supernatural cause having fallen out of credibility (possibly due to the influence of the aforementioned novel) and the modern, more plausible, idea of an escaped or released wildcat supplanting it.[33][34][35] In addition, the stories of big cats share many traits suitable for the tabloid press — as such leading to wide exposure of any potential "cat" and further and rapid dissemination of any speculation or supposed evidence for it, helping to build a widespread urban myth.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • BCIB Yearbook 2007, Ed. Mark Fraser, CFZ 2008
  • Beer, Trevor The Beast of Exmoor: Fact or legend? Countryside Productions 1988
  • Brierly, Nigel They stalk by night - the big cats of Exmoor and the South West Yeo Valley Productions 1988
  • Francis, Di The Beast of Exmoor and other mystery predators of Britain Johnathan Cape 1993
  • Francis, Di Cat Country David and Charles 1982
  • Harpur, Merrily Mystery Big Cats Heart of Albion 2006
  • Moiser, Chris Mystery Cats of Devon and Cornwall Bossiney Books 2002
  • Moiser, Chris Big Cat Mysteries of Somerset Bossiney Books 2005
  • Moiser, Chris Mystery Big Cats of Dorset Inspiring Places 2007
  • Shuker, Karl Mystery Cats of the World: From Blue Tigers to Exmoor Beasts Robert Hale 1989


  1. Template:Cite web
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. William Cobbett: Rural Rides (1830), p204 in Penguin 2001 edition
  4. Template:Cite web
  5. Template:Cite web
  7. [1] BBC News
  8. [2] Naish, Darren: ”British big cats: how good, or bad, is the evidence?”, Tetrapod Zoology, February 19, 2006
  9. [3] 'Big cat' sighting on video, BBC Scotland, 24 May 2007]
  10. Template:Cite news
  11. Template:Cite web
  12. BBC Wildlife Magazine, April 2006
  13. Template:Cite web
  14. Template:Cite web
  15. Template:Cite web
  16. Bord, Janet and Colin. Alien Animals Paul Elek, 1980. pp46-48
  17. Bord, Janet and Colin. Alien Animals Paul Elek, 1980. p50
  18. Template:Cite web
  19. Template:Cite news
  20. [4]
  21. Template:Cite web
  22. Template:Cite web
  23. [5]
  24. Template:Cite web
  25. Template:Cite news
  26. Template:Cite web
  27. Template:Cite web
  28. Template:Cite news
  29. Template:Cite web
  30. Template:Cite web
  31. Template:Cite web
  34. tp://

External linksEdit

Template:Cryptozoologypl:Brytyjskie koty ru:Британские большие кошки zh:英国大猫

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