Friday 19 February 2010

Folklore Accounts Part Three: Strange Cries

Reports in the modern era seem relatively numerous, regarding large cats – as of the last fifty or so years - due to press interest and influence, and the constant connections made between felids and owners who released such cats in the ‘60s and ‘70s. During the 1930s an Irene Roberts wrote to a magazine known as The Field commenting on the peculiar screams she’d heard behind her home at Lightwater, Surrey. Such noises were described as being of, ‘…peculiar intensity, expressing, it seemed, mortal fear and physical pain.’
Irene Roberts had become accustomed to hearing the noises of foxes and other indigenous species, but felt that this eerie cry was from an animal far larger and more exotic.

Folklore Accounts Part Two: Felid or Canid ?

On May 3rd 1833 The Times reported on another peculiar animal prowling Surrey. Was it a big cat, a wolf or something altogether more sinister ?

The article read: ‘Some excitement has been raised in the little quiet village of Coulsdon, in Surrey, in consequence of an animal of strange and unnatural appearance having taken up its abode in the neighbouring woods. It has been seen by a great many persons, but the several descriptions are much at variance with each other. All declare that it is something of the dog or wolf species, but all agree that they never saw the like before. It is thought by the more rational part, who are willing to assign a natural cause for the visit of this animal, that it has escaped from some menagerie; but the superstitious are inclined to the belief that it is a supernatural being, come to terrify the wicked for their sins. It, however, appears to be subject to the natural wants that flesh is heir to, as two sheep have already been destroyed and partly devoured by this ferocious visitant. A party, consisting of the gentry of the neighbourhood, with some hounds fron the Surrey pack, went in pursuit of the animal on Tuesday morning, but they met with no success.’

Folklore Accounts Part One: Cobbett's 'puma'

Although much of what we know about the Surrey puma legend originates from around the 1950s, and moreso the 1960s, previous to such sightings there are a handful of legends which could suggest that such an animal had been roaming the Surrey wilds, long before anyone realised. What is clear is that the Surrey puma legend born in the swingin' '60s is the product of a released or escaped 'pet', and nothing more.

One of the most quoted references pertaining to sightings of unusual cats in the British Isles comes from naturalist William Cobbett and his 'Rural Rides' book. Whilst visiting Waverley Abbey in Surrey sometime between 1766 and 1770 Cobbett recorded he’d seen an unusual cat which he would tell his son Richard about on another ramble, stating, ‘Farnham, Surrey – Thursday 27th October (1825) – We came hither by way of Waverley Abbey and Moore Park. On the commons, I showed Richard some of my old hunting scenes, when I was his age, or younger reminding him that I was obliged to hunt on foot. I showed him an old elm tree which was hollow even then, into which I, when a very little boy, saw a cat go, that was as big as a middle-sized spaniel dog, for relating which I got a scolding, for standing to which I at last got a beating; but stand to which I still did, and I would take my oath of it to this day. When in New Brunswick I saw the great wild grey cat, which is there called a Lucifer; and it seemed to me to be just such a cat I had seen at Waverley.’

An intriguing tale. Many researchers have commented that what Cobbett saw was indeed a wild cat (Felis silvestris), now confined to the Scottish Highlands, although some suppose he saw a lynx, jungle cat or a small puma, which can also sport a silvery-grey coat

Sunday 14 February 2010

Big cat sightings around the capital ? Read the book.

For more than twenty years Neil Arnold has investigated sightings of 'big cats' across the south-east. He is a full-time researcher, author and speaker on the subject.
His latest book, MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: KENT features a vast chapter on CATS AROUND THE CAPITAL. He has just finished MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: LONDON which covers sightings of the legendary Surrey puma, dating back to the 1700s. It is the only book to comprehensively look into the legend.
There is no mystery as to why such animals roam the UK countryside, but sensational press headlines,inadequate research, and folklore have fogged the legend. Now read the truth behind the tales...