Are There Big Wild Cats in Britain?

Are There Big Wild Cats in Britain?

I’ve always been a believer that there are big cats roaming Britain and that most of these sightings are authentic. In the early ’00s, there were sightings in my local area of a big wild cat, a puma like creature roaming the Saddleworth moors. One of these witnesses was a person I know and trust beyond any doubt to have been telling the truth. What he saw was what he described as a black puma which appeared in between two parked cars in a quiet village close to the moors one evening. It moved swiftly and calmly and could be nothing other than what he claimed to see.

Some Recent Big Cat Sightings Throughout Britain

In March 2020, an eyewitness claimed to have seen a big cat as large as an Alsatian. Somerset Live reported the story of the sighting which was said to have occured near Paulton. The eyewitness said the huge animal ran through her garden and left her understandably terrified. The appearance of this story in the local press prompted other locasl to come forward with their sightings. A number of which described a similar animal with a glossy black coat crossing the road on front of their cars.

Some of these eyewitnesses in the Somerset area identified the animal as a Jaguar or Panther. All insisted the animal they saw was too big to be any kind of domestic cat and was feline in appearance and therefore definitely not a dog.

In April of this year, the Mirror ran a story of a woman from Cumbria who had spotted a wild Puma and even had the photographic evidence to prove it. The lady claimed the big cat she spotted was muscular and was eating a pigeon when she noticed it. She took a series of three photographs before the big cat moved on.

One driver reported a sighting to Kent police after having a sighting of a big cat only days ago. The man told Kent Live what he saw was not a jaguar, but either a mountain lion or a cougar. The witness claimed the light brown animal which glared at him as it crossed the road was around 1 and a half metres long.

Other recent reports include sightings of leopards, pumas and even lions.

Image my own (taken at Longleat)

The above are a random selection of recent eyewitness accounts of big cats from across Britain. Eerily, there are many more.

What Could People Be Seeing?

When these witnesses come forward to share their sighting, many critics argue what these people are seeing are large domestic cats. Some of the larger domestic cats can grow to the size of small dogs. For instance, the Savannah Cat can weigh up to 30 pounds. The markings on the coat do look similar to some of the big wild cats found in Africa, such as the cheetah.

A number of scientific evaluations have been conducted over more recent decades into the big cat phenomenon. Such as one conducted in 1995 following a spate of sightings spanning twenty years of the ‘Bodmin Moor Beast’. The investigation concluded that there was no beast, however, locals continued to insist that a large wild cat roamed their moors.

Usually, these investigations conclude that what witnesses are seeing is nothing more than a large domestic cat. They take the usual line that the witness misidentified what they saw. Their sighting was from a distance and so they could not properly estimate the size of the creature they had seen. Ultimately, the witness sighting is dismissed as nothing more than imaginary.

However, if we look at the eye witness testimonies, it is always made clear that these were not domestic cats. And let’s be realistic, perhaps some sightings could be categorised as misidentification, however, not all can be dismissed as such. Especially when sightings are close, most people will know the difference between a domestic cat and a wild large cat which is totally out of place in our British landscape.

Image my own (taken at Longleat)

Writers and sceptics have examined this ‘phenomenon’ and have sought to rationalise people’s experiences. George Monibot concluded in his book Ferral that big wild cats in Britain only exist in the minds of the witnesses. That they are a manifestation of our suppressed desire to lead lives wilder than the ones we have.

A History of Big Cat Sightings in Britian

This is not just a recent phenomenon. There is a long history of such sightings.

William Cobbett in his book ‘Rural Rides’ published in the early 19th century recalled that when he was a boy in the 1760’s he had a big cat encounter which he retold to a friend:

I showed him an old elm tree, which was hollow even then, into which I, when a very little boy, once saw a cat go, that was as big as a middle-sized spaniel dog, for relating which I got a great scolding, for standing to which I, at last, got a beating; but stand to which I still did. I have since many times repeated it; and I would take my oath of it to this day. When in New Brunswick I saw the great wild grey cat, which is there called a Lucifee; and it seemed to me to be just such a cat as I had seen at Waverley. 

William Cobbett, Rural Rides, p. 265.

Bristol Museum holds a Canadian Lynx in its collection. The animal was shot and killed in Devon in 1903. Evidence taken from its carcass hs revealed the animal had been living in the wild for some time, although there is no way of knowing precisely how long that was.

But with the significant increase in the development of the British landscape in more recent decades, if these animals did once roam our land, surely they would have been pushed out of their habitats and we would have more sightings. So what could account for more recent sightings?

Where could some of these big wild cats come from and how could they have found their way onto the British landscape? Or have they always been here? Are they just masters of elusiveness?

There is one prevailing and rather convincing theory which could explain these more recent sightings. In 1976 the Dangerous and Wild Animals Act was passed. This placed increased restrictions on the keeping of exotic and wild animals in Britain. Rather than adhere to the strict restrictions, or hand in animals to the authorities, there is evidence that some of these pet owners released their wild animals into the countryside. Investigators have discovered that wild animals such as pumas were released into the wild. Some argue that it would be impossible for these animals to survive in our countryside, or that a substantial population would be needed for these animals to have bred and explain the modern sightings.

What is Evidence is There for Big Cats in Britain?

Lots. Although some critics dispute the authenticity of this evidence. Many witnesses have taken photographs of the animals they saw. However as these sightings are often at a distance, these can sometimes be blurry or hard to identify the animal. Although witnesses say what they saw with their own eyes was a big wild cat.

One study in 2007 which used evidence from prey carcasses in Britain concluded that big wild cats or medium-sized felines were responsible for some of the animal attacks. Thus confirming that there are big wild cats roaming the British countryside. (R. Coard, Ascertaining an agent: using tooth pit data to determine the carnivore/s responsible for predation in cases of suspected big cat kills in an upland area of Britain, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2007).

DNA carried out on hair samples from North Devon in 2011 confirmed that what the locals had been saying was true. That there was a leopard living in the area.

There have also been numerous captures. Perhaps the most famous of them is Felicity the Puma. She spent her later life in the Wildlife Park after being captured in Inverness in 1980. It is believed she was a pet and set free into the Scottish highlands.

Felicity the Puma: Geni / CC BY-SA

There are numerous other examples of similar animals being captured and stuffed. Or found dead on the roadside.

And of course, we have the eye witness testimony of thousands of people. As with any cryptozoology subject or paranormal or supernatural phenomenon, not all will believe what people have seen. Ultimately it is up for us to decide.

Have you had a big cat encounter? What are your thoughts on the subject of big cats in Britain?

For similar posts, see my paranormal category.



  1. June 21, 2020 / 8:53 pm

    It seems to me, as with invasive plant species, that it is entirely possible the animal culture of Britain is changing. I do not think any continent can stay the same over time, and think it is a good thing for land and the species it supports to adapt and change, so there may be giant cats in Britain! Giant cats may not have been there before, but that is not to say they have not moved in, so to speak. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lellalee
      June 23, 2020 / 11:10 am

      Indeed Jaya xxx

  2. Natasha Evans
    June 23, 2020 / 1:52 pm

    This was such an interesting read – I learnt so much! Thanks for sharing!

    Tash –

    • Lellalee
      June 30, 2020 / 10:40 am

      ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx

  3. June 23, 2020 / 2:51 pm

    I love big cats!! I found this post really interesting. It is good to think that there could be more of them around.

    • Lellalee
      June 30, 2020 / 10:37 am

      Thank you xxx

  4. June 30, 2020 / 1:14 pm

    This was so interesting to read! I havenโ€™t had a big cat encounter and I live in the States, but I enjoy seeing pictures of them ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lellalee
      July 1, 2020 / 9:46 am


  5. June 30, 2020 / 3:15 pm

    Wow, I didn’t know there could be big cats wild there. That’s crazy, but kind of cool too. Hopefully if they are, they are kept safe and not hunted.

    • Lellalee
      July 1, 2020 / 9:45 am

      A very good point xxx

  6. June 30, 2020 / 8:44 pm

    This was such an interesting post to read. I live in Somerset and that report shocking everybody but I haven’t heard of any other sightings since.

    • Lellalee
      July 1, 2020 / 9:44 am


  7. June 30, 2020 / 11:01 pm

    I think big cats are beautiful animals but I would be really nervous if I saw one in my area.

    • Lellalee
      July 1, 2020 / 9:44 am


  8. July 1, 2020 / 11:25 am

    I have to admit that this isnโ€™t something Iโ€™ve really thought about before but reading through this was fascinating. I didnโ€™t realise there had been so many sightings, and numerous in a local area as well, suggesting something is indeed out there.

    • Lellalee
      July 2, 2020 / 9:58 pm

      Thank you Lindsey xxx

  9. July 3, 2020 / 10:48 am

    Such an interesting read! I love big cats, they’re so beautiful. I’ve definitely heard of a few of these sightings before but I’ve never known whether they were legit or not! I think it would be cool having big wild cats in Britain, as long as they’re safe and obviously the public are safe too!

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