Is there such a creature?
The so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor has sparked stories and legends for three decades about a phantom black cat the size of a puma stalking the moors of Cornwall. Since 1978, more than 60 reports have baffled local police about sightings of a large cat-like creature with supposedly sharp, prominent teeth and white-yellow eyes; a cross between a domestic cat and a panther. A string of mutilated livestock has done nothing but fuel the rumours.
Some people have reported being chased by the powerful and scary cat-like creature. Others have spotted it in the distance, not quite believing their eyes. Grainy photographs and video footage exist, but not enough to prove that it is real.
In 1995 the Government ordered an official investigation into the existence of the beast, which concluded that there was no verifiable evidence of a big cat on Bodmin Moor. It is worth noting it was careful to state that there was no evidence against it, either.
Theories abound as to whether the beast is a myth or reality. A small boy found a large cat skull lying on the banks of the River Fowey in the late 1990s. It was thought this was finally evidence that the Beast of Bodmin Moor actually had existed. However, the Natural History Museum confirmed that the skull did, indeed, belong to a leopard, but that the leopard had been imported into Britain as part of a leopard skin rug!
Another long-held hypothesis about the Bodmin Beast centres around the release or escape of big cats from private collections or zoos. It was first claimed that Mary Chipperfield, a 1970s British circus entertainer, released three pumas into the wild following the closure of her Zoo in Plymouth in 1978. Another claim was made in 2016 by Dartmouth Zoo about a pack of pumas released in the 1980s, which would explain the existence of big cats on the moor for the last 30 years. However, scientists have rejected this theory based on the grounds that the numbers needed to sustain a breeding population of big cats would be too large for the food supply.
There is, of course, the possibility that the animal is a species of wild cat thought extinct in Britain many years ago, still surviving on the moors of Cornwall. Others blame the paranormal, believing the beast to be a mythical and ghostly apparition of a creature that roamed Cornwall in the past.
Meanwhile, the Beast of Bodmin sightings continue…