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The Beast of Gevaudan
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 03-01-2003 21:45    Post subject: The Beast of Gevaudan Reply with quote

[Emp edit: Warning: This thread may contain spoilers for the film Brotherhood of the Wolf which is loosely based on these events.

Its also worth noting that thre is a BoW discussion thread here:

www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1953

if you are only looking to talk about the film.]

I am writing an article on the well-known, but often wrongly perceived 'beast' of Gevaudan which terrorised a rural area of France in the 1700's. I would be interested in hearing opions on what the 'beast' could have been. I do not believe a wolf, or whole pack of wolves, rabid or not, were responsible due to the fact that witnesses to this very real event would have been familar with an animal native to their land. A roaming Hyena is a distinct possibility, due to the descriptions given and it would have been a likely man-eater, many described the beast as reddish, having a dog-like muzzle, large head and having a coat streaked with black. Large, exotic cats can also be ruled out, there would be no reason for any feline to attack so many humans, but any theories would be appreciated.
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MrRINGOffline
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PostPosted: 04-01-2003 04:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are my theories:

1) Could have been a lion, a la Brotherhood of the Wolf. Consider the real lion attacks that influenced The Ghost and the Darkness - they were killer lions who were also suffering from a strange ailement that caused their manes to fall out, so they didn't look like what we thinks lions should. And it's not impossible to think they could have gotten to France somehow.

2) Perhaps an ice age holdover of some kind that hadn't completely died out in the frozen north but that were exceddingly rare. I want to say I've read reports of it being striped, and wasn't there a prehistoric distant relative of the possum that looked like a wolf and was striped?
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 04-01-2003 17:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

Relative of the possum? Do you mean a Thylacoleo or a Thylacine? If so, how could they have got from Australia to France? (wolf-like Thylacines certainly, and more big cat-like Thylacoleos possibly, were alive at the time, but AFAIK unknown to Europeans - although the Girt Dog of Cumbria, about a century later, is theorised to have been a thylacine which escaped from a travelling menagerie)

There were cave hyenas (larger than living African hyenas) in Europe during the Ice Age, but it is IMHO pretty unlikely that they would have survived that long without many more reports in the intervening time, if they were liable to attack both humans and livestock.

If living Old World species are looked at, we have wolves, lions, tigers, leopards, bears, wolverines, African hunting dogs and hyenas. Bears and wolves would be well known - although a freakishly large and oddly behaved wolf (or wolf-dog hybrid?) could be seen as something different to a normal wolf. Wolverines would IMHO be too small, although they are vicious, and IIRC a wolverine can take down an elk. Any of the big cats or a hyena would have to have got to Europe somehow from Asia or Africa - although all were known and used in gladiatorial combat by the Romans, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone could have brought and secretly released one, although the motives would be obscure.

BTW, what did it look like in the film "Brotherhood of the Wolf"? I haven't seen it, but the hyena-like monsters ridden by the orcs in the latest Lord of the Rings film are very close to what the Beast would have looked like in my imagination...
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 05-01-2003 05:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know much about the Beast of Gevaudan - how much is known about it? I thought people just saw a large wolf-like creature during a few years that saw over 50 people slaughtered, until the king's gun-carrier shot a massively large wolf. Am I terribly off base, or omitting anything important?
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 05-01-2003 16:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many wolves were slaughtered during the period the 'beast' struck, but the film, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, although beautifully filmed, tends to go off the beaten track and whilst the creature in question is pretty good it looks more like something from LORD OF THE RINGS with its armour.

I do not believe the 'beast' at large was a Thylacine, despite the reports of stripes, and I do not believe a large cat was responsible, whatever lurked in the forests was pretty ruthless considering humans were the main prey, skethches handed down from the period definitely describe a hyena-like, or dog-like creature.
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 06-01-2003 01:28    Post subject: Reply with quote

Found this description at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/9638/gevaudan.html :

It was much larger than a wolf, almost as big as a cow, and with a huge head. Its nose was long and pointed, sort of redish in color. It had short ears and very big teeth. The fur was short and light gray in color. The chest was white, and along its back was a black stripe. The big paws had razorsharp claws, and the tail was as thick as that of a wolf. Furthermore it was very agile and extremely strong. It was sometimes sighted in locations very far apart on the same day. When hunting it crawled almost with its belly to the ground. One shepherd claimed it could stand up on its rear legs and was strong enough to lift a fullgrown sheep with its arms. Dogs fled in terror from it as most other animals. The only animals strong and big enough to make a stand against it were bulls. It was also said that it was afraid of firearms.
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 06-01-2003 23:08    Post subject: god bear? Reply with quote

I recall hearing about "god bears" that are "exctinct" but have had sightings in the forests of russia in recent years. There a bit leaner than normal bears but almost the size of a horse. Its paws all face forward as its joints did, so it was built for speed. I believe they prey'd upon eropean bisen. but i opening forests left them with a hunting disadvantage as they sprinted in and fought the kill down. ...which would make humans easy prey.

The slender appearance could account for it being mistaken for a massive wolf.
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 04:02    Post subject: Beast of Gevaudan Reply with quote

First of all, there is absolutely no doubt that the Beasts of Gevaudan (there were TWO of them) actually EXISTED - the events transpired during modern times (1764-1765), records were kept, there was newspaper coverage, and most importantly the Beasts were seen by several hundred people.

The Beasts attacked approximately 300 individuals, of whom two- thirds survived to tell the tale. Many of the slain were partially devoured. Like the old newspaper boner advertizement offering dogs free to a good home, the Beasts "would eat anything and were especially fond of children."

Numerous theories have been offered as to the Beasts' identifies; among others:

1. Extraordinarily-huge domestic wolves. This doesn't seem at all likely, since the people of Gevaudan KNOW their wolves.

2. Dire Wolves. But not only are they American, they have been extinct for around 10,000 years.

3. Werewolves. Fine, but first prove that werewolves exist.

4. Thylacines. Okay, but how did they get from Australia or Tasmania to the interior of France?

5. Hyenas. But are hyenas as INTELLIGENT as the Beasts were reported to be?

6. An "impossible" cross between two distinct species, say a bull and a bear. Now demonstrate that such crosses are even theoretically possible.

Only one thing is certain - they were sure as hell two NASTY brutes.
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MrRINGOffline
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 04:20    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a great newer resource for the Beast of Gevaudan:

http://bdgpointcom.neuf.fr/EngGevaudan.htm

It has plenty of interesting tidbits, like this:
Quote:
The problem of heads cut off

Let's start with a few grammatical notes: nowadays the meaning of a word depends more on the context than on the semantics (the literal meaning of the word) but in the 18th century, the reverse was true. In G. Crouzet "La Grande Peur du Gévaudan" ("The Great Scare In Gévaudan"), pages 132 to 133, you can find 7 heads cut off and 9 torn head. The people who wrote down these events were probably all lettered and also certainly good Latinists ; it would have been impossible for them to mistakenly confuse the words they used. If they made a difference between "cut-off head" - "torn-out head", so must we.

Working purely from semantics, we can say that in the process of decapitation, wolves - or the Beast – tore out the head of their victims 9 times by gnawing on it or carrying the body, and a human being (a sadist or someone settling scores) was involved 7 times. This does not mean that all the victims of the Beast were killed by a human, but the semantic analysis of the original writings about the Beast is something that was never used to explain this detail of the case.
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Mighty_EmperorOffline
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 04:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a good Wikipedia page on it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beast_of_G%C3%A9vaudan

Quote:
It was described as being a wolflike creature the size of a cow with a wide chest, a long sinuous tail with a lion-like tuft of fur on the end, and a greyhoundlike head with large, protruding fangs. It was also noted making huge leaps approaching thirty feet in length. The victims were almost entirely children (of both sexes) and women.


Quote:
Of note is the fact that the creature had a strange method of killing, often ignoring the usual areas targeted by predators (legs and throat to incapacitate and kill, respectively) and instead concentrating on the head, crushing it before feeding. It also seemed to have a particular taste for humans, as even when cattle and other farm animals were more easily attainable it often ignored them completely to attack the person tending them. There were differing reports on the beast itself, which was sometimes reportedly seen with a man and was several times reported to be with another beast, or with young.


Quote:
Various explanations were offered at the time of the attacks. They ranged from exaggerated accounts of wolf attacks, to a loup-garou (werewolf), all the way to the beast being a punishment from God, to being an unholy creature summoned by a sorcerer.

Current opinions offer up the interesting theory that the attacks were actually a serial killer, or group of serial killers, using wolf attacks to cover their own murders. Also sometimes mentioned are the theories that the beast may have been a dire wolf, a marginally larger, extinct relative of modern wolves; as well as the theory that the animal may have simply been an escaped captive exotic animal such as a hyena or lion.

Yet another theory is that the creature was a specially bred wolf-dog hybrid used for hunting, such as those bred and used by the Spanish in the 16th century.

Certain cryptozoologists believe that it may have been a Mesonychid.


A Mesonychid? Sounds like a bit of reaching there.

Even if we factor in a bit of exagertaion on the size/intelligence front its still an impressive beast. The tuft on the tale does suggest lion but the size...

Could someone have bred a particuarily huge and robust mastiff?
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tattootedOffline
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 06:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Of note is the fact that the creature had a strange method of killing, often ignoring the usual areas targeted by predators (legs and throat to incapacitate and kill, respectively) and instead concentrating on the head, crushing it before feeding.


This is ringing a bell in my predator database, but I'm not sure if I'm remembering a real extant animal, a real extinct one, or a crytpid. The part of my brain that is responsible for gross organization tells me the answer lies either in the Man-eaters of Tsavo or Bernard Heuvelmans' African chapters in On the Track of Unknown Animals.

Maybe someone with a better memory or immediate access to either of these books could confirm and flesh this out?
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 08:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

tattooted wrote:
Quote:
Of note is the fact that the creature had a strange method of killing, often ignoring the usual areas targeted by predators (legs and throat to incapacitate and kill, respectively) and instead concentrating on the head, crushing it before feeding.


This is ringing a bell in my predator database, but I'm not sure if I'm remembering a real extant animal, a real extinct one, or a crytpid. The part of my brain that is responsible for gross organization tells me the answer lies either in the Man-eaters of Tsavo or Bernard Heuvelmans' African chapters in On the Track of Unknown Animals.

Maybe someone with a better memory or immediate access to either of these books could confirm and flesh this out?


IIRC, Heuvelmans mentions the Mngwa or Nunda, a big felid ('the size of a donkey')
with grey , brindled fur.
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 09:19    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just so others can have the pleasure of watching the brilliant movie Brotherhood of the Wolf, could someone perhaps put in some spoiler warnings up at the top?
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Mighty_EmperorOffline
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 14:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xanatico wrote:
Just so others can have the pleasure of watching the brilliant movie Brotherhood of the Wolf, could someone perhaps put in some spoiler warnings up at the top?


Good point - done.
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PostPosted: 29-12-2005 22:27    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even if a Thylacine could get from Tasmania to Europe at this time, It would be extremely aberrant behaviour for it to behave this way. I don't think there are any reports of them attacking people, and were very shy animals, even before they were hunted to near extinction.
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