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 in July 2007 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…or would they? Scroll down for the full story.
The “beast” up close.
Another close-up shot.
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.”
On the prowl: The creature trots along oblivious to the crowd of schoolchildren nearby.
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 is 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. However, not long after the photos emerged, one woman wasn’t chilled by rumours of its gaping jaws, glowing eyes and blood-curdling howls. That’s because Lucinda Reid recognised the “Demon of Dartmoor” as … her pet dog. The two-year-old Newfoundland – called Troy – weighs in at a whopping 12 stones. But, far from being ferocious, he’s as gentle as a lamb.
The ‘Beast’ of Dartmoor is just a harmless hound called Troy, its owner claims.
Miss Reid lives close to the spot where the photo was taken and often takes Troy for a walk there.
“I was in stitches when I read that someone thought Troy was the beast of Dartmoor,” she said. I spotted that it was him right away – you can tell by the shape and the way he is walking. We go up to that spot on Dartmoor all the time. It is only ten minutes away from our home and Troy loves to run about there.”
Miss Reid lives with her boyfriend Phil Hervin and their five-year-old daughter Summer in Newton Abbot, Devon. She said the family pet is often mistaken for something far more sinister during their regular moorland walks.
Out for a walk…Lucinda & Troy.
“A lot of people don’t have a clue what he is, because he’s so big. Troy frightens the life out of everyone because of his size and he doesn’t look like a dog from a distance. He sometimes disappears off round the rocks on his own, and that’s when he must have been photographed.”
Martin Whitley’s picture shows what looks like a strange animal loping across Dartmoor near a group of ramblers and children. Publication of the photograph stoked rumours that the moor is haunted by a pack of spectral dogs known as the Hounds of Hell. But Troy is definitely no hell-hound.
“A lot of people can be a bit afraid of him at first,” said Miss Reid. He weighs 12 stone and comes up to my hip. He leaves massive footprints. I suppose from a distance he may not immediately look like a dog. But Troy is certainly nothing to be afraid of, he’s a big softie. So, if anyone else sees him on the moor – there’s no need to panic.”
Miss Reid believes Troy might even hold a clue to the identity of the mystery creature said to prowl Bodmin Moor.
“One of Troy’s brothers lives near Bude in Cornwall,” she said. “So maybe he is the Beast of Bodmin.”
Is Troy and his brother the explanation to all of the other sightings in and around Dartmoor and Bodmin that go back a long way? That seems highly unlikely as video and photographic evidence, as well as many eyewitness accounts, shows that it more resembles a big cat type of animal. But it seems very likely that this case from 2007 has been solved. But, as ever, you decide.