For a place with no native big cats, England sure seems to have a lot of them .. so many that it’s sometimes hard for Brits to keep their alien big cats and real native monsters separate. A good example of this occurred this week in Cumbria, a sparsely-populated, mountainous county in the Lake District of northwest England, where a motorist spotted what she described as a “muscular” beast eating a pigeon and managed to take three photographs before it ran off, dropping the bird and ignoring (at least for the moment) a chicken sandwich the woman left for it. While that’s all interesting, the story took a strange turn when one British tabloid referred to the creature as the Beast of Bowman – a real mythical (yes, it’s an oxymoron) creature said to reside in Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. So, what did the woman see?
"This has to be some of the best photographic evidence up-to-date. To get a decent photo is difficult. The size of the cat caught her attention and she was lucky enough to get these photos before it slinked off."
Let’s start with the Facebook page of the Big Cats in Cumbria group. You know there’s been a lot of big cat sightings in an area if it has its own Facebook group and that’s true of Cumbria, where the Daily Mail (with pictures) says that local police have received more than 40 reports of a black panther in the area since 2003. These sightings are often blamed on pets that have escaped or one witnesses fooled by distance, shadows, excitement of the moment, memories of beast stories, desire for 15 minutes of fame, etc., and the comments on these photos touch them all. Because the witness described the cat as about the size of a collie, many wanna-believers speculated this was a young puma, an African golden cat or a caracal, which is a long-eared, medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India.
“BEAST OF BOWNESS Woman takes some of the clearest photos of a ‘wild puma’ ever seen in Britain while on her way to work"
Then there’s The Sun, which prefaces its headline of the “wild puma” sighting with a reference to the Beast of Bowness. According to the Lake District National Park website page on Lake District ghosts and myths, the Beast of Bowness is also known as the Tizzie-Whizzie (there’s a non-scary name for you) that was allegedly spotted first around 1900 by a Bowness boatman, who described it as having the body of a hedgehog, the tail of a squirrel or fox and a pair of bee-like wings. According to local legend, another boatman managed to catch one in 1906 and have it photographed at a studio. While attempting to get the creature to sit still by feeding it milk and cookies (this beast gets non-scarier by minute, does it not?), the Tizzie-Whizzie suddenly jumped off the table and flew out the window.
Does any of this sound like what the woman photographed? It get worse. No one ever saw them flying around because they were conveniently good underwater swimmers. The photo of the Tizzie-Whizzie (see it here) ended up on postcards and tourist received instructions from helpful other boatmen to go down to the pier and put their ears close to the water so they might hear the beast’s faint cry … whereupon someone (a good guess would be the boatman) accidentally pushed them into the water. It doesn’t appear that any of the floundering and angry tourists were attacked by a Tizzie-Whizzie or Beast of Bowness, but it would be a safe bet that a few boatmen may have received a bloody nose or two. Good clean fun … courtesy of the Beast of Bowness.
Obviously, since the sighting was picked up by the Big Cats in Cumbria group, not the Tizzie-Lizzie/Beast of Bowness Benevolence Society, the current beast is some sort of cat. It’s difficult to determine its size, although the pigeon (if that’s what it’s eating) would make it medium-sized – too big for a housecat. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait for someone to put out another chicken sandwich and have their camera ready.
And if you decide to try this yourself, don’t listen to any boatmen!