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The Beast of Gevaudan
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Quake42Offline
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PostPosted: 11-03-2012 10:08    Post subject: Reply with quote

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There’s a lot of Cryptozoology, not all by any means, but still a lot that to me seems to be something that could be seen as being very close to creationism.


I think that's right - there's a lot of people out there who are desperate to believe in a living dinosaur, or whatever, and so will cling to anything which might point to that conclusion, whilst ignoring reams of evidence pointing at a more prosaic explanation.

On this board however I think the discussion is rightly Fortean. In other words, if a people with no knowledge of the fossil record consistently describe a mesonychid, or if a relief shows lifelike carvings of dozens of real animals, along with one that looks like a small brontosaurus... well as Forteans we should at least consider the possibility that the creatures concerned were in fact what they appear to be. We shouldn't write the most obvious explanation off entirely, simply because it doesn't fit in with the orthodox viewpoint on when certain animals became extinct.
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PostPosted: 11-03-2012 21:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

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On this board however I think the discussion is rightly Fortean


Of course I agree, especially on this forum.

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In other words, if a people with no knowledge of the fossil record consistently describe a mesonychid, or if a relief shows lifelike carvings of dozens of real animals, along with one that looks like a small brontosaurus... well as Forteans we should at least consider the possibility that the creatures concerned were in fact what they appear to be.


Although I can't imagine this actually happening, I think it illustrates a bit of an interesting dilemma, for me anyway.
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stunevilleOffline
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PostPosted: 12-03-2012 08:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

oldrover wrote:
Although I can't imagine this actually happening, I think it illustrates a bit of an interesting dilemma, for me anyway.

Well, it partly alludes to the discussion you and I have had a few times on thread - I have a degree of confidence in consistent and sustained anecdotal evidence, whereas you do not. However we both agree that, after adjustments for mis-identification or hoaxing, people are seeing, or have seen, something: it's the nature of that something upon which our opinions diverge.

oldrover wrote:
To continue with the mesonychids, purely as an example, they’re not just an extinct animal they’re part of an almost entirely extinct eco-system. The specific niche they occupied has gone, the prey on which they relied and the parity or slight advantage they had with or over it are gone. In fact nearly every environmental factor that ever shaped them, that made the environment that supported them, has gone and has been these last 30,000,000 years.

True. But what's to say they hadn't adapted with the changing conditions? They weren't subject to a sudden, massive, cataclysmic change - it was gradual, and there's always a niche for top-predators. Considering how much of Western Europe was forested in Medieval times, is it beyond credibility to suggest that tales from hunters and woodsmen and rangers of giant wolves or giant wild boar (or just straight "monsters") were adapted mesonychids? Indeed, what about Shucks Smile?

I'm not saying that did happen, of course, merely that it's not impossible. And if not impossible, it should be worthy at least of consideration.
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AnalisOffline
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PostPosted: 12-03-2012 14:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xanatic_ wrote:
Hmm, in that movie they do explain what the creature is though, and it's not an andrewsarchus. I won't say more, since people might not have watched that excellent movie.


I remember that all they said was that it was an unknown whatever beast from the East or somewhere on the verge of extinction (a familiar cryptozoological cliché). It seems that the english version says more than the french version. Maybe because US audiences don't like vagueness.

stuneville wrote:

True. But what's to say they hadn't adapted with the changing conditions? They weren't subject to a sudden, massive, cataclysmic change - it was gradual, and there's always a niche for top-predators. Considering how much of Western Europe was forested in Medieval times, is it beyond credibility to suggest that tales from hunters and woodsmen and rangers of giant wolves or giant wild boar (or just straight "monsters") were adapted mesonychids? Indeed, what about Shucks Smile?

I'm not saying that did happen, of course, merely that it's not impossible. And if not impossible, it should be worthy at least of consideration.


After a gap in the fossil archives of 30 million years ? I guess that Daren Naish is right : when we speak of large creatures, such a gap means in all likeliness that the group was extinct.

And oldrover has a point : those who believe it could be a mesonychid base their belief on what an Andrewsarchus looked like, and fall in what I would call the "lost world trap". Like in those lost world movies, where the characters meet dinosaurs that have not changed at all in 100 millions years, or sometimes 150 millions years. Mesonychids were mamals form the early Cenozoic. Some of their contemporaries have produced descendants, but they are barely recognizable. Notably meat-eating mamals. Early carnivores were imperfect, and even gross. It explains easily : it was only twenty millions years that mamals had become big, and they were still conquering ecological niches that were all new to them. Since then their heirs have evolved drastically, and have become well adapted. An Andrewsarchus living now would quickly be outcompeted.

As to what the Beast was, I think that trying to find an all-encompassing explanation for all the sightings and murders is probably a hopeless task. The "main" Beast, for me, was a human being. Probably linked to the Chastel family, he may have used a wolf-dog hybrid to comit his crimes. As it often happens in mass panics, other unrelated murders were attributed to the Beast. It helps to explain the many different descriptions.
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titchOffline
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PostPosted: 12-03-2012 17:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the cost of showing my ignorance about a case i know little about, wasn't the beast shoot and it was a wolf? it was even stuffed?And the killing stopped then? so there should be little doubt about what it was? *runs for cover*
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PostPosted: 12-03-2012 18:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

And the Coelacanth was missing for about 65 million years. (I think that beats Wally/Waldo in the who's the best at hiding stakes.)
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stunevilleOffline
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PostPosted: 13-03-2012 07:18    Post subject: Reply with quote

Analis wrote:
After a gap in the fossil archives of 30 million years ? I guess that Daren Naish is right : when we speak of large creatures, such a gap means in all likeliness that the group was extinct... And oldrover has a point : those who believe it could be a mesonychid base their belief on what an Andrewsarchus looked like,.. Mesonychids were mamals form the early Cenozoic.

I could point out that Andrewsarchus is known from a single skull, from which we can deduce where and when that one Andrewsarchus died, but let's go with your wider point for a bit. How about we roll it back a bit, and say it wasn't actually a mesonychid, merely sounds like one, scaled down a bit. Convergent evolution maybe, but itself the last of a line that was on the edge of extinction - and its sparse population ranged across the unbroken forest that stretched from the Pyrenees in the West to the Urals, and beyond to Siberia, gradually encroached upon by man.

Again, hunters and woodsmen would come back with stories about things that weren't bears or wolves but were bloody frightening, passing into local folklore which over successive centuries became itself extinct or adapted into other forms. Maybe all that survives are fragments, or as suggested earlier occasional artistic renditions, since dismissed as clumsy artwork or an over-active imagination or gleaned from third-hand description.

No bones? As we've said across many threads, bones from modern forest fauna are rarely found either. As oldrover said, who knows what we've missed from the fossil record.

Ok, so perhaps it wasn't a mesonychid after all. But who's to say it wasn't some other, extremely elusive large carnivore, as so often in cryptozoology recognised by indigenous people but unacknowledged by the "learned" community, by dint of them not having seen one themselves?

Surely you have to concede that's at least a possibility?
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AnalisOffline
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PostPosted: 13-03-2012 11:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

titch wrote:
At the cost of showing my ignorance about a case i know little about, wasn't the beast shoot and it was a wolf? it was even stuffed?And the killing stopped then? so there should be little doubt about what it was? *runs for cover*


That's not so easy. In fact, Jean Chastel, the man who killed the Beast, is himself considered by many researchers as a suspect. He may have staged the killing. And was it really a wolf ? Based on drawings of the skull, some have concluded that it was a dog-wolf hybrid.

stuneville wrote:

Ok, so perhaps it wasn't a mesonychid after all. But who's to say it wasn't some other, extremely elusive large carnivore, as so often in cryptozoology recognised by indigenous people but unacknowledged by the "learned" community, by dint of them not having seen one themselves?

Surely you have to concede that's at least a possibility?


It's not completely impossible, that an unknown species survived recently. But in the case of the Beast of Gevaudan, it raises many implausibilities. As a large animal it would need a large territory. Despite that, it is so discrete, in an already populated country, that all naturalists and authorities fail to notice it for centuries. And then suddenly it surfaces in the late 18th century Gevaudan. Hard to believe. Moreover, the locals were not used to this creature ; they were as surprized as strangers.

Coming back to the human theory, some reports mentioned that victims had been beheaded, and even sometimes left bare. This is a clear indication of a human agency, possibly a serial killer. Now, theories that he or they used a trained animal, or that he or they wore animal skins and armor, rest on mere speculation. Evidence is too sketchy to draw any conclusion.
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PostPosted: 13-03-2012 21:42    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a brief reply, not ignoring the earlier points which I'm intending to come back to.

A brief point about the Mesonychid's poster child Andrewsarchus, it wasn't a mesonychid but an entelodont.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2740860/figure/pone-0007062-g002/

So instead of all of this; http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/images/ic/credit/640x395/a/an/andrewsarchus/andrewsarchus_1.jpg

We have;
http://www.makradafish.newmail.ru/WalkingWithBeast/entelodont.jpg

Personally I'm gutted.

Without Andrewsarchus will the Mesonychids still command enough awe to continue to mentioned in cryptozoology texts as possible identities for anything once this filters its way into popular science. After all without Andrewsarchus who can now name a Mesonychid without Googling, I can think of one. I recon they'll just slip away from popular culture, and end up like the Boryhyeana and the Creodonts, fascinating but largely overlooked.
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PostPosted: 14-03-2012 06:55    Post subject: Reply with quote

oldrover wrote:
A brief point about the Mesonychid's poster child Andrewsarchus, it wasn't a mesonychid but an entelodont...
..Personally I'm gutted.


I share your grief. I shall don a black arm-band for the day, and maintain a wistful silence.

oldrover wrote:
Without Andrewsarchus will the Mesonychids still command enough awe to continue to mentioned in cryptozoology texts as possible identities for anything once this filters its way into popular science...

You're quite right that we seem to have alighted upon the mseonychids or Andrerwsarchus as possible Gevaudan candidates - maybe because that's what the description sounded like. Subsequently we've been discussing the relative merits of that idea as a working hypothesis, in the Fortean manner. I don't think anyone has said "It must have been a mesonychid or Andrewsarchus", more "What conditions would have allowed it to have been one of the above?".

It could well have been a wolf, or a mutant bear, or indeed some other cryptid we never saw coming - or indeed a mesonychid or Andrewsarchus - but I'm sure you'd agree that as an intellectual exercise postulating the mesonychid or Andrewsarchus has been very productive indeed, and goes to show that this board isn't the stale repository some have recently dubbed it, and further, that cryptozoology as a whole isn't all "Look at that! Everything's proof!" versus "Shut up, that doesn't exist."

Anyway, back on topic.

Analis wrote:
It's not completely impossible, that an unknown species survived recently. But in the case of the Beast of Gevaudan, it raises many implausibilities. As a large animal it would need a large territory. Despite that, it is so discrete, in an already populated country, that all naturalists and authorities fail to notice it for centuries. And then suddenly it surfaces in the late 18th century Gevaudan. Hard to believe. Moreover, the locals were not used to this creature ; they were as surprized as strangers.

But again. this is pattern we see to this day in cryptozoology. I'm pushed for time right now, but briefly, bearing in mind that today, in the UK, a densely populated island, people tacitly accept the existence of wild big cats, and until recently the existence of wild boar in the Forest of Dean was officially denied (there are loads of them, which has now been officially acknowledged) whereas France was then far more sparsely populated than today, is contiguous with mainland Europe, and had vast tracts of woodland in which heaven knows what could hide. There was no internet, no local press even. Communities were often effectively isolated from the rest of the world. Everything was word of mouth, and no-one knows how much of that tradition has been lost. For all we know there could hav been a mountian of anecdotal evidence from elsewhere going back centuries, now lost altogether.

Again, I'm not saying this is what must have happened, but I am demonstrating there are plausible conditions in which large cryptids could thrive without official acknowledgement, and that those conditions are often still viable today.
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PostPosted: 14-03-2012 09:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stu beat me to it. I don't think people were suggesting a mesonychid/ andrewsarchus identity for the Gevaudan case because they had some particular affection for mesonychids or "awe" for andrewsarchus. I think such an identity was suggested because a number of the contemporary reports described a large predator with hooves... and these particular creatures are/were large predators with hooves.

*Edited for typo
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PostPosted: 14-03-2012 13:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

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I don't think people were suggesting a mesonychid/ andrewsarchus identity for the Gevaudan case because they had some particular affection for mesonychids or "awe" for andrewsarchus.


Of course not, but I have admit that I certainly used to. I do have an affection for mesonychids, and Andrewsarchus was of course a big pull. I really am gutted, I'm as fond of entelodonts as the next man but I wanted a giant Mesonychid as well, bit childish perhaps and totally academic but still. By the way has anyone else noticed the mesonyx is missing from the whale section in the Natural History museum.

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I don't think anyone has said "It must have been a mesonychid or Andrewsarchus", more "What conditions would have allowed it to have been one of the above?".


Again of course not, my earlier post was just an aside. The main point we're discussing is quite separate, and I agree is a very productive. Unfortunately like you I've been struggling for time over the last few days hoping to come back to it later today though.

Also it leads to another point I've been waiting to raise about this;

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France was then far more sparsely populated than today, is contiguous with mainland Europe, and had vast tracts of woodland in which heaven knows what could hide.
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PostPosted: 14-03-2012 16:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Firstly as to what the beast was I’m in total agreement with you Analis. Although the sex and age of the majority of the victims does tend to suggest a human culprit, it could equally apply to an animal predator picking weak or isolated targets, I’m pretty sure you get a similar profile from known man eaters such as leopards for example. That said the stripping of the bodies and the suggestion that some had been molested, and not least the absence of any likely animal candidate, to me at least makes a serial killer a huge favourite.

The suggestion that the killer was using an animal of some sort could also explain the confusion as to the beast’s identity, especially as the most likely candidate for this would have been a dog. Personally I’m a dog man, I love dogs and they don’t scare me, I’ve had run ins with a few of the bigger breads and always stood my ground, also I know most of the breeds and thought I knew how big a dog could get. Then one day I saw one that was the size and shape of a Black Bear, but with a wolf like head, that made me run away in real fright. Seriously if someone showed you this and told you it was an Amphicyonid, a Bear Dog, you’d believe them, it was a monster. And it was a nasty bugger. So Personally I’ve got no doubt it’s possible to meet a huge vicious animal you can’t quite identify, but which has a reasonably mundane explanation.
In fact the first place I ever read about the beast was in a book about dogs and they attributed it to being one of the many now extinct breeds of European war or fighting dogs.

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Well, it partly alludes to the discussion you and I have had a few times on thread - I have a degree of confidence in consistent and sustained anecdotal evidence, whereas you do not.


No I do, but the problem I’ve got with the anecdotal evidence we have is that it isn’t ever consistent. Now someone with more time and skill than me at finding old references might be able to show that even animals that we have found recently (Okapi for example) were also initially described inconsistently, in which case many of my objections would amount to a bit of non argument. Besides which the argument often used by sceptics about how poor eye witness testimony is could be equally well used to explain the kind of inconsistency that bothers me so much. Also there’s this point;

Quote:
As it often happens in mass panics, other unrelated murders were attributed to the Beast. It helps to explain the many different descriptions.



Quote:
what I would call the "lost world trap


As for the second point the above is a much better way to put what I was trying to say.

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…what's to say they hadn't adapted with the changing conditions? They weren't subject to a sudden, massive, cataclysmic change - it was gradual, and there's always a niche for top-predators.


The big evidence that no other lineage of mammalian predator has survived into recent times this side of the Lydekker line is the proliferation of the Carnivores. They’ve replaced the Mesonychids, the creodonts, entelodonts, the borhyeanas and probably the marsupials as well.

And while an absence of fossils makes very poor negative evidence, they can conclusively tell us what was there, and for around 30,000,000 years with the carnivores that is a very widely distributed group exploiting pretty much every predatory niche. You really would expect to find some evidence for a whole lineage of animals.

Also there’s the question of behaviour top predators would make their presence felt. They wouldn’t be reasonably unknown to any populace rather they’d be pretty central to them, as we see with every large predator in the world today.

I understand the point that there might have been an unkown type of animal about, I don’t think there was in this instance, but I do concede it’s possible, but I’m sure that if there was it was a Carnivore nothing else. (At this point it would be really helpful to my argument if no one seriously weakened it by pointing out the close link between pigs, their predatory habits and their albeit remote links to the both the Mesonychid and Entelodont lineages.)

As to the idea of Europe containing vast tracts of wilderness until fairly recently I wonder how accurate that is. I think that there’s evidence from other parts of the world that questions whether our current view of habitation is a bit off. First we had the evidence that shows the forests of the Congo as we know them today are not only to a large extent relatively recent but that the area was once fairly well populated grassland. Then it turns out that in all likelihood our idea of the Amazon as a pristine wilderness is only about 150 years old, whereas prior to that it was again understood to have been well populated prior to the Europeans arriving. An idea that was apparently rejected until recently as a tall tale by the early settlers, until it was revaluated in light of modern soil study and satellite imagery showing that a huge amount of the forest is actually secondary growth on old agricultural land.
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PostPosted: 14-03-2012 17:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating stuff, from the little i know i would still go with wolf, but are there any books that you would recommend about this subject?
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PostPosted: 14-03-2012 19:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Hyena?

But it wouldnt be much like a wolf at all, they even move different.

I think if you saw a hyena and had no idea as to what it was, you might have trouble describing it
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