Beast of Bodmin Moor
The Beast of Bodmin Moor is an alleged big cat from the folklore of Cornwall and Devon in South West England.
The cat is supposedly native to Bodmin Moor in the northeastern part of Cornwall but reported sightings also come from other parts of Cornwall and neighboring Devon.
Reports about a big cat in Bodmin Moor, and mutilated livestock, date back to the early 1980s.
Although alleged eyewitness accounts suggested a small population of big cats, residents often talked about the Beast of Bodmin Moor as though there was only one animal.
Folklore described the Beast of Bodmin Moor as a big cat resembling a leopard or a black panther. It had prominent canine teeth and yellowish eyes.
Some speculated the creature was a cross between exotic big cats and local domestic cats.
Sid Yates, a resident of Four Lanes, Redruth, Cornwall, said the Beast of Bodmin resembled a black labrador, but it had longer legs, a flatter snout, and a long tail.
Sightings and Tales
In the early 1980s, locals began reporting sightings of a big black feline creature and strange paw prints in Cornwall and Devon, South West England. The reports stumped local authorities.
Beast of Bodmin Moor: The Ministry of Agriculture investigated
The persistent reports of big cats in Bodmin Moor led to an official investigation in the mid-1990s.
Investigators from the U.K. Ministry of Agriculture found no “verifiable evidence” of big cats in the moor.
They also found no evidence of big cats killing livestock in the area. They added that mutilated livestock could be due to native species, including dogs and cats.
Despite official denials, the sightings continued.
A boy found a leopard jaw in Bodmin Moor
In the summer of 1995, after government investigators published their findings, a boy discovered the skull of a big cat near the River Fowey.
The skull had an upper jaw with canines, but the lower jaw was missing.
The discovery made headlines, sparking speculation, rumors, and a renewed surge in reports of big cats prowling the moor.
Experts examined the skull and concluded it belonged to a male leopard. However, they said the cat had not lived or died in the moor. Someone brought the prepared skull to Britain from a tropical country.
Beast of Bodmin Moor footage
In 1998, officials investigated allegations of a big cat on the loose in the moor.
Residents reported attacks against livestock, suggesting big cats. Video footage also emerged claiming to show the Beast of Bodmin Moor (BBC News, July 21, 1998).
The video allegedly showed a black 3.5-foot big cat. The North Cornwall MP submitted the footage evidence for expert examination.
According to Cornwalllive.com, there were more than 205 reports in Cornwall and Devon between 2000 and 2011. Local police authorities said residents flooded them with calls alleging Beast of Bodmin Moor sightings.
However, it wasn’t clear how many of the reports were prank calls.
For instance, one caller claimed the Beast of Bodmin Moor was lying in their garden “digesting his dinner.” Another caller reported a “tiger on the loose.”
Beast of Bodmin Moor at Four Lanes
Later in 2013, residents reported sighting a big cat lurking around Four Lanes, near Redruth township.
Sid Yates, a retired salesman, told Cornwalllive.com that he came out of his home on a summer morning at about 9 a.m. and saw the Beast of Bodmin Moor standing about 50 yards away.
Yates said the Beast of Bodmin Moor resembled a black labrador, but it had longer legs, a flatter snout, and a long tail. He was sure it wasn’t a dog or a cat.
He watched as it crossed the road and walked out of sight.
Yates also revealed it wasn’t his first sighting. He saw the beast two years before while driving around Townshend village near the port town of Hayle.
The creature appeared in his headlights. He mistook it first for a labrador, but he realized after a closer look that it was not a dog but the feline Beast of Bodmin Moor.
In 2015, a resident reported a mysterious creature resembling a big cat walking through her garden outside the port city of Plymouth in Cornwall.
According to Carole Desforges, she saw the creature while looking out the window in her living room. She snapped a few photos on her phone.
Desforges first thought it was a fox, but when she looked at the photos, she realized it looked more like a big cat.
She showed the photos to her friends. Some thought it was a puma, but others suggested a leopard or lynx. However, many residents thought it was likely the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor.
The giant paw print
In 2016, police investigated a giant paw print in the wilds of Cornwall near St. Austell.
A resident John Parkinson, 44, of Newquay, captured a photograph that showed a large paw print. Parkinson reportedly took the photo at a clay pit between Nanpean and Whitemoor in St Austell.
The photo circulated widely in the local and national media and sparked renewed speculation about a cat prowling the area.
Police took the evidence seriously. They investigated and found similar prints. They also found the decapitated remains of a deer near the paw prints.
Parkinson’s paw print photo emerged only two months after another resident claimed that a large cat leaped in front of their car while driving.
Residents of Bodmin and the villages of St Tudy and Rock in north Cornwall also reported sighting big cats in 2016. Two people said they saw the alleged creature on two separate occasions at St Minver Holiday Park, near the coastal fishing village of Rock, according to Cornwalllive.com.
The mystery dog leg
In 2018, a homeowner in the village of St. Mabyn discovered a severed dog’s leg in his garden.
According to St. Mabyn resident Steve Collop, the canine limb was a mystery.
It was not there when he went out to his garden in the afternoon and later at about 8 p.m. to walk his dogs. He saw it when he returned at about 9 p.m.
He called the police, but they were also baffled because no one in the village had reported a dog with a missing leg.
The sighting sparked rumors that the Beast of Bodmin Moor might have returned.
What is the Beast of Bodmin Moor?
Zoologists, wildlife experts, and cryptozoologists have speculated on the sightings and proposed theories to explain them.
A popular theory proposes that some people might have introduced big cats from other parts of the world, such as North and South America, Africa, and Asia.
According to another hypothesis, the cat might have escaped from a zoo, a circus menagerie, or a private collection.
There was speculation in the 1980s that the famous circus trainer Mary Chipperfield (Mary Rose Cawley) might have released big cats into the moor after financial difficulties forced her to close down her Plymouth Zoo in 1978.
She reportedly planned to move five of her pumas to the Dartmoor Zoo, but she claimed that three–a breeding pair and a young male–escaped during transit.
She later reportedly confessed she released them at Bodmin Moor.
Although her husband, Robert Cawley, denied the claim after she died, Chipperfield’s purported confession generated renewed interest in the Beast of Bodmin Moor folklore and inspired sightings allegations.
A wild or stray cat
Others speculated that instead of being a big cat, the Beast of Bodmin Moor might have been a feral or stray domestic cat (Felis catus) that went rogue.
The U.K’s Mirror reported that experts concluded after the 1995 Ministry of Agriculture investigation that a large black feral cat might have been responsible for the sightings and reports of mutilated livestock.
Where to find
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, Eberhart, George M. (2002)
https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/evidence-beast-bodmin-could-actually-692191, “This is the evidence the Beast of Bodmin could actually be haunting Bodmin Moor and Cornwall,” accessed on March 7, 2023.
https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/beast-bodmin-big-cat-sightings-680198, “‘Beast of Bodmin’ big cat sightings reported by seven people in Cornwall in a week,” accessed on March 7, 2023.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/136546.stm, “UK’Beast of Bodmin’ captured on video,” accessed on March 7, 2023.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/beast-bodmin-moor-mystery-solved-4812877, “Beast of Bodmin Moor: Mystery solved over ‘beast’ that slaughtered farm animals for decades,” accessed on March 7, 2023.
Featured Image: The Beast of Bodmin Moor is a big cat native to Cornwall, South West England. Pic credit: Pixabay