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The Beast of Exmoor is a cryptozoological felid (see phantom cat) that is reported to roam the fields of Exmoor in Devon and Somerset in the United Kingdom.

There have been numerous reports of eyewitness sightings, however the official Exmoor National Park website lists the beast under "TraditionsFolklore, and Legends", and the BBC calls it "the famous-yet-elusive beast of Exmoor."  Sightings were first reported in the 1970s, although it became notorious in 1983, when a South Molton farmer claimed to have lost over 100 sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. Descriptions of its coloration range from black to tan or dark grey. It is possibly a cougar or black leopard which was released sometime in the 1960s or 1970s after a law was passed making it illegal for them to be kept in captivity outside zoos. However, considering that cougar and leopard life spans are 12–15 years, this is unlikely. In 2006 the British Big Cats Society reported that a skull found by a Devon farmer was that of a puma, however the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that "Based on the evidence, Defra does not believe that there are big cats living in the wild in England."

Eyewitness testimony has produced a number of different descriptions. Most accounts report the animal as being a large cat either resembling a puma or a panther. It is recorded as being somewhere between four and eight feet from nose to tail, standing very low to the ground, and as having the ability to leap over 6-foot-tall fences with ease. Descriptions of its coloration range from black to tan or dark grey.

No such cat is native to England, and the variations in description have led some cryptozoologists to believe that there might be more than one creature.

Sightings of the Beast of Exmoor were first reported in the 1970s, although the period of its notoriety began in 1983, when a South Molton farmer named Eric Ley claimed to have lost over a hundred sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. There was even a report of the Beast seen "fishing" with its paw into the River Barle at Simonsbath, whilst some locals theorised that its lair might be in old mine workings on the Moor. The Daily Express offered a reward for the capture or slaying of the Beast. Farm animal deaths in the area have been sporadically blamed on the Beast ever since.

Photographs have been produced on at least three occasions, one of which appeared in the West Somerset Free Press in 1989, taken by the Lewis Family of Blue Anchor, and all appear to show a big cat with the features of both a puma and a panther. Skeptics point out that such photographs invariably show the animal without any objects in frame that might give an indication of its size, leading to the suspicion that the photographs are of domestic cats. 'Photo 2' is not very clear, and could well be a black dog, many say. With so many digital photography programs available, there is a possibility of deception.

MisidentificationEdit

Most observers and scientists believe that the sightings are merely of escaped domestic cats whose size has been greatly exaggerated, or else of large dogs that have been misidentified. The livestock deaths have often been attributed to these large dogs, although human attacks on the sheep have also been suspected.

Escaped petsEdit

Although large cats are not native to England, some people have kept exotic animals, and in the mid 1970s this became something of a fad. It is inevitable that some have escaped over the years, and conceivable that they created a small group of big cats living hidden in the Exmoor area's countryside. In particular, the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which controlled the keeping of big cats (among other things) led to the mass release of many privately owned wild cats.

HybridsEdit

Some descriptions of the Beast attribute it the features of both a puma and a leopard. Although these animals have been hybridized by Carl Hagenbeck in captivity, the offspring were always found to be dwarfed and short-lived; one such hybrid is preserved in the Zoological Museum at Tring. The name for such a hybrid is a Pumapard. Because male big cat hybrids are always sterile, a self-perpetuating race of puma-leopard hybrids is not possible. The apparent mix of features is probably due to inexpert witnesses rather than hybrid origin.

Soon after 1983, in response to increased reports of livestock death and sightings of the Beast, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered the Royal Marines to send snipers into the Exmoor hills—although some Marines claimed to have seen the Beast fleetingly, no shots were fired, partially because of the risk of the Marines' high-powered sniper rifle bullets passing straight through the creature's body and then causing injury to humans or livestock etc., and the number of attacks on livestock dwindled. As an amusing side note, the Marines' commanding officer was quoted as saying that their quarry behaved with high, almost human, intelligence and "always moved with surrounding cover amongst hedges and woods" Ultimately, the Marines were recalled from the field, after which the attacks on the local sheep allegedly increased. By 1987, the creature was connected to over 200 farm animal deaths. More recent attacks were reported in 1995 and 2001. The Ministry continued to study the reported sightings into the mid-1990s, before concluding that the Beast was either a hoax or myth and that the alleged sightings had been mistaken identifications of creatures native to the Exmoor area. In January 2009 a carcass of an animal that has washed up on a beach in North Devon has left many of the locals speculating that it is the body of the infamous Beast of Exmoor. Later it was revealed that is was a decomposed grey seal.

Beast of ExmoorEdit

The Exmoor Beast is thought to have been responsible for the high level of sheep found killed in the I980's. The army was called in to shoot or capture the animal. Never caught, tracks continued to be found and sightings made usually described as a black catlike creature about four teet long with iong tail and looking like a puma To th day, events that occur in the wild of Exmoor, that cannot be fully explained, are often  believed to be the exploits of the mysteuous Beast of Exmoor.

This puma-like creature has allegedly roamed the countryside here since some fleeting glimpses in the 1970s. In 1983, it came to national attention after 100 sheep were mauled and killed. Blurred photographs and a succession of intriguing sightings followed. At one stage the legend rivalled that of the Loch Ness Monster, striking terror into the hearts of farmers and tourists, and filling small children with dread. Countless bounty hunts, safaris and expeditions  -  one conducted by Royal Marines  -  failed to pin it down. Sheep and farm animals continued to be mysteriously slaughtered across Exmoor. A similar beast story relates to Bodmin Moor - the Beast of Bodmin, which is supposed to prowl Bodmin Moor,

The Beast of Exmoor is a cryptozoological (cryptozoology is the study of rumored or mythological animals presumed cat usually having thick soft fur and being unable to roar) that is rumored to roam the fields of Devon, slaying livestock at times. Most scientists and casual observers believe the beast to be purely mythical, but some natives of Devon continue to insist today that they have seen the Beast with their own eyes.

First sightings

Sightings of the Beast of Exmoor were first reported in the 1970s, although the period of its notoriety began in 1983, when a South Molton farmer named Eric Ley claimed to have lost over a hundred sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. The Daily Express offered a reward for the capture or slaying of the Beast. Farm animal deaths in the area have been sporadically blamed on the Beast ever since.

Government involvement

In 1988, in response to increased reports of livestock death and sightings of the Beast, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered the Royal Marines to send sharpshooters into the Devon hills - although some Marines claimed to have seen the Beast fleetingly, no shots were fired, and the number of attacks on livestock dwindled. Ultimately, the Marines were recalled from the field, after which the attacks on the local sheep allegedly increased. The Ministry continued to study the problem into the mid-1990s, before concluding that the Beast was either a hoax or myth, and that the alleged sightings had been mistaken identifications of creatures native to Devonshire.

The Beast itself

Believers in the Beast's existence claim it is a feline creature, roughly the size of a puma , and dark in color. The Beast is said to stand very low to the ground, and to be somewhere between four and eight feet in length (from nose to tail), with the ability to leap over 6-foot-tall fences with some ease. No physical evidence of the Beast's existence has been discovered, a fact which has been explained by some as proof that the Beast is from another dimension and can enter and leave our plane of existence at will. Most observers and scientists believe that the sightings are merely of escaped domestic cats whose size has been greatly exaggerated, or else of large dogs that have been misidentified. The livestock deaths have often been attributed to these large dogs, although human attacks on the sheep have also been suspected.

The Beast of Exmoor is now seen by many in Devon as a whimsical fiction — St. John's Garden Centre in Barnstaple , for example, now features an animatronic leopard that has been nicknamed "The Beast of Exmoor".

In January 2009 a 5 ft carcass with large jaws and a powerful chest in a decompoed state washed up on the shore of a North Devon beach, Croyde bay,  and speculation was rife that it was the Beast of Exmoor. Had it been washed up on any other shore, it might simply have been dismissed as the unfortunate remains of a large dog. However, samples sent for analysis revealed that the Beast of Croyde Bay was simply a grey seal.

And the real Beast? There hasn't been a sighting for some time now, probably a week at least.

The Beast of Exmoor (Kukus Granthmonkius) is a cryptozoological cat that is reported to roam the fields of Exmoor in Devon and Somerset in the United Kingdom. There have been numerous reports of eyewitness sightings, however the official Exmoor National Park website lists the beast under “Traditions, Folklore, and Legends”, and the BBC calls it “the famous-yet-elusive beast of Exmoor. Allegedly.” Sightings were first reported in the 1970s, although it became notorious in 1983, when a South Molton farmer claimed to have lost over 100 sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. It is reported as being between 4 feet (1.2 m) and 8 feet (2.4 m) from nose to tail. Descriptions of its colouration range from black to tan or dark grey. It is possibly a Cougar or Black Leopard which was released sometime in the 1960s or 1970s after a law was passed making it illegal for them to be kept in captivity outside zoos. However, considering that Cougar and Leopard life spans are 12–15 years, this is unlikely. In 2006 the British Big Cats Society reported that a skull found by a Devon farmer was that of a Puma, however the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that “Based on the evidence, Defra does not believe that there are big cats living in the wild in England.” Eyewitness testimony has produced a number of different descriptions. Most accounts report the animal as being a large cat either resembling a puma or a panther. It is recorded as being somewhere between four and eight feet from nose to tail, standing very low to the ground, and as having the ability to leap over 6-foot-tall fences with ease. Descriptions of its colouration range from black to tan or dark grey. No such cat is native to England, and the variations in description have led some cryptozoologists to believe that there might be more than one creature.

Sightings of the Beast of Exmoor were first reported in the 1970s, although the period of its notoriety began in 1983, when a South Molton farmer named Eric Ley claimed to have lost over a hundred sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. There was even a report of the Beast seen “fishing” with its paw into the River Barle at Simonsbath, whilst some locals theorised that its lair might be in old mine workings on the Moor. The Daily Express offered a reward for the capture or slaying of the Beast. Farm animal deaths in the area have been sporadically blamed on the Beast ever since. Photographs have been produced on at least three occasions, one of which appeared in the West Somerset Free Press in 1989, taken by the Lewis Family of Blue Anchor, and all appear to show a big cat with the features of both a puma and a panther. Skeptics point out that such photographs invariably show the animal without any objects in frame that might give an indication of its size, leading to the suspicion that the photographs are of domestic cats. ‘Photo 2? is not very clear, and could well be a black dog, many say. With so many digital photography programs available, there is a possibility of deception. Most observers and scientists believe that the sightings are merely of escaped domestic cats whose size has been greatly exaggerated, or else of large dogs that have been misidentified. The livestock deaths have often been attributed to these large dogs, although human attacks on the sheep have also been suspected. Although large cats are not native to England, some people have kept exotic animals, and in the mid 1970s this became something of a fad. It is inevitable that some have escaped over the years, and conceivable that they created a small group of big cats living hidden in the Exmoor area’s countryside. In particular, the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which controlled the keeping of big cats (among other things) led to the mass release of many privately owned wild cats. Some descriptions of the Beast attribute it the features of both a puma and a leopard. Although these animals have been hybridised by Carl Hagenbeck in captivity, the offspring were always found to be dwarfed and short-lived; one such hybrid is preserved in the Zoological Museum at Tring. The name for such a hybrid is a Pumapard. Because male big cat hybrids are always sterile, a self-perpetuating race of puma-leopard hybrids is not possible. The apparent mix of features is probably due to inexpert witnesses rather than hybrid origin. Soon after 1983,in response to increased reports of livestock death and sightings of the Beast, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered the Royal Marines to send sharpshooters into the Exmoor hills—although some Marines claimed to have seen the Beast fleetingly, no shots were fired, partially because of the risk of the Marines’ high-powered sniper rifle bullets passing straight through the creature’s body and then causing injury to humans or livestock etc., and the number of attacks on livestock dwindled. As an amusing side note, the Marines’ commanding officer was quoted as saying that their quarry behaved with high, almost human, intelligence and “always moved with surrounding cover amongst hedges and woods” Ultimately, the Marines were recalled from the field, after which the attacks on the local sheep allegedly increased. By 1987, the creature was connected to over 200 farm animal deaths. More recent attacks were reported in 1995 and 2001. The Ministry continued to study the reported sightings into the mid-1990s, before concluding that the Beast was either a hoax or myth and that the alleged sightings had been mistaken identifications of creatures native to the Exmoor area.

Many folklore tales surround Exmoor, some say they are absolute truth others say old wives tales. Mysteries involving large cats roaming the hills killing grazing animals in their path. Old folklore tales claim of a travelling circus making their way through the moors, when their cart crashed the animals they travelled with were let loose into the surrounding area. The story of the Exmoor beast began in 1970 with reports of livestock dying from violent deaths in the Exmoor hills but it was not until 1983 that the legends were becoming more of a reality. In 1983 in the Exmoor village of South Molton, local farmer Eric Ley reported that around two hundred of his sheep had been viciously killed by a bigger animal with May of them suffering throat injuries. Other reports of major losses of livestock and sightings of a large cat led to the involvement of the Ministry of Agriculture. They enlisted the help of the Marines to help track the Exmoor Beast, trained gunmen were sent into the hills to find the animal. Several Marines claim to have seen the beast flee but were unable to shoot due to other livestock in the way, after the withdrawal of the Marines the numbers of sheep deaths rose significantly.

In 2006 a North Devon farmer discovered a skull too big to be of a sheep or other common moor animals. The skull was sent to the British Big Cats Society and analysis revealed it to be the skull of a Puma. These reports and evidence was sent to Defra-the department for environment, food, and rural affairs, who replied stating that they do not believe there to be big cats living in Britain.

The body of what was thought by locals to be the Exmoor beast washed up on the coast of North Devon. The large animal bore no obvious sea dwelling appendages so it was led to be believed that the large toothed, washed up mammal was a cat. The fur and powerful jaws indicated that it may be a cat but scientific analysis proved against this theory. The area where the limbs are attached to the body showed bones proving its marine origin and was later discovered to be the remains of a Seal. The county of Devon reports the most sightings 60 % these are of a large, puma sized black cat. Rumours say it may be a Pumapard a Leopard and Puma hybrid bred in captivity by Carl Hagenbeck a German breeder and zoo owner known for his human zoo exhibitions featuring primitive tribes alongside the animals. The elusive beast lives on in folklore, stories, word of mouth, sightings, scientific discoveries like the Puma skull and most importantly lives on in the legend of Exmoor.

Contributed by: John Jamling, Sue Evans

Answer

From the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s a beast was thought to stalk Exmoor. The beast was said to be a great cat, black or gray in color that hunted farmer’s livestock and then faded back into the rolling woodlands of the area. Exmoor is a British national park located on the Bristol coast of Devon and Somerset, the park is an area of hilly moorland. The beast of Exmoor's attacks were not limited to the park, however, and the neighboring communities of the Brendan Hills suffered many of the beast’s deprivations. 

The beast was first reported soon after the Exotic Pets Act was passed in 1976, leading some researchers to conclude that the beast was in fact a black panther or puma that had been released into the wild after it was no longer legal to keep such creatures as pets. In 1983, as many as 80 sheep were said to have been killed by the beast, and five years later in 1988 enough sheep were killed that the Ministry of Agriculture stepped in. The Ministry sent in the royal marines to the Exmoor area, and they conducted a massive search for the creature. Despite a few sightings, the marines were never able to capture the creature. 

After the marines failed to capture the beast the Ministry of Agriculture concluded that the beast of Exmoor did not exist, claiming that a fox was responsible for the dead lambs that they examined. The Ministry of Agriculture carried out another study in 1995, but again they concluded that there was no monstrous cat. Since that second study reported sightings of a great cat and livestock deaths attributed to the beast have steadily declined, but there is always a possibility that the Beast of Exmoor will rear its head again. 

For a creature that the Ministry of Agriculture denies the very existence of there is a surprising amount of evidence of the Beast of Exmoor. There are reams of eyewitness accounts of the beast, all matching more or less in what they describe, as well as several photographs, some of them remarkably clear. The main problem with the photographic evidence is that the beast is seldom photographed in a frame that shows something that can be used to discover the creature’s size. The creature’s tracks have also been observed. 

Does or did the Beast of Exmoor exist? That question will have to remain open for now. While certainly not of earth-shattering historical importance, the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture took enough interest in the beast to investigate it not once but twice should ensure that it will at the least become a historical foot-note, if for no other reason then future generations will be able to laugh at the Ministry for investigating folk-lore as if it were fact, should the evidence eventually prove that no beast has ever existed. 

Sources: 

Bord, Janet, and Colin Bord. Unexplained Mysteries of the 20th Century, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989 

Francis, Di. The Beast of Exmoor, London: Jonathan Cape. 1993 

Frasier, Mark ed. Big Cats in Britain Yearbook 2007, London: CFZ, 2007 

McEwan, Graham J. Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland, London: Robert Hale, 1986 

Shuker, Karl P.N. Mystery Cats of the World: From Blue Tigers to Exmoor Beasts, London: Robert Hale, 1989

Cryptozoology covers several branches of unknown animals including animals which have not been proven to exist, animals that exist but are misplaced or out of their usual habitat, and animals of legend and lore. In the case of the Black Beast of Exmoor, we may be looking at a creature that exists, but is not indigenous to the area. It could have been misplaced by large pet owners who released the animals, or the animals escaped in the wild. In 1976, a law was passed known as theDangerous Wild Animals Act which basically banned private ownership of big cats. Owners could either not afford a permit, or were unable to obtain the proper permission and were forced to dispose of their big cats. This resulted in many of the big cats being released into the wild.

Many of the locals believe a small group of these black cats live in theExmoor National Park located on the Bristol Coast of Devon and Somerset. The park is an area of hilly moorland with plenty of farms in the area which have reported the loss of livestock, mainly sheep, with wounds to the throat and neck. A South Molton farmer reported a loss of over 100 sheep in three months in 1983. Live stock attacks continued with the biggest kills in 1987 when over 200 farm animals were involved.

The description of the Exmoor beast reports the beast to have black, tan, or dark grey fur. The beast is reported to be a large cat like creature which may be a puma or panther. It is four to eight feet in length from tip of the tail to the nose. It stands low to the ground, and can leap over six foot walls and fences with ease.

The numerous farm animal kills in 1983 prompted the Ministry of Agriculture to bring in the Royal Marines with their best snipers to hunt down and kill the Beast. Many of the Marines reported seeing the animal momentarily when it vanished into the bushes. No shots were ever fired. The Marines were not sure of their backstop thinking their high-powered bullets would pass through the creature and possibly injuring livestock or farmers in the local region. The Marines were eventually removed, and the Ministry concluded the beast was either a hoax or a myth. However the deaths of farm animals continued.

Regardless of what the government says, there is still something out there killing farm animals and being seen by witnesses. This case should not be closed.

Sightings, reports and comments connected with the 'beast' sent in by visitors to the Exmoorian website. If you have 'Exmoor Beast' news or views, do, please contact us. Anything halfway sensible will be added to this webpage!

Back to Exmoor Beast main page.

"On Monday, 16th July 2012 at approx 1515hrs, I was heading east of A361. I had passed the Swimbridge junction when I passed a field of sheep. On a hillock, 15m from the roadway I sighted a wild cat, brown black with pointed black-tipped ears in the 'strike' position. I grew up in Western Canada where cougars and bobcats were regularly sighted and the dimensions of this creature were markedly similar including a long curling tail. With no stopping point and given my previous experience in distancing myself from such creatures, I pulled in at the first layby, Welcombe Copse, and phoned the police. The constable asked for a description and said that emergency vehicles and the RSPCA would be called. A mixed message if ever there was one as I had been instructed never to go into the BC forests alone without a rifle or hunting knife and in the company of our Alsatian! I knew nothing about the veracity of the Beast of Exmoor as having lived in London for forty years I had been fed the line that no such beasts existed in the UK. However, I reflected that young male cougars will often risk being sighted during summer months as deer move into the hills and the cats look for other sources." Linda Napier-Burrows, 16th July 2012.

"On Tuesday 12 October we were driving from Dulverton to Lynmouth around mid to late morning across the moors when we saw the black panther run across the road and stood on top of the hedge so we had a very clear sighting of it. We were well out into the moors no properties in sight." K. Whitrow, 14th October 2010

"This may be somewhat irrelevant to the Somerset area, but just want to confirm that now I believe that such beasts do roam the English countryside. I live on the Isle of Wight. A few years ago, at about 5 am on a frosty February morning, I was outside my horse's stable, waiting for a friend's horsebox to come and fetch us. It the sky was clear and there was an almost full moon. In the field opposite (about 30 feet away), outlined against the frosty ground, I saw a black animal. Initially I thought, it was a dog or a fox, but it had a long tail with a round end and it walked like a cat. It stopped briefly, looked at me and moved on. Quite scary. Many other people have seen it too. It is known locally as "The Big Cat". I think we better believe that these creatures exist."Anna-Marie Dover, 3rd October 2010

"On Sunday July 30th at 23.35pm I was driving from Barnstaple to Minehead and was half way between Exford and Wheddon Cross and a Black Cat just a bit bigger than an Alsation dog ran out from one side of the road to the other it stopped in the road as I drove towards it of and home and hesitated for a second and went to go back into the hedge it initially appeared from but then climbed the opposite hedge facing towards Dunkery, it looked directly at me and its eyes were emerald green and its tail was the length of the body if not longer with a rounded tip. I've worked on the National Park for 7 years never saw anything like it before and never believed it until now" Mark, 4th August 2010

"I saw what was probably the Exmoor beast between Wiveliscombe and Bampton early this morning. Crossed the road in front of my car. Looked more like a large wolf than a big cat. Bloody scary!" John Petts, 19th March 2010

"Hi, Just thought I would write a quick email to report a sighting of a 
black Panther like creature yesterday. Whilst driving between 
Tiverton and Barnstaple 2-3 miles before the South Molton roundabout 
on the North Devon link road at 12.10 my mother who was sat in the 
front passenger seat suddenly said "there's a black Panther!" pointing 
to the right, looking up a steep incline to my right sure enough 
there it was, a large black Panther walking along the line of a 
hedge. The distance was approximately 30 - 40m from the road. The 
thing that really caught the eye was the sun shining on its glossy 
jet black coat, the grass was short making it easy to get a clear 
view and not mistake it for a domestic black cat, It was much too 
large (at least 2 - 2.5x larger than a cat would be at that distance). 
We are both 100% certain the creature we saw was a Panther.
 
I've always had doubts that sightings people have said they have seen 
were real, now I know for certain there is a big cat out there and 
feel privileged to have caught a glimpse of it. It's making the hair 
stand up on the back of my neck now as I type this, I can't believe 
I've seen one." 
 Paul Barham, 22nd March 2009

"I've seen a savage looking black wild animal several times in the Simonsbath area. Farmers and locals in this area know the beast exists, and so do their sheep! A pet cat as some townies say the beast is couldn't kill and rip apart sheep." Michael Chase, 10th January 2009

"A big cat or several cat-like animals live on Exmoor. This cannot be doubted. I have seen them." Jack Foster, 12th December 2008

It was the teeth that everyone noticed first. 

Great fangs jutted from its huge jaw, gleaming in the afternoon sun. 

Then there was the carcass. Up to 5ft long, powerful chest, and what could be the remains of a tail.

Had it been washed up on any other shore, it might simply have been dismissed as the unfortunate remains of a large dog. 

But this was North Devon. And folk in these parts have learned that sightings of mystery animals are likely to mean only one thing  -  the Beast of Exmoor is back. 

The puma-like creature has allegedly roamed the countryside here since some fleeting glimpses in the 1970s. 

In 1983, it came to national attention after 100 sheep were mauled and killed. Blurred photographs and a succession of intriguing sightings followed. 

At one stage the legend rivalled that of the Loch Ness Monster, striking terror into the hearts of farmers and tourists, and filling small children with dread.

Yet countless bounty hunts, safaris and expeditions  -  one conducted by Royal Marines  -  failed to pin it down. 

Sheep and farm animals continued to be mysteriously slaughtered across Exmoor. 

So one thing was probably on the minds of Sergeant Jeff Pearce and PC Chris Tucker when they were called to investigate a long-dead but fearsome creature washed up near Croyde Bay. 

Had they finally solved the riddle of the Beast? 

A woman had reported spotting the remains of a creature 'the size of a calf with canine teeth'. 

She is said to have used the B-word. 

The officers were duly scrambled. Once at the scene, a cursory glance revealed: Too big for a dog or domestic cat; too small for a pony. Wrong teeth for a cow. A seal? Not with those legs, it wasn't. 

'It almost definitely looks like it could be a Beast of Exmoor,' said Sergeant Pearce, with admirable caution.

'It's only about five miles away to Exmoor by sea, it could easily have floated down.' 

PC Tucker added: 'It's a good 5ft and it has black fur. It certainly looks quite beast-like with those teeth.' 

So has the mystery been solved? Not quite. Samples sent for analysis revealed that the Beast of Croyde Bay was simply a grey seal. 

Decomposition meant its flippers had vanished to reveal bones that looked like they might have been limbs.

Likewise, all that time in the water had given it a menacing snarl. 

And the real Beast? There hasn't been a sighting for some time now, probably a week at least. 

The legend lives on.

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