Usually cryptozoology (defined as the study of unknown animals) deals with phenomena like Bigfoot, lake monsters, chupacabras, and other such mystical beasts. But an offshoot of cryptozoology is “out of place animals,” animals that are scientifically known to exist but showing up in very unusual places. There are thousands of reports of out of place animals, from elephants in Brooklyn, kangaroos in the midwest, and black cats in Great Britain. Some of these reports have been explained, usually as an escaped exotic pet or circus animal. But many more of these can never adequately be explained. The UK in particular has a long history of reports of large black cats and dogs. This mythology has even made it into popular literature, most notably the Sherlock Holmes adventure “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” It is somewhat hard to believe that thousands of black panthers have been escaping from circuses in England for hundreds of years. The Daily Mail reports on a very recent incident:
A 15-year-old schoolgirl has told of her terror after being chased by a big cat she claims was a ‘black panther’ in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
Kim Howells was enjoying a walk through the woodland on her 15th birthday with her cousin Sophie Gwynne, eight, when they came across the animal lying beneath a tree.
Ms Howells, who described the ‘panther’ as about the size of a Great Dane dog, with big eyes, paws and a long tail, said the creature began following them after they spotted it at around 8.30pm on Monday night.
She said: ‘I saw something out of the corner of my eye and at first I thought it was a log or something.
‘We carried on walking but then I looked back and it was sitting up looking at me.
‘It was definitely a big cat. I’ve seen wild boar and deer in the Forest before and it definitely wasn’t one of them.
‘What makes me sure is that it was still light so I could see it really clearly.’
Ms Howells added: ‘Sophie was asking what it was and then we looked behind us and it was about five metres away, following us.
‘I didn’t know what to do so we cut through the brambles and just started running.’
The pair then ran all the way back to Ms Howells’s family home in nearby Ruspidge
The girls ran all the way back to Kim’s home in Ruspidge, near Cinderford.
Ms Howells’s mother Cathy said: ‘They were in a real state, their feet were all cut and Sophie was in tears.
‘Kim is a very sensible girl and if that’s what she says she saw, that’s what it is.’
Mrs Howells later showed her daughter a picture of a panther on the internet for her to confirm that was indeed what she had seen.
Mrs Howells said she now has doubts about letting her daughter and niece play in the nearby woods.
She added: ‘I used to think that they were much better off there than a public park or somewhere but now I’m not sure, it is a real worry.’
It is not the first time a big cat sighting has been reported near Ruspidge.
In June 2007, milkman Robert Brinton got an early morning wake-up call when he encountered a big cat in Railway Road.
Earlier the same year, firefighter Peter Bishop reported a black cat sighting in Cinderford and a lorry driver from Lydney also saw one on Valley Road.