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...

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

DIRECTOR'S DIARY: Hoorah - the Newsblog's back

After an absence of several weeks, the CFZ Newsblog is back thanks to the intervention of those jolly nice folks in the Google/Blogger help department.

From what I can gather this sort of thing happens quite often, and so from now on each day we make back-ups of all the blogs, and so if this ever happens again we can just import the backed up version into a new blog and start again.

Hopefully, however, we shall be flagged with the computer that originally sent out the spiderbots as being bona fide and it won't happen again.

I am particularly pleased for Gavin Lloyd Wilson who has worked so hard keeping the thing going. It must have been particularly galling to think of all that work - 2173 posts - going to waste. But it hasn't and with the daily back-ups it won't, so all's well that ends well.

However, whilst on the subject of prolific CFZ bloggers, can I recommend Graham Inglis's blog. He has just posted a post about Hawkwind nearly a year after his previous posting (which was to apologise for not having posted anything for the previous two years!) Nice One Dude.


OLL LEWIS: On the track of Unusual Tracks

When the current cold snap started about ten days ago, Jon and I were talking about things that we might investigate this month, and the subject of the report of the devil’s footprints we had investigated in the village this time last year came up. Our conclusion had been that a rabbit lolloping around in the snow in an unusual manner most likely made them but, Jon hoped, it would be interesting to see if similar tracks turned up in the snow this year in order that we could compare them. I said, “I don’t know about that, but I’d be interested in seeing if anyone sees any tracks from the Hartland cat.”

Several witnesses have seen the Hartland cat in the woods and farmland around the areas of Hartland and Woolsery for a number of years. (And yes, these sightings date from long before we moved into Woolsery before some armchair pundit with half the facts decides to act like an internet tough guy and accuse us of making the whole thing up). If local rumours are to be believed there is more than one of them too. Jon is currently making a film about the big cat sightings in the area and our friend Emily’s investigation of those in the locality that she began after hearing of a sighting of the cat by her uncle.

Around this time of year, two years ago, we received a ‘phone call from Roger Heywood from Duerdon farm just outside Woolsery about a sheep kill. He had seen the sheep happily frolicking about in the field the afternoon before, but the next morning found the animal skinned with most of the flesh removed. Roger did the sensible thing and called his local mystery animal investigation team and we sent Richard Freeman to take a look. After examining the corpse Richard was left in no doubt that a big cat had dispatched the unfortunate sheep.

Today (the 13th of January) Roger made another ‘phone call; he had some unusual prints in the snow. As the light was fading Graham and I quickly grabbed a tape-measure, my notepad, a torch, digital camera and film camera and hot-footed it (well ‘hot-four-wheel-drived it’ technically but lets not split hairs here) to Duerdon Farm, where Roger was waiting. We then followed Roger’s tractor to the field where the tracks had been found. By the time we reached the field, twilight had set in, but in the powerful headlights of the tractor we could see a line of tracks stretching from one end of the field to the other. Most of the tracks were in the deep, otherwise unbroken virgin snow that covered the field but when they reached tracks from a previous visit of the tractor they followed this track for a few paces. When I asked Roger when the tractor track had been made he said it was from yesterday evening and because he found the animal’s tracks when he had been out at about 2pm this means the tracks must have been made between around 5pm and lunchtime the next day. Not wanting to disturb the line of animal tracks, I walked down the existing tractor tracks to get a closer look at the animal tracks.

The tracks themselves were very interesting. One set in deep snow that I examined closely showed that the animal was placing its back paw in the imprint of the forepaw; this is not something canines do when they walk so that, along with the shape of the prints, meant that I could eliminate dogs and foxes from my list of possible culprits. There was no sign of webbing between the toes either, which was a good indication that the tracks were not made by otters. I hesitate slightly to say that these prints were definitely made by a big cat though because of the toes; there are five of them. However, a number of big cat researchers have found anomalies in the paw prints they’ve found in their area, including things like apparently non-retractable claws or polydactylism, which might be consistent with interbreeding among a very small group of individuals over several generations. Keeping it in the family can play havoc with feline Hox genes it would seem and polydactylism in felines it is not all that uncommon; my childhood pet cat, Tigger, started off life as part of a family of stray moggies on a farm and had more than her fair share of digits for example. As well as the possibility of it being a big cat, I would also consider the possibility of the prints having been made by a badger but there are one or two problems with this theory too as none of the tracks show evidence of claws as one would expect to see in a badger track. And then there is the size of the prints.

The print from the forepaw measures about 8cm by 9cm and the back paw print measures 5cm by 6 cm with a stride length of 71cm. This is rather larger than a badger where the forepaws would be expected to be around 4-5 cm and the stride would be about 50cm, so if it is a badger then it would have to be huge and such a large badger could perhaps be considered a cryptid in itself. As well as taking a number of photographs, Graham also made use of the digger scoop of Roger’s tractor in order to be lifted aloft to get some photographs of the tracks stretching across the field. Once we had obtained as many photographs as was possible in the fading light, we returned to Roger’s house where I filmed an interview with him and then it was home to Myrtle Cottage to inform Jon of what we had found.

If the snow hasn’t thawed by tomorrow morning we hope to be able to get plaster casts of some of the prints, but in the meantime take a look at the photos, what do you think? Is it a big cat, an abnormally large super badger, or something else entirely?

Here we should note that Dale had a look at them last night and wrote "Composite Kittycat tracks. Stepping in the same track makes the prints look bigger and with more toes. Last track in picture most accurate one of set." Time will, I hope, tell JD


Folks - I was going to continue today with the series of crypto reports from chronicling America but I have found something rather significant on the site this afternoon which I want to some more more research on, so I am returning to a theme I brought to your attention a few months ago,curious cats.

I have two stories. Firstly, from the Jackdaw column in The Guardian of February 19th 1997: `A cat`s tale.` (No,I`m not being very original today am I ?! )

“The large number of tail–less cats in the Flensburg * area on the German-Danish border is thought to be the result of a bomber crash in 1942. On the night of October 12 that year, 27 Halifaxes of 4 Group attacked the U-boat base at Flensburg, 12 being shot down by a new type of Swiss manufactured Oerlikon flak gun moved into the area a few days earlier.

Kurt Peuschel,then a boy of 14, and some of his school friends,were allowed by the German guard to inspect one of the crashed bombers, believed to be W7717 of 10 Squadron from Melbourne. The guard told them that five of the Canadian crew had been taken prisoner and that two bodies had been removed. The prisoners had asked the guard to look for their cat mascot,a tom,which they would recognise because it had no tail. Kurt and his friends were enlisted in what proved to be a fruitless search for the cat.

Now married and living in Switzerland, Kurt visited his 90-year old mother last year and while with her saw a local TV station report on the large number of cats without tails in the Flensburg area.

The report attributed them to the missing mascot, which was thought to have been obtained when the crew were at a rest centre on the Isle of Man. Taken from the Air Mile, the Journal of the RAF Association. Thanks to AJ Lne for spotting this jewel. (1)

* I had a German girlfriend from Flensburg that I met in Derry. She was deeply into the poetry of John Cooper Clarke. I bet you never knew that!!

Next, a favourite of mine, old moggies: “ The cat`s whiskers Spike is oldest moggie at 29. A 29 year old ginger and white tomcat called Spike was yesterday crowned Britain`s oldest living moggie. The 10lb puss – who is the equivalent of 203 in human years- won an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Owner Mo Elkington claimed Spike ….lived so long because she feeds him trendy “healing” plant Aloe Vera. She said “ I put some in his food every day. It keeps his fur healthy and protects him against rheumatism.” Aromatherapist Mo,47,of Bridport, Dorset,bought Spike as a kitten for half – a – crown at a market. She only discovered Spike was a record breaker when she took him to a vet.She said: “ I`d no idea his age was that unusual but the vet was staggered so I called the record people.”

Mo added: “ He must be lucky because he was bitten by a huge dog at 19. Vets didn`t think he`d live. Britain`s oldest cat died in Devon in 1957, aged 34. (2)

Of course this is 11 years ago, so by now there may have been a new record.

1.The Guardian February 19th 1997.
2. The Sun. October 15th 1999.

The Beatles Blackbird

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting to be free….




1 Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker (4)
2 Big Cats loose in Britain by Marcus Matthews (5=)
3 Man Monkey - In Search of the British Bigfoot by Nick Redfern (5=)
4 The Mystery animals of Britain: Kent by Neil Arnold (7)
5 In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans by Michael Woodley (-)
6= Dark Dorset by Mark North and Robert Newland (7)
6= Big Bird by Ken Gerhard (-)
8= Monster - the A-Z of Zooform Phenomena by Neil Arnold (1)
8= Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker (2)
8= Big Cats in Britain Yearbook 2008 (-)


1 Monster - the A-Z of Zooform Phenomena by Neil Arnold (4)
2 Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker (2)
3 Big Bird by Ken Gerhard (2)
4 Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker (-)
5 Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals on stamps by Dr Karl Shuker (3)
6= The Mystery animals of Britain: Kent by Neil Arnold (6)
6= The Island of Paradise by Jonathan Downes (-)
6= The Owlman and Others by Jonathan Downes (8)
6= In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans by Michael Woodley (5)
10 The Mystery animals of Britain: The Western Isles by Glen Vaudrey (-)

Last month's positions in this pinky colour, which I think is called cerise.

This was a weird Christmas sales-wise. We are still about 30% on what we should be in the UK, but in the USA we had our best Christmas ever.

DALE DRINNON: Australian "Pumas" and Big Moggies

I had a theory that the basic Australian 'Pumas' were mostly introduced golden cats from Indonesia, perhaps of an unusually large size. Golden cats are a poorly-understood group and there are cryptid candidate golden cats for both the African and South Asian cats, which are medium-sized puma-like cats. Heuvelmans thinks the Mngwa is an unusually coloured giant variety of the African golden cat and I might submit some photo ref. for that idea some time.

In this case, there is some genetic evidence for cats that were introduced into Australia from Indonesia at 6000 years ago approximately: one of my professors at IUPUI mentioned that he had done research that demonstrated that.

Golden cats may have been introduced at that time or later: they are sometimes kept for cultic purposes in South Asia historically and to this day. Golden cats are another variety that runs to melanism.

(Incidentally, I have heard some good definitive reports of jaguarundis running loose in both Illinois and Indiana, but that is also another matter for another time)

However, in the case of the Australian cats, something else is happening that is very unusual: some of the leopard-sized cats are being killed and then tested, and their DNA turns out to be ordinary house-cat-derived.

There are some monstrously big kitty cats running loose out there, comparable in size to a german shepherd dog, which is about two feet high at the shoulder and four feet long.
In the USA we have a breed of very large cat that is known as the Maine coon cat. The cat can be three or four feet long overall and weigh twenty or thirty pounds. That would be about the size of these BigMoogies.

It is thought that these Maine coon cats are related to the equally large and thick-furred Scandinavian skogskat, also known as the viking cat. I have done up a comparison for the big cat as compared to a more average one: actually the reports have them getting even bigger than I have shown, but showing the large size as big as reported makes it look too unreasonable.

And it also seems that rumour has it that Americans allowed pet or mascot pumas to run loose in Australia, allegedly both in the late 1800s and in WWII. I would not be surprised if that was also the reason for 'Panther' reports in New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1179 the order of the knights templar was given formal approval by Pope Honorius II.

Four-inch Chihuahua 'is priceless'
Camel-drawn solar van passes through Alice
Pony is left to drown in frozen canal
Gay man who tried to poison lesbian neighbours with slug pellets over three-legged cat feud walks free
Dog Senses Arcata Earthquake at News Station
Kylie Minogue congratulates giant carp catcher on Twitter

Q: What’s a fish’s favourite Kylie song?
A: ‘Carp’ get you out of my head.