What are phantom cats?

A phantom cat is the name used to describe a big cat (like a jaguar, puma,etc.) who lives outside of it’s natural habitat, but who still lives in the wild. They tend to be located in the national parks and nature reserves of Europe and North-America. It’s unknown whether they actually exist but each case tends to have been reported by many people over long periods of time. The theory is that they either escaped from zoos or were released by their owners when European government introduced tight control on exotic pets. We do know that some are real. In the 1980s, several big cats were captured in Britain. The idea that a deadly cat is roaming through your local countryside is inherently scary. This is a list of my 10 favourite cases of phantom cats.


Gippsland Phantom Cat


This is just one of many phantom cats in Australia. It is said to roam the countryside of Victoria and survives by killing sheep and cows… and sometimes even human. An Australian hunter shot dead a strange animal in 2005 and made quick to tell everyone that he has killed the phantom cat. DNA testing showed that the animal really was a cat. It is thought by those involved to have been released by American solders when they were stationed in Victoria in the 1940s. This was a time when American bases used large cats as mascots. There has been over a hundred reported sightings of the cat, so maybe the legend it true.


Beast of Bladenboro


The beast of Bladenboro was briefly reported during the winter of 1953. It came to international notoriety after it killed several dogs and other small animals. It would tear the heads off it’s prey and witnesses described it as a dark, 5 foot long, and cat-like. They say it would disappear into the local swamp after killing it’s prey, this was in North-Carolina where there are lots of swamps for beasts to hide in. People don’t tend to like having their dogs killed, so bands of hunters soon set out to capture or kill the beast. A group of over 500 locals searched the local forests and swamps on January the 5th. Two days later a group of up to 1,000 joined the hunt. They didn’t find much. Although they did kill a bobcat.




There is said to be a large cat wild in the Veluwe forest in the Netherlands. It was first reported in 2005 when people informed the local police that there appears to be some sort of mountain lion loose in the area. The police took the reports to seriously that they closed the area off to the public and were given clearance to shoot it dead. But they could never find it no matter how long they searched. A local photographer claims it was just a European wildcat, and that phantom cats don’t really exist. But there are still reported sightings of Winnie from time to time.


Beast of Buchan


The beast of Buchan is said to a be a phantom cat in an area of Scotland called Buchan. It’s been reported since the mid 18th century, so I presume there is more than one. In 1997, Scottish politicians were vocal about their concerns regarding the beast of Buchan. They said it has a habit of killing livestock, which was devastating for local farmers. Legend tells that the creature is actually a hell hound chasing the souls claimed by Satan himself. But not everyone believes that. There are a couple of more realistic theories. One of which is that it escaped from an American base during the second world war. Another theory is that it was someones exotic pet until 1976, when new wildlife laws came into force. It prohibited big cats be kept as pets. Some people simply released their animals into the wild rather than let the government take them. People were crazy back then.


Lion Of Finland


There is said to be a lion living the the Finnish region of Ruokolahti. It is actually believed in by the Finish government as one of their biologists identified lion tracks there in 1992. In fact, they even gave him permission to find and kill the lion. Lion tracks were soon found in Russia as well, making it apparent that the cat had crossed the border. But Russia is large and the lion was never found. We can’t be sure it even was a lion. It’s definitely real though whatever it is. I imagine phantom cats don’t live long in the harsh Russian countryside so who knows how long it lasted.


New York Big Cat


Many believe that there is at least one deadly phantom cat loose in New York. They live in the outskirts and stalk their prey for hours before ripping them to shreds. More often than not, their prey is human. Hundreds of New Yorkers describe terrifying dark cats that happen to be much larger than domestic animals. This is strange because the large cat population is thought to have been eradicated over 100 years ago. But these reports are enough to make some doubt the idea that all big cats were wiped out in the 1800s. Maybe there are some phantom cats out there in New York. The last of their family, which was decimated long ago.


Demon of Dartmoor


Dartmoor is a historic national park in Southern England. It has long been associated with folklore and legend due to it’s mysterious-looking scenery. One of it’s many legends describe phantom cats who live up on the moorland. Known was the demon of Dartmoor, it is said to have the appearance of a panther, and has been reported by hundreds. I live in a city near Dartmoor and I must have met dozens of people who claim to have seen the beast. Old legend claims it to be a hell hound, or the ghost of a hunters hound looking for his master who died long ago.



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Pogeyan is a phantom cat said to live in India. It’s had it’s place in Indian folklore for a while now. It’s name means something like “The cat that appears and disappears like the mist” – which is actually pretty badass. It’s been reported in the Indian region of Ghats, and is deeply feared by locals there. India has several large cat species so it could possibly just be one of those. Either way, it’s taken very seriously by Indian officials.


Beast Of Bodmin


The beast of Bodmin moor is a phantom cat believed to live in the English national part of Bodmin Moor. The legend grew from a series of tales that a panther is killing farmers livestock in the area. This type of thing is still reported today, and it’s considered one of England’s greatest mysteries. A leopard skull was once found on the Moor, which spiked interest in Phantom cats at the time. Science confirmed it as a genuine skull, but also that it didn’t belong to a wild leopard. The animal was dead before it was imported into Britain. But some still believe in the beast.


Beast Of Exmoor


The beast of Exmoor is probably the most well known phantom big cat. Tales of the beast first emerged in the 1970s when local farmers were constantly discovering that their livestock had been massacred. But it really didn’t seem like any known British animal had killed them. The mystery would see a new page when local fishermen claimed to have spotted a large black cat that could jump at least 6 feet into the air. In 1983, the British military sent snipers into the moor with the goal of killing the beast. They didn’t find it. The government has since concluded the beast is a complete myth.

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