Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wild Cat in Borough High Street?

Within a few weeks of big cat researcher Neil Arnold speaking at South East London Folklore Society on Borough High Street, there have been reports of a puma sighting... on Borough High Street (perhaps one followed him up from Kent and couldn't find its way back).

According to Southwark News (2 June 2008), "The 'tanned small cougar', described as almost twice the size of a domestic cat, was apparently spotted wandering near the entrance of Southwark Police station on Borough High Street". Arnold is quoted as saying that there was a similar report from a year ago near the Tower Hotel, and somebody commenting on the S.News story said that on 31st May 'on the sight of the recently demolished London Park Hotel' (by Elephant & Castle) he saw something that 'was too large for a domestic cat and didn't move like a fox or a dog'.

I went to Arnold' s talk at SELFS - his take on the whole phenomenon is that there have been big cats living wild in the British countryside for centuries, maybe as far back as Roman times, refreshed by escapes from zoos, circuses and private collections. Sceptics dismiss the whole thing as a mixture of hoaxes and misidentifications of pets, while others have a range of supernatural explanations.

Neil maintains the interesting Beasts of London blog. More Transpontine big cat posts.


Anonymous said...

I sometimes see my cats prowling beyond the fence in neighbouring playing fields and I don't recognise them - I get a momentary shock because they look huge.

I think this may be related to the low moon phenomenon where a low moon can look enormous because we see it in relation to chimneys and roofs rather than high in the sky, isolated from the human world.

I am not sure exactly what trick of seeing is involved in the distant cat phenomenon, but I shall try to work i out.
Some might prefer to explain this as a mystical thing: cats transform them into their 'real' size when they think we can't see them!

Which is not to say there aren't big cats out there : escaped gngster pets, circus creatures etc...

Transpontine said...

I think tricks of perspective probably play a part, generally I have a fortean approach to this kind of stuff - I like to note the phenomenona and the various competing theories from the sceptical to the mystical while keeping an open mind that all or none of them may be true.