ANOMALOUS FELIDS

ANOMALOUS FELIDS

As well as the colour morphs listed on Mutant Big Cats and the hybrids at Hybrid Big Cats, there are a number of anomalous big cats that are sometimes claimed to be species unknown to science or remnant populations of extinct felids. Most are probably known species seen in poor light or in places outside of their normal range, including exotic escapees and unusual colour morphs of known species. Dwarfism is known in domestic cats and may occur in wild species. Long hair, due to a recessive gene mutation, has been seen in the extinct Woolly Cheetah and may have occurred in other species, accounting to the descriptions of "bushy tails" in some sightings of unknown big cats. Some are folklore rather than fact, or are a mix of fact and myth. Many such cats grow in stature as the tale is passed from person to person (a case in point is that of a lion seen near a railway track in London - it turned out to be a fluffy ginger tom). In a few cases, modern subspecies believed to be extinct may not be as extinct as supposed or a related subspecies has moved into that part of the range.

Cryptozoology sites are quick to call these new species or prehistoric species, though most are natural variation in known species. While I am open to the possibility of unknown species, particularly in sparsely inhabited regions, most sightings can be attributed to known mutations or misidentification. Many are probably composites where several observers had different interpretations of what they has seen. Composites combine the features of different species much like the hippogriffs and gryphons of mythology. All claims of mysterious big cats, should be treated with healthy scepticism.

NORTH AMERICA

There have been sightings of the Eastern cougar (eastern North America), a supposedly extinct subspecies or a related subspecies that has moved or been released into the eastern cougar's former range. The Eastern Cougar was wiped out in the early part of the 20th century (as early as the 1870s in some parts of its range, as late as the 1930s in others). Since that time there have been periodic reports of pumas in area once inhabited by the Eastern Cougar. The have included tracks, sightings of living pumas including adults with cubs and even a skull. In 1971, a deer-hunter in eastern Tennessee shot and preserved a puma. As a result, its status was changed form "extinct" to "endangered". Some of the sightings have been dismissed as escaped pets/menagerie animals, misidentified animals (especially carcasses and skeletons) and pumas from the western subspecies moving into the now-vacant range. A puma captured in West Virginia in 1976 showed evidence of having been a pet, however there remains the possibility that the Eastern Puma is not extinct - pumas tend to be secretive animals.

American Black Panthers (Central North America) are described as pantherine felids distinct from both puma and lynx; they may be a northern population of jaguarundi or black jaguar, released black leopards or a puma whose fur has been darkened by rain or soil. There are no authenticated cases of melanism in pumas, although an unusually dark specimen has been shot. A black panther was supposedly shot in Indiana in 1946, but its body fell into a creek and was lost. There have also been reports of a bipedal black panther from South Carolina (USA), new Brunswick (Canada) and ranging from the 1950s to 1970s. Black panther sightings can be attributed to: poor lighting, observer unfamiliarity with big cat types and optical illusions caused by perspective so that black feral or domestic cats are believed to large cats seen from far off rather than small cats seen at a much closer distance. Another possible identity is the Fisher, found in north-eastern USA and Canada; it is a mustelid but its shape and face could lead to misidentification. Sightings in the southern USA might be due to jaguarundis spreading from central America or from Florida and texas where it is an introduced species. Melanistic bobcats also exist and some have been described as having longer than usual tails. Dark or black pumas is another explanation, although melanism has never been authenticated in the puma. Escaped black African leopards is a distinct possibility; these were kept as exotic pets and some may have been released when they matured and became unmanageable. Jaguars also have a black form; the jaguar once ranged as far as the souther states of the USA. A black leopard or black jaguar (at any rate a bluish-black or brownish-black "panther" with cryptic spots) was shot in Savannah, Georgia in the 1960s but its body was disposed of.

The Dorsal Jaguar, a supposedly north American form of the Jaguar of the south and central Americas, was described in "The Atlantic Journal and Friend of Knowledge, a Cyclopædic Journal and Review" by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1833): "The Jaguars are the spotted Tygers of America, found from Mexico to Paraguay [...] another Jaguar still larger and of a different species has lately been seen as far as Lake Erie, and in lat. 42. One was shot by the Seneca Indians, to whom it was totally unknown, another was killed in the Alleghany mountains of Pennsylvania, and an account given in the papers. These animals were totally distinct from the common Jaguar; they must have been wanderers from New Mexico or the Oregon mountains, and belong probably to a new species which I propose to call Felis dorsalis, owing to the black band on the back. There are several other species of Jaguars in South America, little known or not well distinguished. Specific characters, Felis Dorsalis, Dorsal Jaguar. Of a grey colour, neck fallow, a black line or band all along the middle of the back, two rows of ringed spots on each side, black above, brown below. Total length 10 feet including the tail, body 6 1/2, tail 3 1/3. Very different from Felis pardalis [ocelot] by size four times larger, neck and back, & etc."

American Maned Lions have been reported from the eastern USA, western states and into Canada (Ontario). Some reportedly have tufted tails as well as dark or black manes. This suggests African lions may have escaped or been released and naturalised. Lions used to be easily obtained as cubs, but may have been abandoned when they became unmanageable adults. Lions would have little problem surviving in parts of the USA where there are plentiful deer, wild horses and free-ranging livestock. In 1917, there was a report of a maned lion and a lioness together. There are rumours of lions escaping or being released from circus trucks and circus trains. In the mid 1960s, an African lion was allegedly shot in Georgia; a photo exists and it is believed to have been a pet that was released when it became unmanageable. A maned cat sighted in Illinois was described as twice the size of a domestic cat with a long tail and very short legs and resembling a shrunken lion. Lion cubs have also turned up in Iowa and in Ohio; the latter had escaped from an amusement company. Lion skeletons and dead animals have also turned up. There are reports of game ranches running "canned hunts" in which captive lions may be shot within fenced enclosures; a few lucky lions might have managed to escape an unpleasant fate. American Striped Lions are mentioned in a book of Cherokee stories and interviews called "Friends of Thunder": "There were some lions that were long and striped, and then there were very small-sized ones. There was a striped kind, and the small ones were like dogs" (p 142-143). These striped lions may have been ocelots or relict sabretooth cats.

Lion and tiger hybrids: In some states, there was (possibly still is) a legal loophole making it permissible to keep hybrid big cats, but not purebred lions or tigers. There is a report of a lion x black jaguar cross (male) and a tiger x black jaguar cross (female) sighted together in Maui, Hawaii. There are no known tiger/jaguar hybrids and the descriptions match those of a lion and a liger (and it would be reasonable to find these two animals together since lions are social, but jaguars and tigers are not). The alleged lion x black jaguar male was had a scarred grey face, short, thick black mane confined to the head and neck, solid dark tawny body and black tufted tail. The identification of lion x jaguar hybrid was made by the observer based on facial appearance. Known hybrids have chocolate rosettes on a tawny background colour. The description matches that of a lion, the grey face being due to lighting or dried blood. The alleged tiger x black jaguar was larger, maneless and had both stripes and "jaguar-like" rosettes on its sides. The assertion of hybrid identity was due to the combination of black, dark brown, light brown, dark orange, dark yellow and beige markings as well as tiger-like stripes radiating from its face. This description matches that of known ligers, some of which appear brindled. Ligers have a mix of rosettes (lion juvenile markings) and stripes, as well as having the larger size described.

During the Pleistocene, a subspecies of lion existed in North America and ranged through Central America and as far south as north-western South America. Panthera atrox officially died out 10,000 years ago though some anomalous big cat enthusiasts believe that the American maned lions are a remnant population with different social habits: African lions are highly social, living in prides, but American maned lions appear to be solitary or in pairs. However, P atrox was larger than the modern lion and was more jaguar-like in conformation. The American maned lions are almost certainly out-of-place African lions, probably existing in low numbers hence no prides have been found.

The Santer (North Carolina, North America) terrorized parts of North Carolina at the end of the 19th century. In 1897 it was linked to an escaped lynx and to a large shepherd dog. One account described it as striped from the end of its nose to the end of its tail, another described it as grey and intermediate in size between a cat and dog (unhelpful - dogs range from Chihuahua to great Dane). Although apparently much bolder than is usual for a puma, it was most likely to have been a large puma. It evidently disappeared after the 1890s, so if it was more than hysteria, it had either moved on or died. There are claims of a second Santer report from the 1930s, but insufficient detail to support the claims.

The Georgia Mystery Cat (northeast Georgia, USA) observed half a mile from the confluence of the Hudson River and Broad River in 2004 is described as resembling a very large domestic cat with the face and ears of a bobcat, but an extremely long tail (bobcats have bobbed tails, but pantherine cats have rounded ears). It has been heard screaming and eye-witnessed describe it as a 2.5-3 ft tall and 4-5.5 ft long, including its tail. It has been captured on video, but not identified.

The Long-tailed Wildcat and Long-tailed Bobcat (Pennsylvania, North America) is described as similar to the European wildcat and is most likely a large, feral domestic cats whose colour has reverted to the wild-type mackeral tabby. Feral cats have naturalised around the USA. It is unlikely to be evidence of indigenous small cats. There is a tradition that bobcats have formed hybrids with domestic cats in the wild (known as Legend Cats) resulting in long-tailed cats with bobcat-like facial features, colouration and spotted pattern. Tests on reputed Bobcat hybrid breeds (the "Lynx" breeds and Pixie-Bob) have found no DNA evidence of bobcat ancestry. Bobcat x ocelot hybrids were bred in Texas; the males were sterile, but the females might possibly have been fertile - fertile escapees could have resulted in long-tailed and spotted bobcats.

Releases of Jungle Cats into the wild in the Los Angeles area were described in the Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of July/August, 1971 by John M Jackson. His Jungle cat produced 4 kittens in March 1968. One of these was female and the new owner eventually turned it loose in the hills. Unless spayed, this means a female Jungle cat was released into the wild; Jungle cats can interbreed with domestic cats. Irresponsible cat ownership means that the genes of spotted breeds, some with wild ancestry, have escaped into the feral population and may give rise to reports of wild cats (for example, a reported wild ocelot stalking a child on an American trailer park turned out to be a pet Ocicat, a breed with no wild blood at all!).

The Alaskan Blue Lynx is known only from a pelt in 1938; it is not an unknown species, but is a known mutation that causes black pigment to be converted to blue-grey. The same goes for the Blue Bobcat. The Black-Nosed Bobcat is also a colour mutation (partial melanism). The Kentucky Tiger (USA) reported in August 1823 was described as a tiger of brindle colour and with huge eyes. Despite standing its ground and being shot at 12 times, it was apparently unhurt and ran away; there have been no further reports. The Ozark Black Howler (Ozark Mountains, North America) is part of Ozarks folklore and is described as a lynx-like bushy-furred black cat. Melanistic bobcats exist and melanistic lynxes are theoretically possible. A specimen of the Tennessee Red Cheetah (Tennessee, North America) was supposedly shot, but the body/skin has not been presented for analysis. It apparently had a reddish dorsal stripe and red tail, but a golden brown body with black stripes and spots. One suggested identity is the prehistoric American cheetah (Miracinonyx), though an erythristic (reddish) puma or onza is more likely. Another contender is Siemel's Mystery Cat (listed under Central America section), supposedly a puma x jaguar hybrid although this has not been authenticated.

The Canadian How-How (British Columbia, Canada) is depicted on the native people's totem poles. They class it as a real cat that is distinct from the puma and known as the How-how, because of its cry.

The remaining American "mystery" cats are the product of folklore and imagination. The Gallywampus (Missouri) is described as an amphibious panther that swims like a colossal mink and occasionally attacks terrestrial livestock. The land-living Whistling Wampus (Arkansas) is supposedly a huge black beast with a "hoo-hoo" whistling cry and a taste for lumberjack. According to one Indian legend, the Wampus Cat or Ewah was created when an Indian woman wore a cat fur so she could spy on the men's secret gatherings at night; she was caught and doomed to become half-woman, half-puma and her ghost now wanders the land howling because she wants to become a woman again. The Wowzer (Oklahoma) resembles a puma except for its size; it is 5 or 6 times bigger and can bite the heads off of oxen. The Cactus Cat (Cactifelinus inebrius) (Arizona) resembles a spiky-furred domestic cat with a forked or double tail, razor-sharp blades of bone on its forelegs and a screeching call. It supposedly used these blades to slash open cacti and release the sap, which it allowed to ferment into mescal before drinking it. The Splinter Cat (Felynx arbordiffisus) (widespread in wooded regions) ate wild bees and raccoons and smashed apart trees with its hard face until it finds prey. Naturally people assumed the damage to be due to windstorms! The Splinter Cat, Cactus Cat and other imagined beasts were "described" in 1910 by writer William T Cox in "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, with a few Desert and Mountain Beasts"

CENTRAL AMERICA

The Onza (Mexico, Central America) was long dismissed as a myth. Its name is derived from "uncia" (Latin for "cheetah") making it distinct from the "leon" (puma) and "tigre" (jaguar). It was described in 1757 as being less timid than the puma and having a longer, thinner body. Mirko Wölfling, of the University of Würzburg, has provided a scan of the original first German edition of Linné (Linnean) "System of Nature" (1773) with the first natural history description of the animals: "The Panther Felis Onca. Even if females of the Leopard are called Panther, nevertheless we think this name is the best for this animal. The Portuguese call it Onza because it is similar to a Lynx because of its dots. But Hernandes is calling it the Mexican Tiger." It is interesting that Linné uses both spellings: Onca and Onza (and Onza apears in a different font in the section). But in connection with Hernandes and the Portuguese and the name Mexican Tiger, it appears to be different species mixed up. The creature identified as an onza in the 1920s and 1930s appears to be the jaguarondi (which can be tamed). It can be found in "Wonders of Animal Life" edited by J A Hammerton (1930) with the caption "a cat-like animal called the onza which is only found in Central and South America. Jaguar hunters in 1938 shot an onza and gave a similar description, adding that its limbs and ears were also longer; the skull was donated to a museum, but has since been lost. It was also linked to the Pleistocene cheetah and later said to be a cheetah-like puma adapted for sprinting after prey. A shot specimen was initially described as an emaciated puma based on the photos. The onza, now known from more than one specimen, has since been classified as a gracile form of puma with a few other differences such as longer ears and striped marking on its forelimbs. In 1998, final test results were made public in the journal Cryptozoology: tissue samples were found not to be of a distinct species, but were indistinguishable from those of the North American puma. It remains to be seen if onzas and pumas can occur within the same litter (like cheetahs and king cheetahs), whether it interbreeds with the puma or whether it is a separate species/subspecies or is evolving into a separate species. In any case, the modern onza seems to be a type of puma while the historical onza may have been the jaguarondi.

The Cuitlamiztli or Aztec Wolf-Cat (Mexico) was held in Montezuma's zoo according to Castillo during the time of Cortes. The Florentine Codex, an Aztec natural history catalogue, described it as resembling a cougar, but far more aggressive. Castillo said that Montezuma's the zoo contained "tigers [jaguars] and lions [cougars] of two kinds, one of which resembled the wolf". One candidate is a remnant population of the Pleistocene hunting hyena. Another is the onza, a long-legged puma that would have been unfamiliar to the Spaniards (as opposed to the jaguarondi onza described in the 1930s). The remaining candidate is the small-eared dog, a cat-like dog with a dark-brown to black back and dull reddish-brown underside.

The Mexican Ruffed Cat is known from an single account by zoologist Ivan Sanderson in 1940. He obtained a large, tough skin from local people of an unusual cat. The skin was 6 ft from nose-tip to tail-base with a short 1.5 ft tail. These may not have been its dimensions in life as pelts can stretch or shrink. It had proportionally long legs, very large, well furred paws and retractile yellow claws. Its face was short. The colour was mainly brown with no markings on the head and shoulders. The flanks and upper limbs had a series of wavy stripes in alternate light and dark shades of brown. The lower limbs were very dark brown, almost black. There was dark brown along the spine and the tail was also dark brown. The most prominent feature was the large ruff that started just behind the shoulders and encircled the neck and covered the ears from above and behind. A second skin of a smaller specimen was in poorer condition, but had sharper stripes. They were stored with other skins in Belize gaol (Sanderson's base), but were ruined by flooding. Though lynxes have relatively long legs, large paws and ruff, Sanderson, an experienced zoologist, did not identify the skins as belonging to lynxes. He saw another skin of this mystery cat for sale at a tourist store in Colima, but the price was beyond his means. Several candidates have been put forward including remnant populations of the officially extinct Samilodon (sabre-tooth tiger), Thylacosmilus (South American marsupial sabre tooth), a captive-bred lion x tiger hybrid (this would account for the partial striping and the mane), an out of place unusually coloured lynx or a large feral domestic cat.

Columbus's Man-Faced Cat (Mexico): In 1503, Columbus reported a strange cat-like creature from Mexico. It was killed by a crossbow hunter and was so ferocious that the hunter had to cut off one of its arms and one of its legs. It resembled a large cat but was much bigger and had a man-like face. It was so ferocious that it attacked a nearby wild boar in spite of being transfixed by a crossbow arrow. It apparently also had a prehensile tail as it used this to encircle the mouth of the boar while it used its remaining arm to strangle the boar. This sounds more like a prehensile-tailed monkey rather than a cat and its "attack" on the boar was more likely an attempt to cling to it. This identity would also account for the man-like face while its "cat-like" appearance might be due to Columbus's unfamiliarity with New World fauna.

SOUTH AMERICA

The Cougar Noire or Jaguarete (Brazil and Guiana [Guyana]) was described as a scarce species in the 18th century and depicted in Thomas Bewick's "General History of Quadrupeds" (1790) and in Buffon's Natural histories (below). It is also called the Black Tiger ("tigre" being Spanish for jaguar) " The black tiger's hair is blackish, interspersed with spots even blacker than those of the jaguar." Note: "Jaguarete" is now used for the ocelot, but the 18th century Jaguarete was a jaguar-like big cat. Its head, back, sides, fore part of the legs, and the tail were covered with short and very glossy dusky-coloured hairs and are sometimes spotted with black, but generally lacked markings Its upper lips were white, with a black spot at the corner of the mouth. There were long hairs above each eye and long whiskers on the upper lip. The lower lip, throat, belly and the inside of the legs are whitish or very pale grey. The paws were white and the ears were pointed. The Jaguarete grew to the size of a year-old heifer. According to the naturalist Thomas Pennant, two jaguaretes were exhibited in London during the 18th century. The most likely explanation is the pseudo-melanism (abundism) mutation; this would not be unexpected in jaguars and has been recorded in African leopards. A less likely alternative is the black-and-tan mutation as seen in many dogs; surprisingly this is a mutant form of agouti (ticked tabby pattern)!

The Giant Black Panther (Peru, South America) is supposedly much larger than an ordinary puma; it is most likely to be a black jaguar, a big cat whose size was further exaggerated by fearful observers. The Cunarid Din (Brazil, Guyana) recorded in Stanley E Brock's "Hunting in the Wilderness" is described: "The cunarid din is quite like the ticar din [normal jaguar] except that the ground colour is nearer white than orange or yellow. The Indians say that the white kind always attain a much larger size than the former, but this is doubtful as a fact The spots are often finer on the fore quarters and spaced further apart, and there are noticeably fewer spots within the rosettes along the sides of the body, giving the skin a rather leopard-like appearance"

There are a variety of "Tigers" reported from Peru and most correspond to colour morphs of the jaguar. The Speckled Tiger (Peru, South America) of the rainforests of Peru is most likely to be an anomalous colour form of jaguar where the spots have broken up. The Speckled Tiger is described as the same size as a jaguar, but has a larger head. It is grey in colour, covered with solid black speckles. Confusing, the local name for jaguar is "tiger" since Spanish settlers named New World big cats after familiar Old World big cats. The Striped Tiger (Peru, South America) is probably due to abundism where the spots have coalesced into stripes and swirls. The Striped Tiger (Peru) inhabits hilly and lowland rainforests and is as large as a jaguar, but with tiger-like stripes. There are reports of unidentified striped cats elsewhere in South America. In "The Cloud Forest" (1966), Peter Matthiessen wrote of meeting a seaman called Picquet while travelling through Paraguay. Picquet recounted "a rare striped cat not quite so large as a jaguar and very timid, which is possessed of two very large protruding teeth" that inhabited the mountain jungles of Colombia and Ecuador. The Leopard-Spotted Jaguar (Peru, South America) is a known anomalous colour form of jaguar. The Jungle Lion (Peru, South America) is described as a large lion-like species and is likely to be an anomalous colour form of jaguar lacking clear spots. These colour morphs have been observed in other big cats and would not be unexpected in jaguars. The Red Tiger is an alternative name for the cougar.

In 1994, Peter Hocking obtained skulls of a female South American Striped Tiger and though the photos only show the skulls face-on, the striped tiger’s skull is visibly narrower than a jaguar's skull though the canine teeth turn out to be no longer than those of the jaguar. The skull of the striped tiger apparently does not correspond to any known species. The skull of the speckled tiger (also female) has robust, tusk-like fangs and the whole skull is sturdier than that of either the jaguar or the striped tiger.

The Jungle Wildcat, Waracabra/Warracaba Tiger or Y'agamisheri (Peru & Guyana South America) is described as differing from the jaguar in that it hunts in prides or packs, whereas the jaguar is a solitary hunter. In my opinion it is probably a mother hunting with half-grown kittens! They are also said to vary in size and have also been described as small cats - this would accord with a mother with cubs. Stories of packs of up to 100 individuals must be attributed to folklore. The fact that they are heard but not seen indicates that the real identity of the Waracabra is the nocturnal and social bush-dog. The Jungle Wildcat (Peru) is the size of a domestic cat, has a blotched pattern and noticeably long fangs. It hunts in packs of ten or more individuals.The Social Jungle Cat or Tsere-Yawa (Ecuador, South America) is described as a small, brown, semi-aquatic felid that hunts in packs of 8 to 10 individuals. The Mitla (Bolivia) is described as a black doglike cat about the size of a foxhound. Likely candidates are the bush-dog and the small-eared dog. The small-eared dog is a remarkably cat-like animal. Dark-brown to black on its back and dull reddish-brown on its underside.

Siemel's Mystery Cat (Mato Grosso) was an odd-looking cat shot by Sacha Siemel. It was heavily built in appearance, with a fawn base colour, brown spots and a dark dorsal stripe. Siemel suggested it was a jaguar x puma hybrid; these have been alleged in captivity, but in the wild, the two species avoid each other. It is genetically possible as puma x leopard hybrids were bred in the 1890s in Germany and were greyish with brown rosettes. Alternatively, and more likely, it was a puma that had retained its juvenile markings into adulthood. Several photographs of patterned pumas now exist. This is analogous to the spotted lions of the Aberdares.

South American Sabre-tooths (Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay). The existence of indigenous art depicting cats with long canines has been seen as evidence that sabre-toothed big cats (Smilodon, Machairodus or the marsupial Thylacosmilus) survived until relatively recently i.e. long enough for them to have been depicted by indigenous Indians. There is an eyewitness account of a striped cat, smaller than a jaguar and having two very large protruding teeth. A "mutant jaguar" with fangs 12 inches long was shot in Paraguay in 1975, but the account cannot be authenticated.

The Shiashia-Yawa (Ecuador, South America) is claimed to be a jaguar-like feline, well known to native hunters, with solid black spots on white fur. It is smaller than a jaguar. It is most likely the jaguar equivalent of a white tiger (a chinchilla mutation). Another small, spotted South American cat is the Geoffroy's Cat. The Pama-Yawa or Tapir Tiger (Ecuador, South America) is said to be a giant (7 ft long) grey felid that routinely hunts tapirs. Again, a form of jaguar is suspected.

The Entzaeia-Yawa or Water Tiger (Ecuador, South America) apparently ranges from white through brown/reddish/tawny to black, with long hair and a bushy tail. It is reputed to be a man-killer so its description has undoubtedly been exaggerated by fear and folklore while the various colours may be due to wet fur or dried blood on the fur. Patagonia boasts two "water tigers". The Iemisch or Tigre de Agua (Water Tiger) (Patagonia) is described as a puma-sized amphibious carnivore, but its description is closer to that of an otter than to a cat. The Yaquaru is also called Tigre de Agua (Water Tiger) (Patagonia) and is said to be larger than any hunting-dog, having a yellow woolly hide, a long tapering tail and powerful claws. Horse and mules crossing the river may be dragged to the bottom, soon afterwards, their intestines float back to the surface. The Aypa (Guyana) has a tiger-like head, large teeth and a scaled neck (though wet fur may give the illusion of scales). It is worth remembering that "tiger" can also mean any fierce unidentified beast.

The Maipolina (Guyana), responsible for aquatic maulings in the 1960s, was described as 4 ft long with formidably clawed feet, drooping ears and large, dark, round eyes. It had short fur, a whitish chest and a 6 inch wide whitish stripe running along its back. It was otherwise fawn in colour and had a short tufted ("cow-like") tail. It most prominent feature was its long fangs, comparable to those of a walrus.

The Rainbow Tiger or Tshenkutshen (Ecuador, South America) has a white coat, spotted with black and striped with black, white, red and yellow across its chest. It is described as arboreal and agile in trees with front paws adapted for grasping branches. It is considered the most dangerous animal in the jungle. The pattern is reminiscent of a margay or ocelot; the margay is particularly arboreal, though a jaguar (particularly one with fresh blood on its chest) is the most likely candidate.

Honduras Tigers. In 1972 there were reports that persons from neighbouring El Salvador sometimes hunted Bengal tigers in Honduras; these being the descendants of tigers that had escaped some years earlier from a circus and bred in the wild.

AFRICA

The Ikimizi (Mufumbiro Volcanoes, Rwanda, Africa) is said to be a cross between a lion and a leopard, grey in colour, with darker spots and a beard under its chin. The native people distinguish it from other familiar big cats. The Bung Bring (Cameroons, Africa) was described by the Akamba tribe and is similar to the Ikimizi. The Abasambo (Ethiopia, Africa) is also similar. The Forest Cheetah or Kitanga might be a spotted lion. The Bakanga (Ubangi region, Central African Republic) is said to be an extremely fierce cat intermediate between a lion and leopard. Its appearance is similar to a maneless lion, but it is reddish-brown and has a dappled pattern like a leopard. It barks instead of roaring.

Ntarargo, Kitalargo or Wonder Leopard (Uganda, Africa) is supposedly another cross between leopard and lion. Its name is also spelt Niarago or Enturargo and is the plural form of Ruturargo, though Ntarargo is most often used in print. Its alternate name, Kitilargo, comes from ictralo-engo. It is described as having a long tail, a slightly spotted skin, and retractile claws, distinguishing it from the cheetah. The various reports of leopard-lions suggests a race of diminutive spotted lions whose habitat is remote mountain forests. It has even be assigned the name Panthera leo maculatus, indicating a spotted subspecies of lion, however a skin of a supposed Ntarargo turned out to be that of a young spotted hyena.

The Mngwa or Nunda (Tanzania, Africa) (Mngwa means "strange one") is described as the size of a donkey and striped with grey like a tabby cat with black stripes down the flanks and blotches on the head and back. It also purrs like a small cat and has pig-like tusks (possibly large canine teeth). It has a long, folklorish history, appearing in sayings and songs over almost 1000 years, but was dismissed as imaginary by British settlers until 1922 when some horrific maulings were blamed on a mngwa. Witnesses reported a gigantic brindled cat, bigger than either lion or leopard, attack ing a man. Despite traps and poison bait, the mysterious beast was not caught. In the 1930s there were similar maulings. A survivor who was familiar with both lions and leopards, identified the beast as neither of those, but a mngwa instead. Grey matted fur and brindled hairs were also found (in one case grasped in the victim's hand). Some cryptozoologists identify it as a survivor from the Pleistocene; the lion-sized, but tiger-jawed Panthera crassidens while others believe it is an undocumented African form of tiger (specifically a blue tiger). An alternative suggestion is a hitherto unknown giant form of African Golden Cat, a brindled cat regarded (in its normal size) with superstitious awe; like domestic cats it can purr.

The Wobo (Ethiopia, Africa), Rnendelit, is described as being larger than a lion, yellowish-brown or grey-brown in colour and having black stripes. A Wobo pelt had apparently been displayed in the principal cathedral of Eifag. It is speculated that the pelt was actually that of an Asian tiger that had ended up in Ethiopia with a settler and perhaps been used as trade goods. The Abu Sotan (Sudan, Africa) is said to inhabit rocky mountains near the River Rahad. It is described as being marked with great black blotches or stripes. Sudan and Ethiopia are neighbouring countries, so perhaps a race of unusual big cats lives in the area.

The Beast of Bungoma (Kenya, Africa) was a lion-clawed, tiger-headed, leopard-rosetted big cat likened to a giant cheetah. The animal went on the rampage in the Mayanja district of Kenya in 1974, killing livestock and eluding trappers. Leopards are rare in the region and lions no longer inhabit the area. However, a similar rampaging beast trapped a little later turned out to be a particularly large and aggressive leopard.

The Tigre de Montagne (northern Chad, Africa) is said to be larger than a lion but lacking a tail, having red fur striped with white, long hairs on its feet and teeth that protrude from its mouth. It lives in caves in the Ennedi mountains and is strong enough to carry off large antelopes. Local people have matched it to images of the extinct Machairodus sabre-tooth. The Hadjel (south-west Chad, Africa) of the Ouadai district and the Coq-Ninji or Coq-Djinge (Central African Republic), also known as the Gassingram or Vassoko, is similar to the Tigre de Montagne. The has a reddish coat striped with white, lion-like mane and sabre-teeth. The Gassingram is reddish-brown, larger than a lion and leaves over-sized footprints. It is primarily nocturnal, its eyes shine like lamps in the darkness and it takes it prey to mountainous caves.

The Water Tiger (Central African Republic) is variously known as Mourou N'gou or Muru-ngu (water leopard), Dilali (Water Lion), Ze-ti-ngu or Nze Ti Gou (Water Panther), Mamaimé (Water Lion) or even Ngoroli (water elephant). There are also tales of water lions in folklore in Zimbabwe. All but one of these indicates a cat-like animal, or several different cat-like animals; although the name may simply refer to its fierce, predatory habits. Some anomalous big cat enthusiasts favour the "aquatic sabre tooth tiger" theory, suggesting that some sabre tooths adopted a primarily aquatic existence and drawing parallels with the walrus. A cave painting at Brackfontein Ridge, Orange Free State, depicts a walrus-like creatures, albeit one with a long tail.

Mourou N'gou (Republic of the Congo) is larger than a lion (12 ft) and its shape and background colour are like that of a leopard, but with stripes. . It is described as panther-like with a long thick tail, short legs and long, tusk-like canines. Its paw-print has a circle in the middle. It is said to drag its prey into the water. An eyewitness drawing of a separate sighting showed a small-headed, large-fanged creature about 8 ft long, with a plump uniformly brown body and panther-like tail. The Dilali apparently has the body of a horse, the claws of a lion and large, walrus-like tusks. The nocturnal Nze Ti Gou resembles a leopard, has red fur marked with pale stripes or spots and has a thunderous roar. It lives in hollows in large rivers.

The Coje Ya Menia or Water Lion (Angola, Africa) has a loud rumbling voice and is principally aquatic, but sometimes ventures onto dry land. It has large canines or tusks and, though smaller than a hippo, it can kill hippos with its teeth. Its tracks are smaller than those of the hippo and have the impression of toes. The Simba Ya Mai, Ntambue Ya Mai or Ntambo Wa Luy (Zaire Africa) also translates as "water lion" as does Ol-maima (Kenya) and the Sudanese Nyokodoing (Sudan). The Dingonek (Kenya) is another feline-looking aquatic beast, though it is described as scaled. It has been argued that wet fur can produce a shimmering, scale like appearance.

The African Servaline turned out to be a colour morph of Serval with smaller spots i.e a speckled or freckled serval that appears unpatterned from a distance. There are a range of intermediate forms and both spotted and speckled servals can occur in the same litter. There are also 2 colour morphs of the caracal - a pale version and a much darker form. Both species produce melanistic forms.

Two specimens of the Grahamstown Mystery Cat (Grahamstown, South Africa) were killed during the 1880s. Its coat's background colour was tawny, brightening to a rich orange gloss on the shoulders. There were almost no rosettes, but there were numerous small separate spots that had coalesced on its back into a black area from its head to the base of its tail. The underparts were white with large black spots and its face was marked like a leopard. Although believed to be a hybrid, the Grahamstown Mystery Cat appears to be a pseudo-melanistic leopard (Panthera pardus var. melanotica). The Damasia (Aberdares, Africa) comes from an area where spotted adult lions have also been shot. In the 1920s, G Hamilton-Snowball shot a very large, dark, leopard-like cat. Local Kikuyu people called in a Damasia, distinct from the lion or leopard. Again it appears to be a pseudo-melanistic leopard; the local people tending to classify unusual individuals of one species as being completely different animals altogether.

The Kibambangwe (Bufumbira County, Africa) means "snatcher" in Bantu, a name also given to the hyena. It is described, in very vague terms, as having blackish markings and short ears. A pair of kibambangwes were said to have lived in lava caves in the mountains and periodically descended to devastate local livestock. The native people eventually banded together to kill the marauding creatures.

The Uruturangwe (Mount Muhavura & Mount Sabinio, Rwanda, Africa) is apparently leopard-sized, but has a coat like a hyena. It kills its human victims by suffocation, a method also used by leopards, and has a long tail and retractile claws. A supposed uruturangwe skull turned out to be that of a large hyena. The uruturangwe is therefore probably a composite of leopard and hyena. The description of another cat-like creature, the Kibambangwe, is equally vague and may also be a large hyena. The Ndalawo (Uganda, Africa) was described as "a fierce man-killing carnivore, the size and shape of a leopard, but with a black-furred back shading to grey below". A skin was procured, but was lost and never sent for formal identification. A pseudo-melanistic leopard is suspected though some traits ascribed to the creature are not leopard-like: hunting in packs of 3 or 4 individuals and having a laughing call. This suggests a hyena, although the natives fear it in a way they do not fear hyenas.

Malagasy Lions (Madagascar, Africa). Lion-like felids have been sighted sporadically on Madagascar. It is possible that true lions have been taken to Africa (perhaps as pet lion cubs) as the island is not known to have native lions. In Madagascar, the cat's predatory role is filled by the pum-size fossa, a viverrid which resembles South American jaguarundi. However, in 1939, there were reports of ferocious giant lions that lived in caves.

BRITAIN

British anomalous big cat sightings are rooted in folklore and until relatively recently sightings were reported to be "black dogs" rather than mysterious cats. The 18th century "Black Annis" or "Cat Annis" of was a mythical arboreal vampire cat. In 1810, the livestock-killing Girt Dog of Ennerdale was claimed by some to have been a lion-like cat (although a dog was shot dead). In 1825, a spaniel-sized lynx-type cat was reported in Surrey. In 1927, a lynx was supposedly killed in Inverness, Scotland. This has led some to suggest that a relict population of lynxes remains in remote areas of Britain. From the 1960s onward, there have been reports of pumas in Surrey, Inverness and other locations around Britain. A cheetah-like cat was reported at Woolwich. Black panthers were reported in Surrey in the early 1970s and from all over Britain since then. A lioness was reported near Nottingham in 1976. A puma was captured at Cannich, near Inverness in 1980; dubbed Felicity, she turned out to be tame, elderly and arthritic and evidently a released pet. Puma sightings in the area continued after her capture. In Powys, Wales, the "Powys Beast" was described as lynx-like, but the paw-prints indicated a dog. In Tonmawr, Wales, a supposed "cub" photographed at a hanging bait was either an adult tabby cat or an out-of-place adult Scottish Wildcat.

The panther-like jet-black "Beast of Exmoor" has been reported since the early 1980s though many livestock killings attributed to these big cats are the work of dogs according to Canadian trappers. Lynxes and pumas have also been reported from Exmoor. Some investigators maintain the Exmoor panther is a mutant race of giant moggies! Other eyewitnesses claim face to face encounters with a black leopard. In 1975, a Clouded Leopard escaped from Howletts Zoo, but was recaptured within a few days. During the 1987 hurricane two Clouded Leopards escaped from the same location; both were quickly recaptured. In the late 1980s, an Asian Leopard Cat (a small cat species and a parent of the Bengal breed) was shot by a farmer on Dartmoor while an escaped Asian Leopard Cat was recaptured in Scotland. In the 1990s, a lynx was captured in Cricklewood, London; it was probably an illegal pet.

In the late 20th and early 21st century, these are sometimes known as the "British Big Cat" and the "British Black Panther" although the black colour is likely to be due to cats seen in silhouette rather than due to actual coat colour. Many available images are very obviously domestic cats (their conformation, gait and posture differs from that of big cats) whose scale has been misjudged by the observer while others are large dogs photographed at angles that foreshorten the muzzle.

In 1976, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act banned the keeping of wild cat species (excepting a few of the smaller wildcats) unless licensed and kept in secure accommodation. It is widely believed that some owners secretly released big cats, knowing that they could not afford licences or provide secure accommodation and believing the animals stood a better chance of survival in the wild compared to being destroyed if confiscated. Leopards, in particular black leopards, were popular exotic pets. There have been reports of panthers escaping from menageries as far back as the 1500s. There is also the possibility of wildcats being smuggled into mainland Britain from Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic) where laws on keeping exotic animals are less stringent (illegally held wildcats may explain why owners do not come forward when a wildcat is captured, shot or found dead).

There is believed to be a viable population of Jungle Cats (Swamp Cats) in Britain. It is believed that they arrived on ships in the 1800s after being taken aboard in India as ratters and pets. In 1988 a Jungle Cat (Felis chaus aka Swamp Cat) was killed by a car at Hayling Island, Hampshire and others, along with possible hybrid offspring, have since been sighted. Jungle cats can interbreed with domestic cats.

The Kellas Cat, reported in 1984, is a black cat flecked with white hairs (white hairs are common in random-bred black cats) After much media frenzy and several more captures, plus an abortive attempt to rear Kellas kittens by Di Francis (who made the elementary error of feeding only muscle meat, resulting in fatal malnutrition [this should have resulted in cruelty charges]), the Kellas cat was eventually identified as a hybrid between domestic cats and Scottish Wildcats. A sad victim of the shoot-first-identify-later mentality, was a melanistic Scottish Wildcat (a protected species). Several generations of hybridisation and mating back to pure-bred parents have resulted in the Kellas cat's distinct form: gracile, prominent canines, small head and shortish tail. One of the Scottish black cats, dubbed the Dufftown Cat or "rabbit-headed cat", had a distinctly Siamese/Oriental profile indicating the domestic breed that had been involved with the hybridisation in spite of claims that it is an unknown species! Interestingly, Highland folklore includes the legendary Cait Sith (fairy cat) whose appearance corresponds to that of the Kellas Cat (black bristly fur, white throat patch and white specks in the fur) indicating that hybridisation has been going on for a very long time.

The Irish Wildcat is an anomaly because European Wildcats (the Scottish Wildcat form) do not officially exist in Ireland. The name "wildcat" was used instead to describe the pine marten. However, in western parts of Kerry, the pine marten was known as "tree cat" while the term "hunting cat" supposedly indicated a feline wildcat. Some supposed wildcats and wildcat hybrids have been killed and the descriptions corresponded to the African wildcat rather than the European form. Others believe the cats to be feral domestic cats and this is a more likely identification. It is possible that domestic cats containing Scottish Wildcat blood have been taken to Ireland from Scotland.

MAINLAND EUROPE

The Transcaucasian Black Cat (1903) was reported in the Transcaucasia region of the former USSR (south of the Caucasus mountains). It was classified as Felis daemon, but demoted to the status of feral domestic cat or melanistic Caucasian wildcats. Its colouration varied from black with a reddish tinge to reddish-brown, slightly paler on the underparts, insides of the legs and under the tail. A reddish tinge is common in outdoor living black cats and is due to the bleaching effect of sunlight. It had white hairs scattered in the fur, again quite common in mixed breed black cats. Like the Kellas Cat, it is probably an introgressive hybrid of wildcat and domestic cat.

The Mediterranean Wildcats on the Balearic Isles, Crete, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, though part of the Felis sylvestris species, have been identified as belonging to the African subspecies, not the European subspecies. The Majorcan wildcat is officially extinct, though there have been sightings of cats closer in type to wildcats than to domestic cats. The purebred Cretan wildcat may become extinct through interbreeding with domestic cats. The Sicilian and Sardinian Wildcats are closest in form to the African Wildcat. The Corsican Wildcat is known from a handful of specimens and is possibly extinct. In 1929 it was reported that lynxes were present on Corsica, but analysis of a skin showed it to be a Wildcat akin to the African Wildcat. The Ile du Levant Wildcat on the Ile du Levant (one of the Mediterranean Iles d'Hyères off the coast of the Var, France) has been observed and killed in traps, but not presented for examination and formal identification. In 1932 it was known as the Paille Lynx due to its size. In 1958, one was observed attacking feral domestic cats

In 1927, a leopard skull turned up in France. In the 1940s, a livestock killings were variously blamed on a lioness and a leopard, though the killings ended in 1951 when a wolf was killed. In Vosges, France in 1978, there were sightings of a lioness or puma. In the late 1970s, a puma-like animal was reported from Hanover, Germany and in 1982 Hamburg was the centre of another puma sighting. In 1974, a tiger was reported from Graubunden, Switzerland. In 1983, a pair of pumas was reported from Ban, Italy. Genuine Wildcats are still turning up in Jura, despite being officially extinct in the region; they are probably migrants from neighbouring France moving into new territory. The lynx supposedly died out in the Italian Alps soon after 1915, but a lynx was sighted in 1983. The lynx officially died out in Switzerland soon after 1872, but since World War II there have been reports of small livestock and roe deer being killed, suggesting the return of the lynx to the region.

Cave Lions, found during the Pleistocene and existing no later than 40,000 years ago, have been found in cave paintings in France dating to 11,000 years ago, indicating that they survived somewhat longer. The Scimitar Cat (Homotherium), another Pleistocene big cat, is possibly depicted in a sculpture from 34,000-30,000 years ago although it was officially been extinct (fossil evidence) since 200,000 years ago.

RUSSIA AND EASTERN EUROPE

The Russian Panther or Russian Mystery Beast (Orel province, Russia) is a large panther-like felid was responsible for several maulings in 1893. It was described as the height of a wolf, of a yellow colour with a blunt muzzle, round ears and a long, smooth tail. It was reported that a panther had escaped from a private estate and had killed several people, though it continued to elude hunters, traps and snares. By the end of the year, the sightings and maulings had ended; the panther was believed to have eaten two poisoned sheep and had vanished into the forest beyond the River Vetebet. A released or escaped lion/lioness is a strong possibility as it would have no fear of people. It was also described as a lynx and the commander of one hunting contingent described it as a tiger. Tigers sometimes entered towns on the far eastern regions of the former USSR; two Amur tigers were shot dead on the streets of Vladivostock in 1987. However, in 1893, tigers had not yet moved into the Orel region and no other witness had described the creature as having stripes.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND REGION

Australia has no indigenous felids, though the extinct Thylacoleo (a giant predatory wombat) evolved a lion-like form and habits. New Zealand is even less likely to be home to lion-like cats; its indigenous dominant life forms were giant birds. Domestic cats are naturalised and widespread in Australia and New Zealand. Feral dogs are often misidentified as big cats in countries with no indigenous big cats.

The Queensland Tiger, Yarri or Striped Marsupial Cat of York Peninsula (north-western Australia) was described in 1969, but has been recorded over many years particularly in Queensland. An early sighting of a "tiger" was in 1705 sighting in Batavia. It is also believed to have been recorded in Aboriginal art. It stands 18 inches at the shoulder and resembles a small, half-grown tiger with a tail as long as its body and stripes from the small of its back to the butt of its tail. Though the striping pattern matches that of the extinct thylacine, the head was unmistakably feline. In 1871, it was described as being the size of a native dog, but round-faced like a cat, long-tailed and striped from the ribs under the belly with yellow and black. Another report described it as larger than a pointer-dog, fawn-coloured with darker brown markings, long-tailed and round-headed with no visible ears. In the early 1900s they were shot as pests and were described as about 4 ft long and fawn with black stripes running across the fairly long body, round-faced and having 4 exposed tiger teeth. One smaller specimen had approximately 10 offspring suckling from it. Another witness emphasised that it was not a feral domestic cat.

During the early 1880s, Norwegian zoologist Carl Lumholtz was study the fauna of north eastern Queensland. Local aboriginals told him of a savage tiger-like beast they called the Yarri and which European settlers later called the Queensland Tiger. It was generally feline and the size of a dingo, but had shorter legs, long tail and stripes encircling its body. It could climb trees, but preferred rocky areas where it preyed on wallabies. A sighting in 1900 partly resembled a lightly built large domestic cat with well-defined 2.5 inch wide hoops of alternating dun and white encircling its body as far as its torso. A S le Souef and Harry Burrell included it in their "The Wild Animals of Australasia" (1926). In 1955, Heuvelmans devoted a chapter to the Queensland Tiger in "Sur la Piste des Bêtes Ignorées"(On the Track of Ignored/Unknown Animals). Dr Ellis Troughton (curator of mammals at the Australian Museum) included it in "Furred Animals of Australia" (1965).

In 1930, one was found on a dead calf by G de Tournoeur and P B Scougall between Munna Creek and Tiaro: "he was nearly the size of a mastiff, of a dirty fawn colour, with a whitish belly, and broad blackish tiger stripes. The head was round, with rather prominent lynx-like ears, but unlike that feline there was a tail reaching to the ground and large pads. We threw a couple of stones at him, which only made him crouch low, with ears laid flat, and emit a raspy snarl, vividly reminiscent of the African leopard's nocturnal 'wood-sawing' cry." They chased it off by cracking their stockwhips at it, but it still growled defiantly at them as it left. Another sighting of an angry Queensland Tiger noted its growling whine, rasping snarl, lynx-like ears (laid flat in anger) and tail lashing in anger (a feline trait). One was allegedly observed killing a kangaroo while other descriptions include arboreal tendencies. A Queensland Tiger spotted on Mount Bartle Frere in 1968 was described as having a round, broad head, a nose shorter and broader than a dog's and some of its teeth appeared to protrude out and upwards like tusks.

In recent years, reports have dwindled though in 1982 a leopard-size creature with a cat-like gait and heavily striped tail was reported near Perth. In 1984, a panther-sized striped cat-like animal was seen sitting in a tree devouring a sheep and also heard roaring near a creek at Daintree. In 1987, a hunter near Hughenden was pursuing a dingo he had wounded when a large hay-coloured animal with black body stripes suddenly appeared and attacked and ate the dingo. In mid-September 1995, a dead female Queensland Tiger was allegedly found beside the Bruce Highway about 12.5 miles south of Cardwell. It was described it as the size of a small cattle dog, with a cat-like face, short pointed ears, large hindquarters and stripes near the chest from backbone down to belly. The distinctive stripes were regularly spaced on a dark tan background colour. The tail had a tiny white tip. Some of the dark brown hairs below the chest had black tips, formed four black stripes. The remains were too mangled and decomposed for conclusive identification though DNA tests on the fur might solve the puzzle.

The thylacine can be discounted as it cannot climb trees and its stripes do not encircle its body. A remnant population of Thylacoleo carnifex (Marsupial Sabre Tooth, Marsupial Lion) has been suggested and is theoretically possible. The "mini" Queensland Tigers might be aberrant striped forms of the normally spotted "Native Cat" (Dasyurus maculatus). Although Australian feral domestic cats are sometimes described as twice the size of normal domestic cats, this is hyperbole perpetuated by the Australian anti-cat lobby; feral domestic cats in Australia are within the normal domestic cat size range.

The Ozenkadnook Tiger (Victoria, Australia) was photographed in the 1960s and is a dog-headed beast whose foreparts appear striped black and white while the rump and tail are white.

The Australian Panther and Australian Puma are particularly reported in New South Wales, with the town of Emmaville being prominent (hence "Emmaville Panther" in some reports). It is described as jet black in colour. A black panther allegedly escaped from a crashed circus truck near Nowra in 1966. Panther paranoia spread to Western Australia with reports of livestock killings and sightings of long-tailed big cats though the official view of the "Kulja Panthers" identified them as black kangaroo dogs and one such dog was shot. In common with Britains Anomalous Big Cats, two main forms were described: tawny puma-like cats and jet-black leopard-like cats and sometimes both together with cubs! One explanation is that they are feral domestic cats observed from a distance in conditions where perspective makes them appear larger. Another explanation is that they are escaped exotic pets or zoo animals (from times when zoos were less secure than now) or animals smuggled into the country, evading importation and quarantine laws, and released when someone grew suspicious. The Coupan or Cordering Cougar is a mystery black cat reported in south western Australia since the 1970s.

The New Zealand Lion reported in 1977 was described as a large lion with big yellow eyes. Though a travelling circus was in the area, they denied losing any lions. It was not heard of again. New Zealand Lions or Panthers are supposedly puma-like big cats spotted in mountainous regions of South Island. New Zealand has no native mammals apart from bats. The New Zealand Tiger was spotted soon after. It was variously dismissed as a hoax, a large domestic cat or the escaped pet of a local man that had been recaptured before the polic caught up with it. Like the lion, it was not reported again.

The New Guinea Tiger, reported by Lord Rothschild, is described as a large striped creature with a cat-like head.

ASIA

The Harimau Jalor (Trengganu, Malaysia) was described as a larger than normal tiger with stripes running along its length, not vertically. It is generally believed to be an optical illusion caused by seeing tigers in dappled shade. The Nellimpatti Leopard (Bali, Asia) is described as a small, dark race of leopard and was reported in 1979. The Bali Tiger, once considered extinct, may also survive. The Yamamaya of Iriomote is believed to be either a subspecies of tiger or a form of clouded leopard in which the blotches have become elongated into stripes. The Mint Leaf Leopard, a Chinese wild cat with markings the shape of mint leaves is the clouded leopard.

The Seah Malang Poo is a mystery cat that inhabits Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. It is stockily built and has brown and black stripes. It lives in the region's karst lime-stone mountains. A Seah Malang Poo was reputedly shot during the 1930s and its skin supposedly sent to Thailand's national museum in Bangkok though there is no confirmation of this or of the museum's opinion on the skin.

The Cigau is a mystery cat from western Sumatra where natives claim it inhabits the wilderness region east of Mount Kerinci and south towards the market town of Bangko. It is described as a very sizeable felid that is yellow or tan in colour, short-tailed and having a ruff around its neck. It is slightly smaller, but more heavily built, than the Sumatran tiger and swims well. It is greatly feared, being highly aggressive and liable to attack humans. It is also said to have front legs longer than its hind legs, a trait found in some of the prehistoric big cats.

A strange horned cat allegedly inhabits the islands of Alor and Solor in the Lesser Sundas (southeast of Sumatra and Java). Natives describe it as being the size of a domestic cat, but having pronounced knoblike protuberances upon its eyebrows that resemble short, stubby horns.

The Hong Kong mystery cat (Hong Kong, Asia) is a mystery felid apparently killed in Hong Kong in 1989, although similar creatures have been sighted since. In October 1976, twenty dogs (including large dogs) were killed by a mystery cat in the Hang Hau area of Sai Kung. Villagers described a long-tailed beast, believed to be a leopard, but blackish-grey in colour. In November, a "dark tiger" 3 ft high and 4 ft long was described. A previous account of a dark "tiger" turned out to be a misidentified German shepherd/chow crossbreed.

The dogla (India) is believed to be a leopard/tiger hybrid with markings being a composite of leopard spots and tiger stripes. It is possibly a large leopard with abundism such that rosettes have coalesced into whorls and stripes. Although both leopards and tigers have been crossed with lions, attempts to cross tigers with leopards have not resulted in viable young.

On 16/01/2009 the BBC2 Natural World documentary "The Mountains of the Monsoon" featured wildlife photographer Sandesh Kadur in the Western Ghats, India. The Western Ghats have diverse wildlife, including previously undescribed species. Ten years previously, Kadur had observed a greyish big cat in broad daylight in the high-altitude grasslands around Anamudi, the highest peak south of the Himalayas. It was large, long-tailed, had rounded ears and a uniform darkish grey colour which did not correspond to any known big cat. It was known to locals as the pogeyan ("the cat that comes and goes with the mist"). Kadur set up camera traps, but the pogeyan did not appear. Although Kadur hoped it might be a species new to science, he was realistic that a more likely identity was an aberrant form of leopard, possibly albino (he didn't mention chinchilla (cream coloured) leopards, but these are also known). The "cobweb" leopard can also appear solid grey from a distance due to the salt-and-pepper sprinkling of white hairs in the coat. The drawing of its conformation more closely resembled a lioness, which could indicate an isolated montane form of Asian lion (their known range is the Gir forest).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

This information has been drawn together from diverse sources, including newspaper reports and personal correspondence including Paul McCarthy; Mirko Wölfling (University of Würzburg) and others.

Another, older, source of information you might find interesting is:
Shuker, Karl: Mystery Cats of the World (Robert Hale: London, 1989)

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