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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Monday, May 03, 2010


Doc Shiels rang me up at about 2a.m. on May Day. He wanted to wish us a happy Bealtaine, but in the course of a rambling conversation he warned that Owlman "stuff" might be happening this summer. The next day Matt Williams emailed me this! He wrote:

'Interesting that this OWL in Woodoborough is close to West Stowell which some call West OWL which is home to Jacob Rothschild.'

The game is afoot it seems.


If you've ever wanted to see a picture of a chimp dressed as Napoleon, now's your chance. Richard found this singular objet d'art yesterday. But where does it come from, and why?

LINDSAY SELBY: Sabre-toothed cats

There seems to have been little interest in sabre-toothed cats sightings. Considering that sabre-toothed creatures only died out about 10,000 years ago and therefore there could be an ancestor around that was the result of interbreeding between cats as the last remnants of the sabre-toothed fought to survive, it seems strange that this big cat is virtually ignored by cryptozoology. There is very little mention of it, even by those who research big cats.

These cats were powerful hunters with large canine teeth that protruded out of the mouth, presumably for ripping prey apart or perhaps to get a grip on a prey that could not be broken if the teeth sank well in. The name 'sabre-tooth' comes from these teeth.

Reports of sabre-toothed cats have come from Africa, South America and even Europe.

Some of these modern reports describe sabre-toothed cats as being aquatic, in that they lurk in water to seize prey or live in hidden dens with underground entrances. They may of course be mixing up the cat with something such as a crocodile, stories do get distorted over time as the Chinese Whispers go on. Some of the stories/ accounts of sightings are below:

In 1940 there was an account of the Mexican Ruffed Cat by zoologist Ivan Sanderson. He obtained a large, tough cat skin from local people. The skin was about 6 feet (2 metres) from nose-tip with a short 1.5 feet (45 cm) tail. (Bear in mind pelts can stretch or shrink depending on how they are dried). The flanks and upper limbs had a series of wavy stripes in alternate light and dark shades of brown. The lower limbs were very dark brown, almost black, as was the tail. The cat also had a large ruff that started just behind the shoulders and encircled the neck and covered the ears from above and behind. A second skin of a smaller specimen was obtained but found to be in poor condition, but had sharper stripes. They were stored with other skins in Sanderson's base, but the base got flooded and the skins lost or ruined. Several candidates have been put forward including the extinct Samilodon (sabre-tooth tiger). Sabre-toothed animals have been depicted by indigenous Indians in their art work. However, this does not mean they have been seen recently but could simply be the stories of them are still alive and passed on through the generations.

In 1966 a report of a sabre-toothed cat came from South America by naturalist Peter Matthiessen. While in Paraguay Matthiessen was told by a seaman named Picquet about the existence of a mysterious cat:

"[He] described a rare striped cat not quite so large as a jaguar and very timid, which is possessed of two very large protruding teeth : this animal, he said, occurs in the mountain jungles of Colombia and Ecuador, and he has glimpsed it once himself." (Matthiessen 1966: 32, 33).

(N.B. Science Illustrée of September 1998 reports an observation by a French sailor, François Piquet, of a sabre-toothed cat in Paraguay in 1984 coming out of a cavern. It may be the same story as above but the date was mixed up)

In 1975 a 'mutant jaguar' was shot and killed in Paraguay. Upon being examined by zoologist Juan Acavar, he described it as having a foot (30cms) long sabre-teeth. Acavar felt that the animal was in fact a Smilodon, which supposedly died out over 10,000 years ago. The story goes that fearing the report would frighten the public and attract ridicule he decided on the mutant jaguar story. However, nothing more has been heard of the carcass.

(N.B. Cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that sabre-toothed tigers like Smilodon may be involved in such sightings, but it's more likely that the Thylacosmilidae, extinct sabre-toothed marsupials indigenous to South America, are the real culprits.)

In 1975 in Chad, Africa, Christian Le Noel was leading a game hunt from Derby near the river Ouandja 25km from Tirongoulou on the Chad-Sudan border when he heard a howling from a cave like nothing he had heard before. His tracker refused to go any further, saying that it was the sabre-tooth. The people of Temki, Hadjeray, in southwest Chad call the sabre-toothed tiger the "hadjel." The Zagaoua people of the region describe the creature as being as tall as a lion, with red fur and white strips, tail-less, and possessing a pair of large fangs/teeth projecting from its mouth. Wounds have been found on hippopotami that could have been inflicted by the teeth of a sabre-toothed tiger. Christian Le Noel witnessed a hippo that died of strange wounds that could have been made by a cat with large upper canine teeth.

In the UK there are stories about Hackney Marsh. There are tales of the Hackney Marsh Big Cat, which is thought to be a sabre-toothed tiger. Witnesses have described it as four feet tall with very long canine teeth.

So could there be a remnant of the sabre-toothed cat still around or even a hybrid, the result of interbreeding? Anything is possible. I just wonder why no one seems to have pursued the research for their existence, which is more likely than a living dinosaur in Africa or South America. If anyone has any thoughts please post a comment.

1998 Le félin aux dents de sabre. Science Illustrée, n° 9 : 62 (septembre).
Le Noel ,Christian 1999 On Target : History and Hunting In Central Africa Trophy Room Books; Limited edition
Matthiessen, Peter 1966 The Cloud Forest Pyramid Books New York.


Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers

For the past eight years, journalist Rebecca Lang and writer/photographer Michael Williams have been piecing together the legend of Australia's mysterious 'black panther.' They have travelled all over Australia interviewing witnesses; investigating sightings and unexplained stock deaths; and delving deep into the archives to pull together a meaty compendium of sightings, killing sprees, narrow escapes, myths and mysteries that form an intriguing chapter of Australian folklore.



Recently I wrote a post regarding my opinions on as to why large exotic felids roam the wilds of the UK. This seemed to irk a few in the ‘big cat’ community, as it always seems to do. I’ve always thought that a rather down to earth explanation could solve the riddle as to why black leopard, puma and lynx inhabit the woods of Britain. For me, it always pointed, certainly in more recent times, to the introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act, where many cat owners decided to dump their novelty pets in the woods. Reports dating centuries previous could well be explained by escapees/releases from circuses, private zoos and travelling menageries. All the evidence points to this when you consider reports in the press, menagerists’ and their incidents, and some owners admitting they’d released animals.

Now, after stating this I was accused by the hilariously named ‘The Highland Tiger’ of being ‘outlandish’ and full of ‘hot air’, with no evidence to back this up, or the claims that I’d ever seen or filmed a large cat in the wilds. Usually, any posts I decide to write always provoke a petty response from those cowardly folk who are unable to come out from their façade, but tragically, it has always proved me right that the ‘big cat’ community is unfortunately littered with people who

a) are completely deluded by thinking these animals have some more esoteric, or even prehistoric explanation,

b) are simply out to stir the s**t,

c) seem to have no valid theories to put forward themselves,

d) have never seen a large cat in the wilds because they are too busy stuck behind a PC all day.

I’d like to hear everyone’s opinion to maybe put this boring, tiresome debacle to bed. I’ve always written about monsters but in regards to the ‘big cat’ situation I’ve sought no reason to create any kind of mystery when there isn’t one to create. It’s clear that myself and the CFZ has opposition out there, and that’s always going to happen but clearly this debate will rage forever because there clearly are a lot of sad anoraks out there with nothing better to.

I’d simply like to know where do you think ‘big cats’ came from, and if you’ve seen one please do reply.

Many thanks,

Neil Arnold

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Star Wars day, May the 4th be with you.

And now, the news:

Buzz off! Thousands of bees cling to Michigan SUV
Bee aware: thieves target lucrative hives
Fears for crops as shock figures from America show scale of bee catastrophe
Dog lover's 'deluge' of cute pups
Water firms blamed for poisoned oysters
German postman marries his cat
Farmers go raven mad over bird gangs
Scientists go on 'mammal hunt'
German man 'marries' his dying cat

Hmm, ‘cats’ just wrong.