WHILE sightings of big cats in Britain are rare, some have been lucky enough to spot them, even for a brief few seconds.
The Beast of Exmoor just the latest in a long line of sightings, with one wildlife expert estimating there could be as many as 500 big cats roaming about the UK.
Where have big cats been spotted in the UK?
Dr Andrew Hemmings, of the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, believes there are hundreds of large predatory cats in the wild.
Possibly around 250 black leopards and 250 pumas in rural areas of the UK.
Many sightings have been debunked as hoaxes or misidentifications, but there are a still a fair few of the 2,000 or so that are recorded every year that remain mysteries.
Many groups are gathering data around the UK to try to help explain strange goings on near them. Recent scientific studies are also adding weight to the argument that something – or some things – may be out there.
Big cat sightings in the UK in recent years include leopards, panthers, jaguars and jungle cats.
1 The Beast of Cumbria Is reported to be a black cat like a panther.
2 The Hull Hell Cat A huge puma ‘spotted hiding in a field near Hull’.
3 The Bury Beast A black panther spotted in the suburbs of Manchester.
4 The Wildcat of Wakefield A black panther-like cat spotted in a Yorkshire field.
5 The Pershore Panther A huge black cat beside the road in Worcestershire.
6 The Wildcat of Warwickshire. A possible lynx spotted wandering Warwickshire.
7 The Bedfordshire Big Cat. A "panther-like" cat stalking the county.
8 The Beast of Silsoe A ‘cat as big as Labrador’ seen roaming the small parish.
9 The Beast of Bucks A puma which attacked a dog in High Wycombe.
10 The Beast of Broomfield A huge cat spotted in Essex.
11 The Dartmoor Lynx Several sightings in recent months on the moors.
12 The Dartmoor Devil A leopard believed to be behind cattle attacks.
13 The Creature of Cornwall Reportedly a stalking lion.
14 The Beast of Bodmin Several sightings of a puma-like creature wandering the moors.
15 The Suffolk Panther A huge black cat spotted on the Norfolk/Suffolk border
In January 2022, Sam Aston spotted the legendary Beast of Exmoor near Brayford, in Devon.
The 30-year-old came within 200-300 yards of the black, long tailed creature during a dog walk.
He said: "I couldn't make out what it was so I grabbed my phone and took a pic for identification purposes.
"It ran like a cat but there's no cat of that size in this country. It was the size of a big Labrador.
"It had a big long tail and I watched it running for about 10 seconds. And then it was gone."
In May 2021, Lisa and Nathan Deere also managed to take pictures of the Beast of Exmoor.
They were 500 yards from the beast, thought to be a puma, as it ran across a field.
Lisa, 32, said: “It’s the size of an Alsatian. It looks like it’s got a longer tail than a normal cat. It was definitely big.
“We were in the middle of the field and it was quite a distance away. If you put a house cat there, the grass will probably cover it.
“It might be a puma. It’s one of those things — until you see it, you don’t believe it.”
Sightings of the Beast of Exmoor were first recorded in the 1970s.
Norfolk has had the most reported sightings, with 57 being logged.
Neighbouring county Suffolk has had 26 reports of big cats.
A black panther has repeatedly been seen stalking the countryside in both counties.
In Devon and Cornwall there have been 28 sightings – and five reports of farm animals being killed by big cats.
In December 2012, two sheep were found dead with claw marks on their backs near Torrington, North Devon.
A ram was killed in the same month at Buckfastleigh on the edge of Dartmoor.
And a month before two sheep had their throats ripped out near Axminster, also in Devon, according to police logs.
What are the most famous big cat sightings?
The Beast of Cumbria is said to be a large non-native black cat much like a panther. In the most recent sighting, a pair of walkers came across the creature in the Lake District.
The Creature of Cornwall is reportedly a stalking lion. A lorry driver claims the big cat appeared in front of him in July.
The Pershore Panther. Robert Ingram, 36, and his wife Nicola, 34, were left stunned after spotting a huge black cat beside the road in Pershore, Worcs. It appeared to "stalk the car like prey".
The Wildcat of Warwickshire is a big cat which has been reported roaming the countryside in the West Midlands county.
The 4ft animal was captured on camera in November 2016 by dad Philip White who spotted it behind his home in the picturesque village of Great Alne, Warks.
The cat has been reported to have all the markings of a Eurasian Lynx which were once a common sight in the UK until hunted into "extinction" around 700AD.
However, they could soon be reintroduced to the north of England and southern Scotland as part of a scheme announced earlier this year by the Lynx UK Trust.
A businessman caught a suspected black panther on camera skulking towards two people sat under a tree in Huddersfield on August 24.
Mark Robinson, who was enjoying a round with his business partner at the time, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: “We saw what looked like a big black panther walking away from us.
"It looked to be stalking something, like a cat would.
"There had a slowness to its movements that distinguished it from being a dog. It was very distinctive and had a huge tail.
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