What is the Beast of Dartmoor? It seems to depend on whom you speak to or what you believe. Most individuals report a reflection from two big green eyes or hear a very scary howling sound. Other than that, there seems to be little agreement. Many say this wooly mammal is a lion-pig or a boar, horse, wolverine, bear, cougar, panther, sheep or a dog. There are many stories, but little evidence. Most researchers only have a blurry video on youtube.com
or the blurry photograph above taken near Hound Tor near Dartmoor in 2007 by a falconer. It is important to note that a party of school children was close to the location when this photograph was taken; none were afraid or harmed. The animal was not alarmed. A similar sighting occurred in the same area a year later, and was described as a bear. One extreme claim is that this creature somehow survived the ice age and has since thrived. Since no one can even agree on whether it is feline or canine, the mystery deepens.
According to Rebecca Camber, it may have all started with the centuries-old myth about black dogs in the British Isles. These canines are said to inhabit the moors, but there has been no proof to this story. The truth is that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his mystery, the Hound of the Baskervilles, on myths of the Whist hounds or Hounds of Hell and Squire Richard Cabell’s story.
The myth about the Squire may shed some light on the origins of the Hell Hounds. This man, who died in July 5, 1677, allegedly sold his soul to the Christian Devil. After his body was placed in its tomb, a allegedly big black dogs with red eyes appeared and made horrible sound as fire was ejected with their every breath. After that, the myths claim they showed up for every anniversary of his death to collect his soul. How this turned into legends of random sightings throughout the year remains unclear, but these may be the roots of the canine connection with this beast.Some say that the superstitions and stories about black cats are a more modern continuation of the black dog myths. Both dogs and cats come from myth; a medieval Welsh poem explains how a clawing cat roamed about who was the offspring of a sow.
While the original cause was said to be supernatural, today more believe that these odd animals are escapees from zoos or have been released from private estates. Like a fish tale, the cats became bigger and came in a variety of colors. This only contributed to the urban legend.
The site Crytidz Wikia tries to solve the mystery of the Beast of Dartmoor by proclaiming it a puma (felis concolor.) Pumas, cougars or mountain lions can survive in a variety of environments. Pumas eat quite a spectrum of animals from deer to rabbit. Cumber found that others did not immediately rush to the same explanation. Mark Fraser, founder of the national research organization Big Cats has been surprised by the variety of witness descriptions. Some attribute this to what is seen at a distance may possibly be explicable. For example, if a domestic cat is seen at a distance, without proper lighting and no available measurements in the landscape (such as in the moors) a person may be mistaken as to its features and how large the animal really is.
Those who follow feline sightings describe cats that allegedly live in Britain but are not indigenous. This includes pumas, but also panthers and big black cats. While most reports cannot be confirmed, the list of the reports throughout the years is interesting. The first description of big cats came from mid-eighteenth century author, William Cobbett. He not only claimed he once saw a cat the size of a larger dog, but also saw a lynx. Later, a Canadian lynx was reportedly shot in 1903. In 1927, a sighting of a lynx was described in the local paper. . A puma was captured alive in Scotland in 1980. A type of jungle cat was reportedly run over by a car in Shopshire in 1989. A Eurasian lynx was shot in Norfolk in 1991, and in the midst of the controversy, a police report finally confirmed the veracity of the story. In 1993, another puma was reportedly recovered in Scotland. In 1994, a farmer reported he had shot a large cat that looked like a leopard on the Isle of Wight but police reported it was possibly an ocelot. Even in Northern Ireland in 1996, authorities reported a shooting of a caracal (sometimes referred to as desert lynx), a medium-sized wildcat native to Africa and Asia, but the police report stated it was a lynx. This only added to the confusion. In 2001,authorities trapped a young Eurasian lynx in North London after a long chase.
In this age of technology, one has to look at videos, photographs and possible DNA evidence.Around 1993, people reported a large black cat around Bodmin Moor, nicknamed the ‘Beast of Bodmin’. Government scientists debunked the videos saying that these were simply domestic black cats. In 1994 another black cat was videotaped in Cambridgeshire and the media christened it the “Fen Tiger”. But again, there is no scientific proof. From 2004 to 2011, each year brought videos of black cats, one allegedly responsible for killing sheep. However, the videos did not offer conclusive evidence. During a physical attack on a 11 year old boy in Monmouthshire in 2000, the victim claimed it was a big black cat. In 2005, another Southeast London, a large man struggled with a large black cat. At the time the BBC reported that a police officer confirmed that it was the size of a large dog. DNA evidence so far has been disappointing and does not support the claims. Hairs given to Durham University, found in North Devon, seemed to confirm the possibility of a leopard. After examining two dead deer in Gloucestershire, though witnesses had reported a large black cat, the DNA said foxes were responsible. In 2012, there was a similar incident, and the DNA came back with foxes again as the culprits.
One of the most amusing stories came in August 2012, when it was rumored that a lion was loose in Essex. While there was extensive air and land investigation, no big cat was found. A local resident reported that the animal photographed was her own Maine Coon named Teddy.
The search for the Beast and its sightings continued. Fifteen people claimed they saw it in Haldon Forest in 2011. In 2013, a large black cat was allegedly spotted, but a former zookeeper in the area said the paw prints were too small to be a panther but could be those of an extremely large domestic cat.
Is the best evidence the photo above that was taken by Falconer Martin Whitley, who saw the animal from 200 yards away? Cumber reports that Whitley is sure it was not a dog; he has worked with dogs all his life. He described a shaggy coat, rounded ears and large powerful front legs. He claims he saw a huge cat over a decade ago, but this was not the same, this was much bigger. He described it as having both feline and bear-like characteristics that is confusing at best.
Whatever these creatures are, they are not the farmers’ friends. In 1988, after a myriad of complains over dead livestock, the Ministry of Agriculture actually sent out the Royal Marines to find the Beast of Exmoor. While several Marines said they spotted a cat, only evidence of foxes was confirmed.
The farmers also have another foe according to Cumber. Al Dedames’ farm in North Devon was raided by animal rights activists who destroyed fencing. He lost over 100 boars. While some ended up dead through shooting by hunters or other farmers, and others died in road accidents, almost 200 could still be wandering.
In searching for the Beast of Dartmoor, Tim Sandles compiled government research and found from 2001 to the end of 2004, 48 strange animals were reported: 5 confirmed wild boar sightings with 20 out of 27 big cat sightings remained inconclusive. While these numbers sound extreme, consider the location that also adds to the mystery. The common location for the Beast of Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park, experiences much fog and the land can be hard to navigate due to the rather treacherous terrain. Crytidz Wikia states Dartmoor is said to be inhabited by anomalies ranging from little people to large monsters. The Beast of Dartmoor remains an unconfirmed cryptid. This means it may exist, but there is simply not enough evidence to confirm it at this time. The mystery continues.
Beast of Dartmoor. Retrieved October 14, 2015 fromhttp://cryptidz.wikia.com/wiki/Beast_of_Dartmoor
British Big Cats. Retrieved October 14, 2015 fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_big_cats
Camber, Rebecca (July 29,2007). Demon of Dartmoor: Mystery beast seen at hell hound’s haunt. Retrieved October 14, 2015 from
List of Cryptids. Retrieved October14, 2015 fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cryptids
Sandles, Tim.Beast of Dartmoor. Retrieved October 14, 2015 from
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