Large puma- or leopard-like CAT of Europe Etymology: Alien is used in the sense of “out of place.”  Variant names: ABC, Babette, Beast of Cezallier, Beast of Esterel, Beast of Noth, Beast of Valescure, Black panther, British Big Cat, Chapalu (in Wales), Elli (in Finland), Hannover puma, Monster of Pindray, Odenwald beast, Pornic panther.  Physical description: Many are described as jetblack cats, a melanistic morph common only in Asian leopards and American jaguars. Behavior: Attacks livestock.  Distribution: Most common in Great Britain. Scattered reports occur throughout Europe. Its existence in the British Isles especially seems unlikely from an ecological standpoint. A partial list of European places where Alien big cats have been reported follows: Czech Republic—Jinacˇovice. Denmark—Meldungen. Finland—Imatra, Kekaleenmaki, Kristinestad, Ruokolahti, Vaasa. France—Cezallier; Epinal, Vosges Department; Esterel; Foret de Chize, near Niort; Noth, Creuse Department; Pindray near Poitiers; Pornic, Brittany Region; Valescure. Germany—Bruchmuhlbach-Miesau, Deggendorf, Erding, Ernsdorf, Furth, Gelnhausen, Hannover, Heubach, Kalbach, Lindenfels, Odenwald, Rantrum, Saarland State, Schwalbach, Soest, Steinbach, Winterkasten. Italy—Bari, Foggia. Switzerland—Graubunden.  Significant sightings: Some 289 sheep and 3 cows were killed from February to November 1977 around Epinal, Vosges Department, France, by big cats or dogs with eyes like a lynx’s and fur like a wolf’s.  In the summer of 1978, at least two animals that had survived the winter were seen by various witnesses, who described them as large and black with short legs and big paws. The animals disappeared from the region in 1979.  In July 1982, Uwe Sander of Rantrum, Schleswig-Holstein State, Germany, claimed to have been attacked by a puma rumored to be at large north of Hamburg. Hunters and police officers searched the area to no avail. Sander obtained some hair from the animal, but analysis showed it had come from a rabbit.  A lionlike cat the size of a calf terrorized the area around Noth, Creuse Department, central France, in November and December 1982, killing cattle and sheep.   Black panthers were sighted in the Odenwald, Hesse State, Germany, in August 1989 and near Heubach, Hesse State, in October of the same year. In the first two days of November, several people reported panther encounters in Furth, Steinbach, Winterkasten, and Lindenfels. However, few tracks were found, no domestic animals were killed, and organized hunts yielded nothing.   On June 22, 1992, forestry official Martti Arvinen encountered a golden-brown lioness in the wilderness near Ruokolahti, Finland. The animal turned and ran. Numerous tracks were found, as well as the half-eaten carcass of a young moose (called an “elk” in Europe). So many other sightings in Finland took place over the next week that the newspapers nicknamed the animal “Elli.”  Possible explanations: (1) Leopards (Panthera pardus) were common from Africa to Indonesia before their range began to shrink around 1800. They are still found in forested and rocky areas of Africa and East Asia. Melanism (black coloration caused by a recessive gene) is most common in India and Southeast Asia. Spots are still present but rendered less visible by the dark pigment. Males can measure 8 feet in total length and weigh up to 200 pounds. They are lone, nocturnal hunters, stalking their prey and killing swiftly with a bite to the throat. (2) Lions (Panthera leo) lived in Southern and Eastern Europe from 700,000 years ago to around A.D. 100. Upper Paleolithic cave art, particularly that in Grotte Chauvet in France, features them in surprising detail, down to the black dots at the base of the whiskers. None are depicted as maned, leading some to speculate that European male lions were maneless; however, cave artists may have favored the dominant females of the pride. (3) The much smaller American Jaguar (Panthera onca), found from Mexico to Argentina, is also prone to melanism. (4) The Puma (Puma concolor) is only found in North and South America. Eradicated in the eastern United States by the early twentieth century, it is now making a comeback (see EASTERN PUMA). It ranges from light to dark brown in color and has no spots. Melanism is virtually unknown. The average length is 6–8 feet (including tail), and the animal is about 3 feet high at the shoulder. It is wary of humans and avoids contact. Its normal prey is deer, but it also eats fishes, rabbits, and game birds. (5) The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) has been making a comeback in certain areas, particularly Switzerland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Germany. (6) The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) was reintroduced in eastern Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia in the 1970s and has reoccupied about two-thirds of the Swiss Alps. Like the European wildcat, this smaller animal could be mistaken for a big cat from a distance. (7) The Gray wolf (Canis lupus) is still found in the wilder parts of Europe, but it is so well known that misidentifications are unlikely. (8) Paranormal ENTITIES without a zoological basis, perhaps having a psychic nature.   The DOG equivalent of Europe’s ALIEN BIG CAT. Some livestock-ravaging cryptids have a decidedly canid look, though in most respects they behave similarly to the mystery cats. Variant names: BEAST OF GEVAUDAN, Girt dog, Island monster (Isle of Wight), PHANTOM WOLF, Vectis monster (Isle of Wight).  Physical description: Like a large dog but with certain peculiar features. Dark color. Small ears. Long snout. Short legs. Long tail.  Behavior: Kills livestock but often only drinks the blood instead of eating the animal.  Tracks: Clawed.  Distribution: England; Ireland; Serbia; Russia.  Significant sightings: An unknown animal killed as many as seven or eight sheep each night by cutting their throats and drinking their blood near Ennerdale Water, Cumbria, England, from May to September 1810. Will Rotherby, who was knocked down by the beast, described it as lion-like, though most observers thought it a dog. A dog was killed on September 12, after which the killings stopped.  A mystery animal killed sheep, as many as thirty in one night, from January to April 1874, in County Cavan, Ireland, and later near Limerick. Throats were cut and blood sucked, but the sheep were not eaten.  From July to December 1893, a dog-sized animal with a long snout and a long tail attacked women and children near Trosna, Orël Region, Russia. At least one child and two women were said to have been killed. Repeated attempts by hunters to shoot or capture the animal failed, though it apparently ate some poisoned sheep set as bait and disappeared beyond the Vytebet’ River. In fact, more than one beast may have been involved, possibly a big cat and a smaller dog. In November 1905, a mystery animal killed sheep in the area around Great Badminton, South Gloucestershire, England, leaving the flesh almost untouched, but the blood had been lapped up.  A lion-headed, maned, hairless mystery animal on the Isle of Wight, England, was killed in 1940; it turned out to be a fox in an advanced state of mange.  A dog the size of a small pony was seen on Dartmoor, Devon, England, by policeman John Duckworth in 1969 and 1972.  In the mid-1990s, a pair of unusual animals was killed near Slatina, 9 miles southeast of C ˇ acˇak in Serbia. Slightly bigger than pit bulls, they had short legs, long snouts, and no tails. They had been killing chickens and livestock and drinking their blood.  A similar animal was killed near Malá Kopasˇnica, about 100 miles to the southeast.  Near Gornja Gorevnica, Serbia, in November 2000, many sheep were found killed by an animal that made a tiny incision in their necks and drank their blood. More than 150 hunters went to Jelica Mountain to hunt for the beast, but they found nothing. Some thought that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces had introduced predators to destroy Serbian livestock.  In the summer of 2001, a mystery animal killed as many as ten sheep a night in the region around Novi Knezˇevac, Serbia. Sheep weighing as much as 200 pounds were found slaughtered, and the guard dogs remained silent.  Possible explanations: (1) The Gray wolf (Canis lupus) has been extinct in England since 1486, in Scotland since 1743, and in Ireland since about 1770. Russia has always been a stronghold for wolf populations, which have actually increased since World War II. Attacks on people by wolves are extremely rare, except for the occasional rabid specimen. In the twentieth century, the only evidence for such attacks involved some unconfirmed reports from Italy that wolves had attacked and killed unaccompanied young children. In the absence of natural wild prey, wolves will go after livestock, especially in the winter. Sheep, carrion, and domestic dogs were found to be their most frequent prey, according to one study in Spain.  (2) A feral Domestic dog (Canis familiaris), especially a hound or other large breed or crossbreed.  (3) Wolf x dog hybrids occur more frequently as wolf populations become more isolated. Hybrids have been reported throughout Southern Europe.  (4) Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) turned up in Yorkshire, England, in 1983 and North Wales in 1990.  (5) A few Coyote cubs (Canis latrans) are said to have been introduced around 1881 in Epping Forest, Essex, England.  (6) A giant variety of Pine marten (Martes martes), suggested by Andrew Gable.   WILDMAN of Central Asia Etymology: Mongolian (Altaic), “wild man,” though possibly derived from ala (“to kill”) + mal (“animals”). The word is found in many southern Mongolian place-names. Variant names: Albast, Albasty, Alboost, Almast (Kazakh/Turkic), Habisun mortu (“edgewise going”), KHUN GORUESSU, Nuhni almas (“burrow” almas), Zagin almas (“saxaul” almas), Zagitmegen (“old woman of the saxaul thickets”).  Physical description: Adult height, 5 feet–6 feet 6 inches. Covered with 6-inch-long, curly, reddish-brown hair except for hands and face. Dark skin. Prominent browridges. Small, flat nose. Pronounced cheekbones. Jutting jaw. No chin. Short neck. Females have pendulous breasts. Long arms. Long fingers. Short thumb. Fingernails and toenails present. Bare, callused knees. Short legs. Broad feet. Big toe shorter than others but massive and projecting inward.  Behavior: Walks with knees bent and legs spread apart (at least in snow). Females throw breasts over their shoulders when running. Said to be able to outrun camels. No known language but can produce some bloodcurdling shrieks. Eats grass, wild plants, and perhaps small mammals. Lives in caves. Possibly engages in primitive barter with humans (will leave skins at prearranged places and pick up items left by the nomads) and may interbreed with them (a lama at the Lamaiin Gegeenii Huryee Monastery in Mongolia was said to be a halfbreed Almas). Said to occasionally suckle human infants. Can use only simple tools. Apparently has no knowledge of fire.  Tracks: Rarely seen but slightly longer than a human’s and much wider. No arch present.  Distribution: Altai Mountains, Mongolia; Gobi Desert of Mongolia and Nei Mongol Autonomous Region, China; Tian Shan Mountains of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China; Qilian Shan Mountains of Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, China; Sayanskiy Range, Tuva Republic, Siberian Russia.  Significant sightings: Bavarian soldier Johannes Schiltberger was captured by Turks at the Battle of Nikopol, Bulgaria, in 1396; after the Turks lost to Timur at the Battle of Ankara in 1402, Schiltberger became a slave to various Mongol warlords, migrating all the way from Armenia to Mongolia itself and finally returning to Europe in 1427. While in the Tian Shan Mountains in the retinue of the Mongol prince Egidi, he became the first Westerner to see an Almas, two of which had been caught in the mountains. They were covered with hair except on their hands and faces.  Sometime in the late nineteenth century, a caravan was resting in the southern part of the Mongolian province of Ovorhangay on the way to Hohhot, Nei Mongol Autonomous Region, China, when one of the men in the party went to collect the camels that had been set loose to graze. When he did not return, the others went off into the saxaul thickets to look for him. At the entrance to a cave, they found evidence of a struggle and figured an Almas had abducted him. One of the elders suggested they pick him up on the way back from Hohhot, which they did, waiting until the creature emerged from the cave at sundown and shooting it. The rescued man seemed to be insane and died two months afterward.  In April 1906, Soviet scholar Badzar Baradiin reportedly had a brief encounter with an Almas while he was traveling in the Gobi Desert near Badain Jaran, Nei Mongol Autonomous Region, China. However, Michael Heaney considers this story a fiction, based on the fact that there is no mention of the incident in Baradiin’s meticulous diary of the trip; moreover, the actual route was 150 miles east of where the event supposedly took place. A seven-year-old Almas female was accidentally killed in the Gobi when she set off a crossbow attached to an animal snare. Many people in the sparsely populated area are said to have seen the body, but the locals begged investigators not to talk about it, since crossbow snares were illegal.  In 1927, travelers left a caravan unattended while they went to look for a camel that had dropped back. Upon their return at daybreak, they found several Almas warming themselves by the dying campfire. The creatures had eaten some dried dates and sweets but had left the jars of wine untouched.  A monk named Dambayorin was traveling across the Gobi in 1930 when he saw a naked child in the distance. When he got closer, he saw it was covered with red hair, realized it was an Almas, and fled in terror.  An entire skin of an Almas is said to have hung in the temple of the monastery at Baruun Hural, Mongolia, in 1937. It had humanlike legs and arms and long hair hanging from its head. The Almas had been killed in the Gobi by the hunter Mangal Durekchi and given to the lamas.  A Mongolian pharmacist named Nagmit was in the mountains with two Kazakhs when they came upon an Almas. They shouted at it, offering it food and clothing, but it kept its distance. When they shot at it, intentionally missing, the creature merely seemed curious, then departed.  Russian pediatrician Ivan Ivlov was traveling in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia in 1963 when he saw a male, a female, and a young Almas on a mountain slope. He observed them through binoculars at a distance of about a mile until they moved out of sight. Afterward, he queried a number of his child patients about the Almas and obtained some detailed stories.  Present status: Vanished or severely reduced over much of its range.  Possible explanations: (1) Surviving Homo erectus, suggested by Mark Hall and Loren Coleman. The nearest known fossils are the Zhoukoudian Peking man remains found north of Beijing in the 1920s. The browridge, flat nose, absent chin, and robust jaw match Almas descriptions. H. erectus used a primitive (Acheulean) toolkit of hand axes and other bifacial stone tools. The youngest level of erectus remains at Zhoukoudian date from about 300,000 years ago. (2) Surviving Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), proposed by Myra Shackley. Neanderthal fossils are not known in Central Asia, though Shackley claims to have recovered, in Mongolia, Mousterian tools normally associated with them. Almas descriptions seem to indicate a more primitive morphology than known Neanderthal fossils, so Shackley has also theorized that they may represent a common ancestor to Neanderthals and modern humans.