Experts say ‘big cat’ spotted stalking the British countryside could be a rare cross between a leopard and a puma
Is it a puma? Is it a leopard? Whatever it is, filmmakers have uncovered an image of a ‘big cat’ stalking the British countryside.
The large feline was snapped in Kent and its neck muscle, ear shape and tail is not that of a domestic breed, experts claim.
It is thought it could be latest evidence of big cats in Britain and could be a rare dwarf breed known as a ‘pumapard’.
They are a cross between a leopard and a puma or cougar – and have previously been born in captivity.
Both male cougar with female leopard and male leopard with female cougar pairings have produced offspring.
The large feline was snapped in Kent and its neck muscle, ear shape and tail is not that of a domestic breed, experts claim
The photo, taken in 2013, has been unearthed by makers of the new documentary Panthera Britannia Declassified.
It has the experts split, with several claiming it shows something different to your typical pet moggy.
Andrew Hemmings, associate professor of Equine Science at Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, said its dimensions suggest it is not a domestic cat.
He said: ‘The developed neck musculature and curvature of the tail both suggest something other than Felis Catus.
‘Scaling is difficult but this does not appear to be of adult leopard size.
‘It is, however, entirely plausible that populations of leopard-sized felids could have become smaller over multiple generations, maybe in response to natural genetic selection imposed by a prey-base of smaller animals such as rabbits.
‘It would make good evolutionary sense to adapt to a plentiful, low risk species such as the rabbit.’
One theory of how big cats arrived in the UK is the unregulated exotic pet trade of the last days of the British Empire.
Leopards were imported from Africa and Asia and pumas or cougars from the Americas.
Experts believe both species were released into our countryside.
Appearing in the documentary expert animal tracker Rhoda Watkins, speculates that this could possibly be a ‘pumapard’.
Sarah Hartwell, owner of website The MessyBeast, said: ‘The puma and leopard hybrids were smaller than either parent, but most seemed to have died as juveniles so we don’t know their final size.
‘The ear shape is the big giveaway. Big cats all have rounded ears.
‘Domestics, and their relatives in the Lybica family, have triangular ears – wide at the base and narrowing at the tip.’
Monster hunter James ‘Bobo’ Fay agrees with Professor Hemmings.
He said: ‘I’ve seen four mountain lions in the past month; I see them all the time in California.
‘It possesses characteristics associated with the North American cougar. It’s definitely not a bobcat.
‘The tail looks cougar-like to me and it seems more muscular than a domestic cat, but my overall impression is that I’m looking at a large domestic dominant hybrid.’
Big cat researcher Kevin Steele runs the Real Big Cats In Kent Facebook group.
He said: ‘There have been numerous sightings of big cats in Kent now over several decades.
‘I know the location where the photo was taken and sightings are reported from that area quite often.’
Panthera Britannia Declassified by Dragonfly Films is available to buy and rent on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Google TV.