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

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

BIG CAT NEWS: The Beast of Smallthorne solved!

So the Beast of Smallthorne picture is a hoax. I am not at all surprised as it looked very much as if it was cut and pasted with Photoshop.

However, I have never wanted the CFZ as an organisation, or me as a person to become so blasé about what we do that I automatically dismiss something out of hand just because it looks as dodgy as blazes. And I always try to be polite, even when someone is trying to trick me with a palpable hoax.

I must admit that I wonder who was responsible and why. The picture was sent to me as a large photographic print rather than by email, so it must have cot the guy responsible a few quid.

Thank you very much to our old buddy Dr Karl Shuker who found the relevant panther picture here

Compare the images below:



The image as received in the post yesterday





The image on the poster on sale at:http://www.animal-posters.info/catalog/411968.htm

STOP PRESS. I am afraid that I am going to have to reject Dr Shuker's cunning hypothesis. New evidence has come to light. The animal has just been seen in my garden:

...and on Birmingham New Street Station

...and the animal has obviously been around a long time, as it appears in this recently discovered 1878 painting by William Yeames: "When did you last see 'The Beast of Smallthorne'?"

So yah! Boo! Sucks!

7 comments:

Dr Karl Shuker said...

LOL. The words "too much time on your hands, Jon" come readily to mind here!

Dan said...

At least he isn't cutting and pasting pictures of inaccurately-reconstructed plesiosaurs like one incorrigible reprobate of these parts has been known to do...

Retrieverman said...

Here's something I've been thinking about:

Javan leopards.

The reason why I mention them here is this hoax cat looks a lot like a Javan leopard or Javan leopard cross.

One theory that is being bandied about is that the bulk of captive-bred black leopards are actually derived from the Javan subspecies.

The Javan subspecies is a bit smaller than normal, but it does often come in black. It's not as often black as those found on the Malaysian Peninsula, which have been found to be melanistic without exception. But the fact that this subspecies is black and smaller would have made it a popular addition to menageries and traveling circuses. It also has a smaller head in proportion to its body size.

The Javan leopard is an isolated subspecies. It is believed to have split from its mainland relatives 800,000 years ago. Captive black leopard are currently being suggested as a source for genetic rescue for Javan leopards. There are only about 50 left in fragmented populations on the island.

Also, if the introduced leopards in Britain are of the Javan subspecies or mostly of that heritage, what does this portend for their survival there? We aren't talking about the Amur subspecies which is very cold tolerant. We're talking about a tropical leopard subspecies.

I wonder how easily a tropical leopard subspecies would adapt to a marine temperate climate. I know it would be easier for it to do so in that sort of environment than for it to try to do it here. Although temperate, most winters aren't as mild as this one.

My late grandfather had a leopard sighting in the 1970's. It was a black one. He described it as being about the size of a Labrador with a very long tail. But in the 1970's, we had some of the worst winters in history, so it is very doubtful that it would have survived. Those winters essentially made the bobwhite quail extinct in my state.

And that's a native species.

So I know these are random thoughts, but I've been thinking about how a leopard could colonize temperate areas and what role subspecies might play in determining their success.

Retrieverman said...

Here's something I've been thinking about:

Javan leopards.

The reason why I mention them here is this hoax cat looks a lot like a Javan leopard or Javan leopard cross.

One theory that is being bandied about is that the bulk of captive-bred black leopards are actually derived from the Javan subspecies.

The Javan subspecies is a bit smaller than normal, but it does often come in black. It's not as often black as those found on the Malaysian Peninsula, which have been found to be melanistic without exception. But the fact that this subspecies is black and smaller would have made it a popular addition to menageries and traveling circuses. It also has a smaller head in proportion to its body size.

The Javan leopard is an isolated subspecies. It is believed to have split from its mainland relatives 800,000 years ago. Captive black leopard are currently being suggested as a source for genetic rescue for Javan leopards. There are only about 50 left in fragmented populations on the island.

Also, if the introduced leopards in Britain are of the Javan subspecies or mostly of that heritage, what does this portend for their survival there? We aren't talking about the Amur subspecies which is very cold tolerant. We're talking about a tropical leopard subspecies.

I wonder how easily a tropical leopard subspecies would adapt to a marine temperate climate. I know it would be easier for it to do so in that sort of environment than for it to try to do it here. Although temperate, most winters aren't as mild as this one.

My late grandfather had a leopard sighting in the 1970's. It was a black one. He described it as being about the size of a Labrador with a very long tail. But in the 1970's, we had some of the worst winters in history, so it is very doubtful that it would have survived. Those winters essentially made the bobwhite quail extinct in my state.

And that's a native species.

So I know these are random thoughts, but I've been thinking about how a leopard could colonize temperate areas and what role subspecies might play in determining their success.

Dan said...

Retrieverman: this tallies with what I think on the matter. Say you are a 1960s wide-boy of the Arthur Daley variety, and you have just heard a local big man of the villainous, showy and rich variety sounding off about how he'd like to have some pet of some sort that'd look really cool, etc. Your interest here would be drawn to the fact that of all wildlife, felines are about the only exotics which are mostly not massively dangerous to humans, are easily kept and do not have climate/environmental needs that much different to people. Alright, so the phraseology would be different with fewer syllables and so on, but you take my meaning.

So, you're looking to import a big cat to Britain in the late 1950s to late 1960s (this would not have occurred in the 1940s at all, due to the economic disruption of the war). Where do you start looking? The easiest place to look is in the Chinese animal markets, and over there the only commonly-available big felid is going to be a south-east Asian leopard. Sourcing African leopards is going to be trouble, and the African sub-species is a big animal and not known for a placid temperament.

Even at the height of the fashion for leopards as pets, this is never at any time going to be particularly high volume so only a few dozen leopards per annum would be caught up and sold. Such a low volume would mean that in the areas where wild leopards were being sourced, nobody would ever be a professional black-leopard hunter. Trapping would be ad-hoc, putting a cage trap out in the fields and so on, to try to nab one of the local cats.

This imposes selection pressure on the leopards being caught. If the local one is a livestock killer, odds are it simply gets shot and its skin sold. If it is perceived as a sod to handle, then either it escapes, or it gets shot. Only fairly tame, placid individuals would tend to get traded on, and survive the stress of the markets and international shipping.

So, the black leopards which end up being turned loose in the late 1970s all tend to be the more placid and non-aggressive end of the leopard temperament spectrum. This explains why we're not seeing any trouble from these leopards at all in the UK; a lot of the sightings are from suburban areas where the cat has ample opportunity to hunt and kill small children should it wish to do so, yet there's not a single reported instance of this that I can find.

I would therefore conclude that there is no threat from these cats towards humans. Aggressive dogs and people are statistically much more dangerous.

Nick Redfern said...

I'm very glad to see the majestic New Street Station got a mention. May we please see the cat at the foot of the Rotunda?

Dr Karl Shuker said...

But not in Birmingham's Bull Ring, as I'm certain that its iconic bull would not be too happy sharing the limelight!