In the summer of 2007, a strange creature was photographed on the Hound Tor near Dartmoor, Devonshire. Since that time, there have been no reported sightings. There have been tales of the 'Dartmoor Beast' and 'Beast of Exmoor', a supposed big cats that roamed the area. A cat-like animal was videotaped in May 2008 (below). This latest sighting was of something no one could could identify. What was the 'Dartmoor Demon'?...Lon
Legend has it that a four-legged fiend with glowing eyes and a blood-curdling howl stalks this very spot.
Which makes these pictures of a mystery creature taken near Hound Tor on Dartmoor more intriguing than ever.
Seen only yards away from a party of schoolchildren, the animal has a thick, shaggy coat, rounded ears and large front limbs which would be powerful enough to tear human flesh.
Some say it is a wild dog or cat. More fanciful theories include wolverine or bear.
Whatever its identity, the Beast of Dartmoor is giving some farmers sleepless nights because they fear it will prey on their stock.
Falconer Martin Whitley, who photographed the creature, said: "It was walking along a path about 200 yards away from me.
"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 movements appeared feline, then bear-like sprang to mind. There was a party climbing on the tor opposite making a racket but it ignored them completely."
A pack of spectral dogs known as the Whist Hounds or Hounds of Hell is said to roam the area according to local folklore, which inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The author is said to have been inspired by the legend of Squire Richard Cabell, a keen hunter from Brook Manor, Buckfastleigh.
The squire was rumoured to have sold his soul to the Devil and after he died on July 5, 1677, a phantom pack of black hunting dogs with glowing red eyes is said to have raced across Dartmoor on the night of his interment, breathing fire and howling at his tomb.
According to local legend, the demonic hounds have roamed the moor ever since and can often be seen around the anniversary of his death prowling around the grave trying to get the promised soul for the Devil.
The founder of the national research network Big Cats in Britain, Mark Fraser, said: "It looks like a wolverine or a bear in some shots and a big wild dog in others. It is a very strange animal."
Mr Whitley is adamant that the creature is not a wild dog.
He added: "I have worked with dogs all my life and it was definitely not that.
"I have seen a collie-sized black cat in the area about ten years ago and it was not that - this was a lot bigger.
"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."
Disappointingly for those who possess a vivid imagination, the most likely explanation yesterday was that the Beast is nothing more supernatural than a large and hairy wild boar.
North Devon farmer Al Dedames lost more than 100 of his stock of boar in December 2005 when animal rights activists raided his farm and destroyed fencing.
Since then, more than half are thought to have died in road traffic accidents or been shot by farmers or hunters.
But those which survived have bred and up to 175 are said to be roaming the wilds of Devon and Somerset.
NOTE: in May 2008, a large maned animal was videotaped in Dartmoor (below). At first glance, it reminds me of an African maned lion...Lon
Mystery Surrounds Dartmoor Photo
bbc.co.uk - A photograph of an animal taken on Dartmoor is "almost certainly" not a big cat, according to a local expert.
The picture was taken by falconer Martin Whitley, who stumbled across the creature by accident near Hound Tor.
The area inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, but Mr Whitley said there was "definitely nothing supernatural" about the animal.
But Danny Bamping, founder of the British Big Cats Society, said he "just couldn't see it" being a big cat.
Mr Whitley, who owns Dartmoor Hawking, was taking a group of American tourists for a "hawk walk" last month when the animal was spotted about 200 yards (183m) away.
"One of the tourists started pointing and said 'what's that'," he said.
'A lot bigger'
"We watched it for about 400 yards as it came closer. It was in no hurry and seemed completely indifferent to us.
"There was a group of kids on a nearby tor making quite a racket and it ignored them too."
Mr Whitley, who was born and brought up in the area, said he has no real idea what the animal was, but is certain it was not a cat or a dog.
"I've seen a big cat on the moor before. It was 10 years ago and it was about the size of a collie - this was a lot bigger.
"Later we put a German short-hair pointer in the same spot. It's about 25 inches to the shoulder and this beast was at least an inch taller and utterly dwarfed it in bulk.
"It was definitely nothing supernatural - ghosts don't jump puddles and this one did."
Mr Whitley said his pictures have proved popular with hotel guests at Lewtrenchard Manor, who have been asking him to provide more "beast tours".
Big cat expert Mr Bamping raised doubts about it being a cat-like animal.
"I've studied the pictures and I just can't see it being a big cat," he told BBC News.
NOTE: I received a message from a reader who stated that this creature was a Newfoundland dog that a resident would let roam the area unleashed. I can go along with that....but, no disrespect to Newfoundland dog owners, that is the ugliest Newfoundland dog I've ever seen!...Lon