The Beast of Bodmin Moor, also known as the Beast of Bodmin (Cornish: Best Goon Brenn) is a phantom wild cat purported to live in Cornwall, England. Bodmin Moor became a center of purported sightings after 1978, with occasional reports of mutilated slain livestock; the alleged panther-like cats of the same region came to be popularly known as the Beast of Bodmin Moor.
In general, scientists reject such claims because of the improbably large numbers necessary to maintain a breeding population and because climate and food supply issues would make such purported creatures’ survival in reported habitats unlikely.
A long-held hypothesis suggests the possibility that alien big cats at large in the United Kingdom could have been imported as part of private collections or zoos, later escaped or set free. An escaped big cat would not be reported to the authorities due to the illegality of owning and importing the animals. It has been claimed that animal trainer Mary Chipperfield released three pumas into the wild following the closure of her Plymouth zoo in 1978, and that subsequent sightings of the animals gave rise to rumors of the Beast.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food conducted an official investigation in 1995. The study found that there was “no verifiable evidence” of exotic felines loose in Britain, and that the mauled farm animals could have been attacked by common indigenous species. The report stated that, “No verifiable evidence for the presence of a ‘big cat’ was found… There is no significant threat to livestock from a ‘big cat’ in Bodmin Moor.”
Less than a week after the government report, a boy was walking by the River Fowey when he discovered a large cat skull. Measuring about 4 inches (10 cm) long by 7 inches (18 cm) wide, the skull was lacking its lower jaw but possessed two sharp, prominent canines that suggested that it might have been a leopard. The story hit the national press at about the same time of the official denial of alien big cat evidence on Bodmin Moor.
The skull was sent to the Natural History Museum in London for verification. They determined that it was a genuine skull from a young male leopard, but also found that the cat had not died in Britain and that the skull had been imported as part of a leopard-skin rug. The back of the skull was cleanly cut off in a way that is commonly used to mount the head on a rug. There was an egg case inside the skull that had been laid by a tropical cockroach that could not possibly be found in Britain. There were also cut marks on the skull indicating the flesh had been scraped off with a knife, and the skull had begun to decompose only after a recent immersion in water.