UPDATE! - 06-08-2007
The owner of a Newfoundland dog called Troy has contacted the press as she is sure that the 'Beast of Dartmoor' pictures actually show Troy going for a stroll. The family live very close to the spot where the photos (see right hand coloumn) were taken, and the dog often walks around there of its own accord. Take a look for yourself here.
This enigmatic beast was seen by Martin Whitley, a professional falconer, Devon born and bred. On 9 June, he contacted the national research network Big Cats In Britain to relate the following experience:
"I was flying a hawk on Dartmoor with some American clients, when one of them pointed out this creature. It was walking along a path about 200 yards [180m] away from us. It was black and grey and comparable in size to a miniature pony. It had very thick shoulders, a long, thick tail with a blunt end, and small round ears. Its movement appeared feline; then ‘bear-like’ sprang to mind. There was a party climbing on the tor opposite, making a racket, but this it ignored completely."
Martin’s American clients took a series of photos. They show the Dartmoor landscape, the school party on the tor, and in the middle distance an animal which seems to change shape in each frame, from cat, to bear, to pony, to boar, to various breeds of dog. Indeed, members of the BCIB group invoked nearly the whole of Crufts in attempting to give the creature a ‘rational’ explanation, while the proximity of Hound Tor suggested to some a possible kinship to Devon’s spectral Wisht Hounds.
Martin, however, is adamant that the animal was not a dog: "I have worked with dogs all my life and it was definitely not canine. I have also seen a collie-sized black cat in the area, about 10 years ago, and it was not that – this was a lot bigger."
While he does not claim to know what the creature was, his impression throughout was that it was more feline than anything else, a verdict confirmed by the experiences of his neighbours. "I am about as local as it gets and liaise very closely with all the landowners in the area and have discussed my sighting with several of them. You would be surprised at the number of people who have seen black big cats (and something resembling a small bear) in the area, over the course of the years. Of course, being Dartmoor farmers they would only mention it when someone else says they have seen one…" (BCIB)
In cryptozoological circles, the ‘grail quest’ is for good photos or film of mystery animals: only these, it is generally thought, will provide reliable ‘proof’. How gratifyingly paradoxical it is, then, that when such photos do turn up, far from clarifying the mystery they apparently
compound it more deeply, frame by frame.
More ABC sightings are in the latest issue of the mag