North Warwickshire's Big Cats

A black jaguar on the move.
Image by Tony Hisgett. Originally uploaded to Wikipedia Commons

Sightings of strange big cats roaming about the wild places of England is not something one would expect in the rural idyll of South Warwickshire or the conurbations of the northern parts of the county but like many counties right across the country such creatures have been spotted here in the county.

The most famous big cat is the Beast of Bodmin Moor. This big black cat is often described as a Black Panther or Jaguar but sightings have been made of more Puma and Cougar like animals as well.

Warwickshire big cat sightings

In Warwickshire a golden coloured cat was seen at Hopwas Wood and a stripy cat in Dosthill. Austrey and Measham are both hot spots in the county (and nearby) where numerous sightings of big black cats have been seen since 2001. Other sightings have occurred at Baddesley Common, Polesworth, Shuttington, Baxterley and Warton.

In zoological terms large cats do not live in Britain. Lions almost certainly lived in Britain thousands of years ago but there is no evidence of them surviving the ice age. Sightings are usually ascribed to individuals that have escaped from private collections. These are sometimes reported and recaptured, but either way there is unlikely to be breeding populations. In fact the Mammal Society has kept a record of all known releases, accidental or otherwise, and any recaptures.


There is much scepticism on the true identity of these sightings; in the past many have been found to be misidentifications of domestic cats, black Labradors and other everyday animals or artefacts. Warwickshire has little really wild space in which these species to live. They need large amounts of land and a ready source of food and it is highly unlikely that such striking creatures could live so unnoticed without being seen more often and more farmers reporting livestock losses.

In places like Bodmin, the Beast has come to embody more a spectral quality; a creature of some other world or plane which would explain their fleeting glimpses but this is outside the realms of zoology.

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