The Beast of Dartmoor
Dartmoor in England is one of the most famous National Parks in the UK, first founded in 1951. Dartmoor is known for it’s endless moors, ancient bridges, forests, valleys, granite tors, and wild ponies. However, in recent years, the most famous feature of the landscape has become the ‘Beast of Dartmoor’- a creature of folklore and cryptozoology, that just recently has come into the light as more than just an urban legend.
The first ever sightings of the beast began in the 1970s, and gained popularity in the 80s. The story was noticed by the BBC when a South Molton farmer lost over 100 sheep, all which had had their throats torn out. It was established that no native animal could have inflicted those injuries. Sightings have stated that the beast is a large black feline creature, which lead many to speculate that it was an escaped pet panther- around the time of the first sighting it became illegal to own big cats outside of zoos, and so some believe it was released so the owner would not get in trouble. However, a panther only lives arounnd 12-15 years (factoring in that a pet panther would also have no survival skills for British terrain), which doesn’t make sense giving the time span of the sightings which still continue to this day.
In 1983, after the sheep incident and other reports of dead livestock, the Royal Marine Snipers were sent out onto the moors to find the beast. The beast was sighted by the snipers, however they were not able to shoot as it was standing infront of a sheep, and they knew the bullet would pass through and kill both animals. By 1987, the beast was linked to over 200 animal deaths, including dogs and cats as well as livestock. In 2006, the British Big Cats Society found a skull on a farm in Devon which was confirmed to be a large big cat.
Over the years since people have continued to spot the beast- all descriptions claim the animal to be around eight feet long and having the ability to leap 6 foot tall fences. One man claimed to see the beast fishing with it’s paw in the River Barle, after which he said he believed the creature lived inside an abandoned mine out on the nearby moor. The amount of sightings soon lead scientists to believe there could be more than one ‘beast’. The Daily Express newspaper offered a reward for the capture of the beast, dead or alive. Over the years, many photographs have arisen as evidence, showing what appears to be a panther with the features of other large cats. These photographs were analysed and it is clear that the creature has features of both a black leopard and a mountain lion- a hybrid is possible (a Pumapard), however they are almost always born with dwarfism and die early. This also doesn’t support the idea of multiple beasts, as Pumapards are sterile.
The case seemed to be going nowhere until it was recently discovered that in the 1970s, famous circus owner Mary Chipperfield released three large cats onto the moors of Dartmoor after her circus was forced to close in 1978. Mary was supposed to transport five cats across the moors, but only two ever arrived at their destination. It is now believed that the three cats bred over the years and their offspring became the new ‘beasts’ of Dartmoor. Sightings seemed to stop after 2010, leading some to believe that the cats did not survive the harsh winter of that year. However, more recently sightings have started again all over England, meaning the ‘beasts’ could very well have survived and still be roaming the moors to this day.
ABCs, they call them, standing for Alien Big Cats. Like leopards and mountain lions, they are large and well formed. They are not supposed to exist on the Isles of Albion, hence the aura of mystery. There have been so many sightings, though, that their existence is pretty well set. In my opinion, anyway.
Just tabbies, you say? LOL