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...


Unlike some of our competitors we are not going to try and blackmail you into donating by saying that we won't continue if you don't. That would just be vulgar, but our lives, and those of the animals which we look after, would be a damn sight easier if we receive more donations to our fighting fund. Donate via Paypal today...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Wildcats in Cheshire

I have recently uncovered a number of mystery-cat stories from Cheshire, which is the county I live in. Whilst looking through some newspaper cuttings in the Macclesfield Library I found this cutting, which shows a man sitting at a desk (his name is Brian Beeken; unfortunately I haven`t been able to track him down) sitting next to a display with a sign saying: `Wildboarclough Outdoor Education Centre`. The article came from the now defunct Wilmslow Advertiser of March 11th 1976. It appears to show, if you look closely in the top right-hand corner, two wild-cat skins of unknown provenance.

I was told by a local Womens Institute member of a black cat in a cage being released near Wildboarclough about 25 years ago. Also, only today (June 20th) I was told of a probable lynx hunting rabbits in Tegg`s Nose, a wild area of rocky outcrops and valleys just outside Macclesfield. This was also around 1987. The animal had the tufted ears of a lynx.

In the early 1990s a couple of large feral cats were reported in Bosley Woods near Macclesfield in E. Cheshire by an acquaintance. They were the size of foxes.

I contacted Carl Marshall because I wanted to know about ageing and wild cat skins and he told me: “Insects, such as moths and also damp are devastating to the preserved fur on a pelt - but in the absence of these, a dried out skin just hung up (even without a case) and left alone on a wall indoors could last a thousand years, maybe more as it is effectively mummified. But it must remain dry.

"Sunlight will bleach out colours and distort patterns, but it wont really effect the actual structure of the hairs themselves.” (1)

But this information, although interesting, didn`t answer my question as to where the skins had come from and when so I wrote to the Macclesfield Express asking readers if they knew of any stories of wild cats near Wildboarclough, and in mid-May my letter was published (see the accompanying image) and it won the star letter of the week, winning me £10, which I spent on a decent lunch, for once! But I received no news from that line of enquiry.

So I went to the County Archives in Chester. I found in a log called the “Game and Fishing Book” a mention of one cat shot on November 13th 1847 by a game keeper at Tabley, on the Leicester-Warren family estate. I also found a cutting from the Cheshire Observer dated November 18th 1882 concerning a meeting of the Neston and District Literary Society at which the Rev J. Towert gave a talk on “ Edward the Naturalist” who “once emerged bleeding and torn from a struggle with a wild cat, but delighted with the capture of a fine specimen, which only succumbed on receiving a large dose of chloroform.” Neston is in the far west of Cheshire on that part of the Wirral that lies within Cheshire.

T.A. Coward in his `Invertebrate Fauna of Cheshire and Liverpool Bay” vol 1 1910 includes a wild cat trapped some years before 1883 as mentioned by “the late J.F. Robinson “ (Manchester City News 3/11/1883) in Delamere Forest. (Although Coward doubted this was a bona fide wild cat.) The article said:


Is the Wild Cat still to be found in the northern counties? I ask this question merely to elicit information, because many domestic cats , being poachers from natural instinct, often become wild, especially in districts where game is abundant. These by game keepers are called wild cats. I nave seen many domestic animals nailed behind the barn-door, and denounced as veritable wild cats, whereas nothing could be more erroneous. The last true wild cat, and I believe the only one I have handled, I set up for the late Mr John Hayes. It was caught in a trap, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Oakmere [a village next to Delamere-R] It had a lean and lanky, as well as a powerful and ferocious appearance, with a coat not unlike a tabby cat. The tail was tufted at the end like a fox`s brush, with dark hairs, and was considerably shorter than the tame species. The latter tapers to a point. Still I would not found any specific character solely upon the tail, for these vary so much, as is well known, in crosses with the Manx cat…I doubt very much if the tame animal is identical with the wild cat, though I have heard this asserted frequently by those who never saw a wild cat. It may possibly still be in existence in some of the wild portions of the northern counties, but some intelligent gamekeepers declare it is now extinct in one of its last shelters, Delamere Forest JAMES F. ROBINSON. (2)

1. E-mail from Carl Marshall to Richard Muirhead April 27th 2012
2. Manchester City News November 3rd 1883

No comments: