These islands have a long history of sightings of big cats, often on windswept moorlands and often found in newspaper records in what is usually the silly season.
But one has at last been found – stuffed and forgotten in the vaults of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. I am not surprised that such a beast was there. Bristolians have since about the 17th century been collecting suffed animals and all sorts of oddities. My favourite is a rock colection from a vicar which is alleged to prove the truth of Noah’s flood. The problem has always been finding space to store all the donations, a problem that was meant to have been resolved by the building of the all singing local museum, the M Shed, but it is largely devoted to interactive stuff and restaurants. More like a car boot sale with better food, but I digress…
It is a Canadian lynx, twice the size of a domestic cat, and wa shot by a Devon landlowner after it had killed two dogs in the early 1900s. It is believed to have been an escapee from a travelling menagerie,as analysis shows it ws kept in captivity before being released.
One widespread myth is that the many sightings of wild cats were due to the 1976 Dangerous wild animals Act which is often thought to have triggered the widespread release of wild animals, but there is no evidence that this happened. But sightings continue to be made. The British Big Cats Society found there ere 2,123 sightings of big cats between april 2004 and July 2005, with most being in the South-West of England. I guess there is no link to the fact that this region has a higher than average number of alternative folk living there, so more likely to believe in such things.