Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

Search This Blog



Click on this logo to find out more about helping CFZtv and getting some smashing rewards...


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Jackals in Britain

Today I am going to take a chronological look at British jackals. All of this information is publically available but I thought I`d bring it altogether in one place.

Terry Hooper wrote to me on August 12th 1997: 'I am aware that the 1800-1900s saw many Jackal incidents. Animals brought back from India and even some bred (obviously) over here as jackal cubs were often sold on as fox cubs! Ditto Coyotes and wolves…These canines were described at times as wolves, which suggestes possible [sic] the Asian Jackal was involved.' (1)

Shuker comments: 'Interestingly, as noted by Alan Richardson of Wiltshire (The Countryman, summer 1975) an entry in the Churchwardens` Accounts for the village of Lythe,near Whitby, North Yorkshire, recorded in 1846 the sum of 8 shilling was paid for “One jackall [sic] head.” As this was a high price back in those days,it suggests that whatever the creature was, it was unusual.By comparison ,fox heads only commanded the sum of four shillings each at that time.' (2)

Karl Shuker also says '…When the supposed wolf responsible for several sheep attacks between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge in 1905 was shot by a gamekeeper on 1 March (Times, 2 March 1905), it proved to be a jackal.' (3). This incident is also recorded by Fort in Lo!:

'The killing of poultry-the body on the railroad line-stoppage-scene-shifting.

The killing of sheep-the body on the railroad line-stoppage-Farm and Home, March 16-that hardly had the wolf been killed, at Cumwinton, in the north of England, when farmers, in the south of England, especially in the districts between Tunbridge and Seven Oaks, Kent, began to tell of mysterious attacks upon their flocks. “Sometimes three or four sheep would be found dying in one flock, having in nearly every case been bitten in the shoulder and disembowelled. Many persons caught site of the animal, and one man had shot at it. The inhabitants were living in a state of terror, and so, on the first of March, a search party of 60 guns beat the woods, in an endeavour to put an end to the depredations...This resulted in its being found and dispatched by one of Mr R. K. Hodgson`s gamekeepers, the animal being pronounced, on examination,to be a jackal.

The story of the shooting of a jackal, in Kent, is told in the London newspapers. See the Times,March 2nd. There is no findable explanation, nor attempted explanation, of how the animal got there. Beyond the mere statement of the shooting, there is not another line upon this extraordinary appearance of an exotic animal in England, findable in any London newspaper. It was in provincial newspapers that I came upon more of this story. Blyth News, March 14-“ “The Indian jackal,which was killed recently,near Seven Oaks,Kent,after destroying sheep and game to the value of £100, is attracting in the shop windows of a Derby taxidermist “ Derby Mercury, March 15-that the body of this jackal was upon exhibition in the studio of Mr A.S.Huthcinson,London Road,Derby”. (4)

It would be interesting to find out if this taxidermist still exists in Derby.

The illustration below shows a possible dog-fox hybrid from an illustration in The Country-side September 28th 1907 p. 294. The accompanying text reads: 'This curious animal, supposed to be a cross between a dog and a fox, was killed some time ago wild, in a wood in Warwickshire. In colour and shape it resembled the fox very much, especially the hind quarters, as will be seen in the photo, the tail is thicker and marked at the tip with the same as a fox. -ARTHUR QUATREMAIN. (5)

Finally back to Mr Hooper on jackals: 'I`m trying to track down what happened to one that escaped from Sandbach, Cheshire in Winter 1961; also the one seen several times in the Delamere Forest area of Cheshire circa 1974. We know at least one was released near the Shropshire/Wales border in 1993/94 so we`re trying to find out if a farmer or car eventually got it.'(6)

1.Letter from T.Hooper to R.Muirhead August 12th 1997

2.K.Shuker Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007) p.96

3.K.Shuker Ibid. p.96

4.C.Fort Lo! in The Complete Books of Charles Fort (1974) pp666-667

5. A.Quartremain Dog-Fox Hybrid? The Country-Side September 28th 1907 p.294

6.Letter from T.Hooper to R.Muirhead July 18th 1998

Cities come and cities go just like the old empires

When all you do is change your clothes and call that versatile

You got so many colours make a blind man so confused

Then why can`t I keep up when you`re the only thing I lose? (The Scissor Sisters-I Don`t Feel Like Dancin`)


I just want to say a very big thank you to Richard Muirhead who is doing his best to make his column on the bloggo a daily occurrence. Thanks mate - I do appreciate all your efforts. I know only too well what a big committment you have just made.

And - by the way - your blogs are a bloody good read.


According to the BBC, author, broadcaster and campaigner Sir Ludovic Kennedy has died aged 89.

He was a great man and will be remembered fondly by many people including the Birmingham six, but with him goes a little piece of Downes family lore.

Until the day he died, whenever Kennedy was on TV or mentioned in conversation (yes, strange as it may seem, we had the sort of household where Sir Ludovic Kennedy did occasionally arise in dinner table conversation), my father would grunt and say "That bloody man stole my best overcoat", and complain that the BBC didn't pay its bills.

Apparently in about 1954 (I think this was to coincide with H.M's grand post-coronation tour of the colonies, but I am not sure) Sir Ludo (or plain Mr K as he was then) was doing a broadcast from the village of Maidugari where my parents lived in rural North Nigeria. I assume that it was a radio broadcast and I assume that it was pre-recorded, but since my father, Sir L, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and everyone else involved are now dead I cannot provide any more details.

However, Mr K had conducted an interview with Sir A, a Hausa nobleman who had become Prime Minister of North Nigeria, and whose assasination a few years later would kick-start the Biafra War into action (but that is another story), and he was just top and tailing it with a preface in which he said something like:

"We are standing here in the driving heat, in the rainless arid desert, under the relentless sun that glares down onto one of the furthest flung outposts of Empire,"

and apparently he kept on glaring at my father who (still in his late 20s) had been detailed to look after him, because every time he got to this line, my father and Sir A started to giggle. Apparently it took three or four goes before he finally nailed it. My dad and Sir A were laughing because apparently it was drizzling (much like it does most of the summer in North Devon) and was so cold that Sir L had to borrow my father's overcoat so as not to shiver.

What really rankled is that he forgot to give it back, and it had been an expensive one from the Army and Navy Stores in Victoria St. It had apparently cost £3 10/- and the BBC never paid him back for it. For the next 52 years my father grumbled about it, and instilled in me one of my basic tenets of belief - that doing stuff with the media is nowhere near as glamorous or as important as media folks would like you to think. It is a tenet that has served me well ever since, and one of these days I shall get the BBC to pay for my father's old overcoat.

Slainte Sir Ludo.

LIZ CLANCY: Six Months of the CFZ

To be completely fair it's been a little over six months since I became involved in the CFZ but it only really occured to me to write about it today and 'Six Months of the CFZ' works better as a title; it involves a nice round figure.

I have been interested in cryptozoology and pretty much anything Fortean my entire life. I grew up on Fortean TV, my Mum has bought the Fortean Times since I can remember (now it's my turn) and our house has always been filled with books on the subject. However, I was always an armchair Fortean, apart from the impromptu hunt for a haunted curiosity shop in Manchester when I was nine - we didn't find it, in case you're interested.

What's my point? Well, I attended the Monster Weekend in Newcastle a couple of years ago and UnCon last year but I didn't really get just what a comunity our 'world' is. I contacted Jon (then addressing him as "Mr Downes") and Tim ("Mr Matthews") and slowly but surely became part of the wonderful family that is the Centre For Fortean Zoology.

I have been very ill for much of this year and as you all know, was in hospital last week. My life has changed unimaginably in the time I have been part of the CFZ. Hopefully it can do the same for other new members in the future. Thanks guys!


As we announced back in the summer, because of a mistake Mark and I made back when my father was alive, four of our books, including two of our best titles, have never been available in the United States.

Now this has been rectified and Richard's dragon book, which is quite possibly the most comprehensive book on the subject ever written, and my personal favourite of any of the books I have written are now available Stateside. It is now time for all you Americans to go out and order them. You know it makes sense.

And whilst on the subject of books, I would like to say hi to Sarah D, and Nilgun from Lightning Source, who I believe read the blog. Thanks for sorting out my latest idiocy girls, and I shall try not to let it happen again. I really do appreciate what you do for me.

RETRIEVERMAN: A Devon question


This is not strictly zoology or natural history, but I've been researching the origins of the curly-coated retriever. Unlike other British retrievers, its history is very hard to trace.

It turns out that the main kennel for the curly in the early part of the twentieth century was called 'Tiverton', which is said to be in the 'West of England.' I discovered that there is a town in Devon called Tiverton. The owner of the kennel was Mr. Samuel Darbey. Do you know anything about him?

The original dog from which the retrievers descend is the St. John's water dog from Newfoundland. They were first brought over by cod fishermen from Poole (Dorset), where they eventually founded the other breeds of retriever in England and Scotland.

One theory goes that the curly is the ancestral dog from which the St. John's water dog descends (at least in part) and that the black dogs were brought to Newfoundland by cod fishermen from Devon and Dorset. I would like to know if any records exist of black water dogs or water spaniels from Devon or Dorset, because the currently accepted theory of the curly's origins is that it is the result of crossing the St. John's water dog with some strain of the now extinct English water spaniel.

I hate to bother you with a stupid dog question, but because you are based in the area, I thought I might seek your expertise.

I've written a post on the curlies here: http://retrieverman.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/some-curlies-from-early-last-century/

And here's where I got the story about Mr. Darbey: http://chestofbooks.com/animals/dogs/Dog-Shows/Mr-Samuel-Darbey.html

If you or your readers know can answer some of these questions or at least point me in the right direction, I'd greatly appreciate it.


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


More news, that’s what you’ve come for right well, here you go then:

Freshwater jellyfish discovered in quarry in Lancaster Township
Rescue sought for manatee stuck in cold N.J. waterway
Pythons found in Annville this summer are recovering

Q: Why did the two pythons start courting?
A: It was because of a crush they had.