Unknown Cats

When a wild animal is reported as being in a location where that species should not be found, with no sign that anyone has let a specimen loose in this location, cryptozoologists typically speculate that it might be of a previously unknown species or subspecies. The most commonly reported out-of-place animals are big cats. Although reports of these misplaced felines, which cryptozoologists call ABCs (for “alien big cats”), come from all over the world, certain places seem to have more of one type of sighting than others. For example, ABCs resembling pumas have been reported in Great Britain; pumas and tigers in Australia; black panthers in the eastern United States and Canada; and black panthers, cougars, and African lions in the midwestern United States.

Most of the people who report such sightings describe animals that behave in ways that would be expected of the known cat species they resemble. For example, the so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor, as the British press dubbed a big cat that was glimpsed repeatedly in England during the 1990s, was said to act very much like a leopard or puma.

Despite an absence of reported escapes, sceptics ascribe sightings of ABCs or their tracks to animals coming from private zoos. Such escapes do indeed sometimes happen. For example, in 2005, mysterious tracks, sighted in several locations in Simi Valley, California, proved to be those of a huge tiger whose escape from a private collector had never been reported. Before the animal was cornered and killed, people speculated that its enormous prints might belong to some previously unknown species of mountain lion because mountain lions—which are much smaller than tigers—are known to inhabit the area.

However, cryptozoologists argue that escapes cannot account for all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of ABC sightings each year. Therefore, some people suspect that groups of feral big cats—perhaps the descendants of zoo escapees—inhabit at least some of the areas where they have been sighted; others, though, think that the sightings are the product of imagination, misidentification, or exaggeration. Such arguments also revolve around big cats that are not known to exist. Examples of such creatures are the blue tigers and the black tigers of China.

In 1910 Harry R. Caldwell, a hunter visiting the Futsing region of China, thought he saw a tiger whose stripes were blue rather than black, and beginning in the 1920s several other people reported seeing such an animal in other parts of China as well. Sightings of all-black tigers in China (as well as in India, Java, and Burma) began to be reported in the 1800s, with the most recent sighting in 1998. While sceptics believe that such sightings are of ordinary tigers whose colouring only seems different because of quirks of lighting, cryptozoologists suspect that these animals belong to a tiger species that has yet to be documented.



The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning