Tetrapod Zoology

Australia’s new feral mega-cats

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A few bits of circumstantial evidence suggest to some that feral cats in Australia are now reaching enormous sizes, equivalent to that of a small leopard. This sounds incredible: how does the evidence hold up?

Tetrapod Zoology exists in a delicate balance. On the one hand I want to try and maintain some sort of credibility as a trained scientist, but on the other hand there is a strong incentive to write about the fantastic, the incredible, and the bizarre, simply because this is what generates the hits. More people will read a post about Godzilla or sasquatch than about tree frogs or small brown passerines, for example. Like, 15,000 more people. It is partly with this in mind that I have felt the urge to write the long-promised post on the giant Australian feral cats (go here to see a previous hint that this subject would be covered one day). As usual with fringe-type subjects, I know that this is something that will generate extreme scepticism in most readers – and rightly so given that this idea is perhaps hard to swallow – but, as usual with these things, having learnt about the details I think that there is some really interesting stuff here. Regular readers will know that I always try and self-justify my occasional forays into cryptozoology and associated topics in this way, mostly out of a massive amount of paranoia. Anyway, to business.

Wherever it is in the world that you live, you’ve probably heard tales and reports of mysterious big cats that wander about the countryside and, generally, go unphotographed and uncaught. Here in Britain people regularly report big ‘black panthers’, tan-coloured ‘pumas’, bob-tailed ‘lynxes’ and an assortment of smaller spotted and striped cats that variously recall Leopard cats Prionailurus bengalensis and Jungle cats Felis chaus. These animals are known as ABCs or Alien Big Cats.

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As I’ve tried to get across in previous articles (see British big cats: how good, or bad, is the evidence? and The Cupar roe deer carcass), the whole ‘unphotographed and uncaught’ thing is not true, and in reality there are numerous photographs and even several dead bodies demonstrating that feral alien cats are a reality (Shuker 1995). The idea that leopard cats, jungle cats, lynxes and even leopards and pumas have escaped from captivity or been surreptitiously released is not exactly difficult to accept, and if you think it is I suggest you read up on the evidence. We also know that peculiar new hybrids are appearing; the best known of them is the peculiar gracile-limbed Kellas cat, apparently an introgressive hybrid between feral domestic cats and Scottish wildcats (Shuker 1990).

For most places that supposedly harbour ABCs, the ‘escaped alien’ theory best fits the evidence. However, that hasn’t stopped various researchers from coming up with other theories, and one that has cropped up again and again over the years is that some of the ABCs represent a new strain of unprecedentedly large feral cat of the species Felis catus, the domestic cat. This sounds to me like one of those poorly founded ideas thought up by someone without much knowledge of the subject, and like most researchers I have never taken it seriously. In the standard review work on ABCs, Mystery Cats of the World, Karl Shuker expressed scepticism of this idea too, noting that ‘Even though feral domestics have established themselves throughout the world, no evidence has been obtained to suggest that F. catus can and does attain a body size commensurate with sheep- or deer-killing’ (Shuker 1989, p. 53).

However… last year I attended a conference at which Australian cryptozoologist Paul Cropper gave a talk on Australian ABCs. For me it was among the most memorable talks of the event, and here’s why: he showed two video clips that both showed large, black cats (large = apparently exceeding 1 m in total length). But rather than being feral leopards or any other cat species that exhibits melanism, the weird thing is that these cats looked like gigantic specimens of F. catus.

The first bit of footage (I’ve been unable to track down details on when and where it was filmed: let me know if you can help) showed a big black cat slinking along a vegetated hillside. The cat appeared to be very large (I say this based on the size of the surrounding vegetation, and on the overall look and ‘heaviness’ of the animal), but its pointed ears, tail and gait make it look quite different from a leopard or any other big cat. It also looked nothing like a leopard cat, ocelot, caracal, lynx, or any of the golden cats. Clearly, what I’m getting at is hard to quantify, but it was as if someone had super-sized a feral moggie.

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The second video that Paul showed was even more remarkable (a still – from here – from the sequence is shown at left). We start with a daytime shot of a perfectly normal grey domestic cat, sat on a shrub-covered hillside near a stand of trees. Then the camera pans to the right. From behind the trees slowly emerges a big black cat, apparently more than twice the size of the grey domestic cat. Yet its head and face – which we can see in full detail – show without doubt that it is a domestic cat, with vertical pupils, pointed ears, and a dainty snout quite unlike the deeper snout of the large cats. Its shoulder blades appear proportionally big and overall it appears unusually muscular. The ordinary grey cat, sat not less than two metres away, is not in the least perturbed by the presence of this monster. I struggled to understand what I was seeing: was this some sort of trick using forced perspective?

Filmed in 2001 at Lithgow, New South Wales, by Gail Pound and her husband Wayne, the video has been the subject of a lot of discussion and controversy. So far as I can tell there is indeed general agreement that it really does show a monstrously large, black feral cat that some people estimate to be about 1.5 m long in total. Here is an extract (from here) from a news article…

Last year, the NSW government asked a seven-member panel of big cat experts to view a video shot near Lithgow, west of Grose Vale, of what appeared to be a large black cat – possibly a panther – in close proximity to a large feral cat. They concluded that the larger of the two was a huge feral cat, two to three times normal size. Their reasoning was only that they did not think a feral cat would be so close to a panther.

The Lithgow film is not the only decent bit of footage that exists. Another was filmed at Dunkeld in the southern Grampians, Victoria, in December 2004 by Andrew Burston (go here for the footage). Again, the cat looks very odd: the profile of the back appears more like that of a small cat than a large one (Felis cats have a more obviously convex lumbar and pelvic region than pumas and big cats); its tail appears proportionally too short for a leopard or puma; and its gait and the shape of its head also look more like those of a Felis cat than of a puma or big cat. This time we have an excellent scale bar, as the animal actually walks within a few metres of an adult kangaroo.

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I’m not going to attempt to estimate sizes here (I’m notoriously bad at doing that), but I conclude that the Dunkeld cat both (1) looks more like a Felis cat than anything else and (2) is exceptionally big. Burston estimated its shoulder height at 75 cm, and this doesn’t seem inappropriate. A Melbourne zoo official, Noel Harcourt, went on record as saying that the animal was a large feral cat and not a leopard or other exotic species, but didn’t comment on the animal’s exceptional size.

Other bits of video footage, and photos, apparently showing particularly big feral black cats can also be seen on Mike William’s blog Australian Big Cats. Mike has been trying hard to drum up some serious academic interest in this subject and, as we’ll see, there is good reason to be very, very interested in the evidence he and his colleagues now have [adjacent image doesn’t show the Dunkeld cat, but an alleged big feral cat photographed by Bob McPherson].

There are always problems in interpreting video footage and photos. Is the Lithgow cat really as big as it appears to be, or are we being tricked by some quirk of perspective? Are we jumping to conclusions in thinking that the kangaroo in the Dunkeld footage really provides a scale bar for the cat? And it’s difficult to judge the size of the cat in some of the other video clips and photos. You’ll be pleased to hear then, that video footage and photos are not the only evidence we have. There are also dead bodies.

We’ll discuss the least impressive of them first: it’s a feral cat that was shot in Victoria, and Mike has actually produced a video where he films this skin and the animal’s skull: the video is up on youtube here. As he states and shows in the video, the head and body length is 870 mm, and the tail length is 360 mm (giving a combined length of 1230 mm). For comparison, feral cats from elsewhere are reported to have head and body lengths of between c. 460 and 522 mm and tail lengths of between c. 269 and 300 mm (Kitchener 1991), giving a combined length at most of c. 822 mm. What is alleged to be the world record domestic cat, an Australian tabby named Himmy, had a total length of 965 mm and exceptionally big pre-1900 Scottish wildcat specimens had head and body lengths averaging 639 mm and tail lengths averaging 310 mm (giving a combined length of 949 mm). I used pre-1900 data as Scottish wildcats have been declining in size since that time and the pre-1900 cats were exceptionally big compared to living ones (Tomkies 1991). Two world-record Scottish wildcats had combined head, body and tail lengths of 990 and 1100 mm and an English pet tabby, whom I measured in 1991, had a head and body length of c. 700 mm and a tail length of c. 317 mm (giving a combined length of 1017 mm*). The Australian skin is therefore large, but not exceptionally, remarkably so. That’s not where the story ends though.

* Which either means that Himmy isn’t the biggest domestic cat ever or my measuring was off. Hmm. I have good photos of the cat I measured if anyone wants to see them (and perhaps try to work out how big the animal was).

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Now for the more impressive specimen. Shot in Gippsland in June 2005 by Kurt Engel, a deer hunter, this one was apparently about as big as a leopard at c. 1.6 m long, though only its tail remains extant as Engel dumped the body in a river (I’m not sure why). There are photos of the whole body (one of them can be seen at left and another at the top of the page) but those that have been released so far don’t provide any obvious scale: better photos are apparently to appear in a book. The tail that Engel retained is 650 mm long and preliminary DNA testing performed at Melbourne’s Monash University indicated that it does indeed belong to F. catus. If this is correct – it requires validation – I don’t what to say other than… holy crap. A news report on the specimen and the DNA testing can be viewed here.

So are feral cats in Australia really growing to amazingly large body sizes? We can’t yet be sure, but the evidence is looking pretty good. As mentioned, Mike Williams and his colleagues are trying to get academic scientists more interested in this subject, and as yet the apparent existence of these giant ferals has gone largely unrecognised outside of the cryptozoological community. I for one aim to keep up to date with this subject, and I’ll report further developments here at Tetrapod Zoology. I am planning to attend an ABC conference that’s happening later this month and will post news on that if and when I attend.

Refs – –

Kitchener, A. 1991. The Natural History of the Wild Cats. Christopher Helm, London.

Shuker, K. P. N. 1989. Mystery Cats of the World. Robert Hale, London.

– . 1990. The Kellas cat: reviewing an enigma. Cryptozoology 9, 26-40.

– . 1995. British mystery cats – the bodies of evidence. Fortean Studies 2, 143-152.

Tomkies, M. 1991. Wildcats. Whittet Books, London.

Comments

  1. #1 John Wilkins
    March 4, 2007

    When I was a kid in Melbourne, back in the late 60s, we rescued a feral kitten and (tried) to raise him as a domestic cat. He never got friendly with anyone but me (at the cost of my epidermal integrity from fingers to shoulders), but he was enormous. He used to chase cars (and we worried what would happen if he succeeded), and dogs (what happened there is that he laid the Alsatian’s muzzle open in one lazy swipe). I loved him.

    At his death at around 20 years, he was easily 900mm long including his tail, and weighed probably 20 kg. I can easily believe there are larger feral cats in the wild.

  2. #2 wolfwalker
    March 4, 2007

    I’ve seen leopards, jaguars, cougars, lions, and cheetahs in zoos, and the Dunkeld animal looks like none of them. You’re right, it looks like a giant domestic cat. Is there any information about how big the kangaroo that’s also visible was? It can be really tricky to judge size from a telephoto image, because of the perspective-compression effect.

    Be that as it may, I find all of this very believable. I’ve suspected for a long time that there was more flexibility in the domestic-cat genome than currently thought. The lack of variability among domestic cats despite centuries of selective breeding is really quite odd, considering what we’ve accomplished with other domestic animals – horse, cow, sheep, goat, and especially dog. Something tells me there should be more variation in domestic cats than what we normally see.

    For what little it’s worth, I’m going to guess that when one of these supercats is finally given a comprehensive DNA test, they’re going to find that it’s not a pure Felis catus, but a hybrid between a domestic cat and some exotic Asian Felis cat. Hybrid giantism is a rare but documented phenomenon in the Panthera cats: certain combinations of parents will produce offspring that are larger than either, indeed larger than any extant cat species. An extreme example of this is a liger (half tiger, half lion) named Hercules, who is bigger than an average polar bear.

  3. #3 WH
    March 4, 2007

    Australian Cave Yields Giant Animal Fossils

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/07/0731_020731T_Vmegafauna.html

    Other AU megafauna

  4. #4 Halbred
    March 4, 2007

    My gosh, that’s all very exciting. Assuming that the giant is real, questions immediately spring to mind. First, seeing as all of these giant cats are black, do they form a natural group unto themselves, a subspecies of domestic (feral) cat that is a monophyletic taxon of its own?
    Second, what’s the breeding population? It’s obvious that the creatures are quite rare, so are they perpetually endangered or simply good at hiding from human eyes?
    Third, what, if any, are the ecological impacts of a rare, though quite capable, giant cat living in Australia? Dingos and crocodiles may find themselves competing with another predator. Of course, this may only factor in if the giant feral cats become more common.
    Great post, though!

  5. #5 WH
    March 4, 2007

    The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives
    An Illustrated Guide to Their Evolution and Natural History

    Mauricio Antón and Alan Turner

    A great book on cats if you are not aware of it.

  6. #6 Allen Hazen
    March 4, 2007

    Australian feral cats have lived since ???? (guess: some ship’s cats from the First Fleet probably went bush) in an environment in which there were no large mammalian predators, but had been in the not-too-distant past (thylacines and Tasmanian Devils both inhabited mainland Australia in the Holocene). So we can assume a population exposed to strong selective pressure for size increase: bigger cats can move into a vacant ecological niche. Some of them have been well-fed (Australian native birds and small mammals not being natural cat-attack-escapers). A domestic cat, well-fed, can have its first litter at ???? what age?

    Guessing, we might well have something approaching a couple of hundred generations of cat exposed to selection pressure for size increase.

    Someone has been breeding miniature horses of house-pet size. (Practical application: they can be useful as companion animals and trainable “go fetchers” for mobility-impaired people.) I believe they are now down to about half the linear dimensions of Shetland Ponies. (No, I’m not sure of that, no I don’t have a source.) The program is surely only a few decades old and horse generations are surely at least as long as cat generations.

    I think it is general knowledge that feral cats in at least some parts of Australia are SOMEWHAT larger than average domestic cats, so maybe an extreme enlargement is … not, a priori, totally implausible.

    Did Darwin have a cat?

  7. #7 rfguy
    March 4, 2007

    What is alleged to be the world record domestic cat, an Australian tabby named Himmy, had a total length of 9650 mm

    I sure hope you meant 965mm, otherwise…holy crap! 30 foot long cat!

  8. #8 Dr Vector
    March 5, 2007

    Really fascinating stuff. I’d love to know if the increased body size is genetic, phenotypic plasticity, er wot. How fast do these cats grow? Any interesting allometries going on when you blow up a housecat to twice normal size? So many interesting questions could be answered if we had a captive, or even a carcass.

    Which is why this is the most unbelievable part of the story:
    only its tail remains extant as Engel dumped the body in a river.

    I think I speak for interested people everywhere when I say:

    WTF!?

    [Note to self: if you ever shoot a cryptid, save the body.

    Oh, and take scaled photos.]

  9. #9 John Atkinson
    March 5, 2007

    Your geography is a little iffy;

    (1) “Lithgow, Victoria”. There’s no town or settlement called Lithgow in the state of Victoria. The only Lithgow in Australia is a city of 20 000 in the state of New South Wales, about 100 km west of Sydney.

    (2) “Lithgow, west of Grose Vale”. A strange way of locating Lithgow! Grose Vale is a tiny rural suburb on the outskirts of Richmond, on the other side of the Blue Mountains from Lithgow. The Grose _valley_ runs from about 10 km east of Lithgow 40 km or so east to near Grose Vale — possibly it’s somewhere in this general area that the video was supposedly shot?

  10. #10 a civilian
    March 5, 2007

    This essay made me think of what’s happening with invasive cane toads in Australia. Word is, their legs are getting longer – evolution in action.

    Maybe something similar is happening with feral cats. Seems to me it’s interesting enough that someone ought to look into it. I was just reading over at http://www.messybeast.com that the genes for producing giantism don’t seem to exist in the F. catus genome. Maybe they’ve made their debut Australia.

    If and how natural selection in an island population with few natural predators might lead to larger body size seems to ring another bell. That discussion I leave to those who know their biology better than I.

  11. #11 Mike
    March 5, 2007

    My guess: Photos 1 and 5 on your page were deliberately faked using perspective (the background and framing seem too deliberate – as if they want to exaggerate the size, though it still may be a little larger than average), photos 2 and 3 were probably not deliberately faked but are a perspective problem, and photo 3 seems to just be a large domestic cat that someone has photographed, thought “gee this photo makes it look big” and then decided to have a joke.

    I checked the website and thought “Damn, is this the best they can manage?” I couldn’t see the video with the roo. A roo isn’t a good guide to size unless you know the size of the roo of course. What species, how old, etc.

  12. #12 Alex
    March 5, 2007

    Australian feral cats have a reputation for being, well, husky, mean and not to fuck with unless you have a very good reason. I’ve seen some big ones, although nothing like that.

    Mind you, I’ve also seen a domestic cat in Yorkshire that looked alarmingly big at a distance, when its legs were obscured by long grass, thus giving no scale reference. When it walked up to us it was entirely normal.

  13. #13 David Marjanovi?
    March 5, 2007

    Which is why this is the most unbelievable part of the story:
    only its tail remains extant as Engel dumped the body in a river.

    I think I speak for interested people everywhere when I say:

    WTF!?

    We can just assume it started to stink…

    the genes for producing giantism don’t seem to exist in the F. catus genome.

    I don’t think there are any such genes. To grow bigger than normal, it ought to suffice if you overexpress the ordinary growth hormone gene. A little mutation in some promoter or enhancer, or of course in some repressor or silencer, et voilà…

  14. #14 Barry Press
    March 5, 2007

    I have spent a lot of time spotlighting foxes and in the process you run across many feral cats, small, medium and large.

    One night I spotted a cat, but, changed my mind because it seemed too big, I thought it must be a fox so I shot it and it was as I originally thought a cat, an unusually big one.

    When I picked it up by the base of the tail, to get its nose off the ground, I had to hold it up to where my hip projects.

    I’m 6’2″, so, as best I can work it out it was between 30 and 36 inches from nose to butt of tail.

    A few points, first, it was no big deal, when I carried it back to the ute to show my mates it was a “hey that’s a big one”, not, “oh my god call the national media” reaction. Sure distinctly bigger than usual, so it stands out in memory, but, how long is the piece of string? when does just a “large” cat become ABC “big”?

    Second it was a ginger tom, a tabby like most ferals, but, at least to the untrained eye, just a cat.

    Third, a myth that may be of interest, people mention hybrid vigour as a possible source for ABC hypertrophy, but, hybridised whats?

    Well one of the myths is that the source of the Australian feral cat is not just the common house cat, but, as a consequence of a futile attempt to reign in the rabbit plague, it includes a shipment of Spanish wild cats! (DNA check should cover this myth off simply enough). I notice that the size range of the Spanish wild cat (20 – 31 inches) and the estimated size of the one I shot overlap.

    Some additional thoughts.

    Why are ABCs black cats? because, black cats are very obvious in day time, most ferals are grey tabbys, tabbys are not at all obvious in daytime. So why are ABCs all black? my call is that they are not, only, its the black ones that get noticed.

    Finally a question, would not the size of the prey itself define the optimum size for the predator?

    If that prey is rabbits, then, would their optimum tetrapod predator perchance be dog sized?

    As far as I see it with ABCs we are talking dog sized (rabbit optimized?) cats.

  15. #15 Sharon Hill
    March 5, 2007

    Darren: I appreciated your level-headed, rightly-skeptical tone towards these subjects. Please keep it up; we enjoy them. Someone has to approach these topics in a scientific way. Might as well be your niche.

  16. #16 WH
    March 5, 2007

    I am skeptical of the colour. Why are they all black? In NE North America, black cougars have been reported more often than occurs in wild populations out west. There seems to be some trick of the human mind that wants to report them as black. Some supposed video footage of black cougars was shown to be ordinary house cats. Proof is required.

  17. #17 mike
    March 5, 2007

    Great article Darren.!!
    “A roo isn’t a good guide to size unless you know the size of the roo of course. What species, how old, etc.”
    Which is a complete series of unknowns in 99% of photos.
    The roo is in the link below.
    http://australian-big-cats.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html
    The cat is obviously not a little house cat…And one of the stills from the video sequence shows a 50 cent coin next to the foot print of that cat.
    Whats the bet someone pops up with “faked”. LOL
    I spoke to Bob McPherson about his photos.
    They are just normal photos ..taken with a 400mm lens with a 1.5 multiplier.
    The photo that is interesting shows an animal probably the size of a cattle dog,
    http://australian-big-cats.blogspot.com/
    Most people miss the gap from the ground to the stomach.If anyone has stills of any normal house cats in any outside enviroment that appear as large then post them up.They can be trick framed …anything. :)
    Hoax..no..large feral..Yes

    Mike

  18. #18 Charlie B.
    March 5, 2007

    Ferals in the Northern Territory are small, gracile, sandy coloured things, judging by the ones I’ve seen lurking round rest areas on the highways…

  19. #19 Christopher Taylor
    March 5, 2007

    The lack of variability among domestic cats despite centuries of selective breeding is really quite odd, considering what we’ve accomplished with other domestic animals – horse, cow, sheep, goat, and especially dog.

    Until fairly recently, breeding of domestic cats was generally not selected as for the other species. Cats pretty much bred themselves, and people encouraged their presence to discourage vermin. It’s only in the last couple of hundred years that selective breeding has become a factor, as people have become more interested in (for want of a better word) ‘ornamental’ breeds. Even in that short time, we’ve seen the appearance of such distinctive forms as the
    Rex breeds, the Sphynx (near-hairless) and the Muchkin (short-legged)

  20. #20 Poseidon
    March 5, 2007

    First off – I adore your new masthead banner. Since After Man is no longer in print in the US, it’s odd to see that familiar cover anywhere besides my bookshelf.

    Secondly – I also never thought I’d see the name Karl Shuker anywhere but my bookshelf again. Yay for semi-obscure cryptozoologists!

    And as for the article, I had no idea these mysterious felines were supposedly F. catus. That adds a whole new dimension. As you say in the intro, whatever these specimens ultimately turn out to represent, it’s thrilling that they can drive us to speculate on the unknown. And if that’s done on a proper foundation of reason, where’s the harm?

  21. #21 John Scanlon
    March 5, 2007

    I’ve been keeping my eyes out for cats and other things while driving back roads at night for reptiles in north-west Queensland (cows and horses are the main hazard, but roos, dingoes, pigs or the odd flock of bustards could also spoil your evening). Only one cat seen in 3 years, a ginger tom crossing the road a bit too slowly for his own good. I like cats individually, but I’ve seen how many lizards a feral’s stomach can hold – birds and mammals are a much smaller part of the diet over most of Australia – and didn’t have to think twice about knocking it over. I’m afraid I didn’t measure it, but it was definitely the biggest cat I’ve personally handled. I did briefly consider taking samples (for gut contents, and maybe an addition to the skeletal collection) but having dissected cats before, it seemed simpler just to sling it in a ditch. Next time…

  22. #22 John Scanlon
    March 5, 2007

    I’ve been keeping my eyes out for cats and other things while driving back roads at night for reptiles in north-west Queensland (cows and horses are the main hazard, but roos, dingoes, pigs or the odd flock of bustards could also spoil your evening). Only one cat seen in 3 years, a ginger tom crossing the road a bit too slowly for his own good. I like cats individually, but I’ve seen how many lizards a feral’s stomach can hold – birds and mammals are a much smaller part of the diet over most of Australia – and didn’t have to think twice about knocking it over. I’m afraid I didn’t measure it, but it was definitely the biggest cat I’ve personally handled. I did briefly consider taking samples (for gut contents, and maybe an addition to the skeletal collection) but having dissected cats before, it seemed simpler just to sling it in a ditch. Next time…

  23. #23 Maureen Lycaon
    March 6, 2007

    I remember when that Gippsland feral appeared in Slashdot last year, and was at first billed as a “black panther”. I suspect Engel threw out the body simply because it wasn’t worth mounting, with the head mostly blown apart. It may not have occurred to him that the carcass of a feral cat that huge would be worth preserving.

    But having read Tim Flannery’s The Future Eaters, I think there’s a bigger puzzle here. If Australian feral cats really are growing to enormous sizes, why is this happening in Australia’s low-energy ecologies? We’re talking about a continent in which resources are so poor that big reptiles are major predators and native mammals have small brains, long lifespans and slow reproduction rates compared to animals of the same sizes elsewhere (according to Flannery).

  24. #24 shibumi
    March 6, 2007

    “More people will read a post about Godzilla or sasquatch than about tree frogs or small brown passerines, for example. Like, 15,000 more people.”

    So, where’s the story about the Teenage Mutant Karate Kats that grow up to 150′ at the shoulder and have a taste for Japanese commuter trains?

  25. #25 David
    March 6, 2007

    I can smell your fear people, why else do you shoot every living thing you come across? Who is to say that the cats are not decompressing after being “domesticated” for so long and at one time were naturally bigger. My self I love big dangerous cats wish there were more dangerous animals in this small world. Of course I like to think of myself as a big dangerous animal so I dont go around killing that which is probably no danger to me,,, unless they are hungry then it comes down to the old struggle. I really am tired of sharing my world with you trigger happy cowards,,, toughen up.

  26. #26 Darren Naish
    March 6, 2007

    I want to note quickly that the size of the Gippsland cat has been challenged: a biologist who measured the carcass has stated that it was less than the c. 1.6 m claimed by Engel. I’ll add more data and change the post accordingly, but I don’t have time to do this now. Check back later if you want those new details.

  27. #27 Patrick Burks
    March 6, 2007

    why do you consider this a fringe subject when domestic dogs can mate with wolves. It seems logical that domestic cats could probably do the same thing considering that domestic cats must have come from a common feline type that split between the smaller domesticated cats and the bigger cats. There’s also a popular video on youtube and google video showing a very pissed off domesticated cat. So it seems that cats can go feral just as much as dogs can.

  28. #28 Jeff
    March 6, 2007

    Of course, the first thing we do is kill one.

    Disgusting.

  29. #29 Clarence Gillispie
    March 6, 2007

    The last photo is of a house cat within normal size range
    hung closer to the camera for the photo. Fishermen and hunters in Michigan have been doing this trick for years to improve the story.Good Try. LOL
    Woody

  30. #30 David Marjanovi?
    March 6, 2007

    Who is to say that the cats are not decompressing after being “domesticated” for so long and at one time were naturally bigger.

    That’s simple: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  31. #31 mike
    March 6, 2007

    “I want to note quickly that the size of the Gippsland cat has been challenged: a biologist who measured the carcass”

    No biologist examined the carcass so it should be interesting. :)
    You are quoting from a very silly person who kept making mistakes writing about mutated fcatus/kurt cat.I kept trying to correct them..but when people are wrong..how many admit it…
    I sent her the link you have up here, showing another feral skin,tape measure and saying “this is a different cat where we actually obtained the carcass and had it examined by Govt employee Dr Rob Close who is a Vetrinarian whose hobby is big cats”.
    She then combined the two different cases as one and stated what you just quoted.
    And keeps the mistakes up due to ????
    One animal is black, the other skin in the video is obviously a different animal/colour.
    How many millions of small marsupials have to die before people actually understand that feral cats in Australia do immense damage.
    The belief that the above comment is based on “fear” is …surreal.

    Mike

  32. #32 Darren
    March 6, 2007

    The magic of photoshop.

  33. #33 hibob
    March 6, 2007

    2nd photo in the post. Is this a big cat at the side of a road, or an average cat on the side of a walking trail? Look at the sign in the background. If it is mounted on a 4″x4″ post, it’s an average cat next to a walking trail. If in the outback they mount their signs on 12″x12″ timbers for some reason, then it’s a big cat next to a road.

  34. #34 Darren Naish
    March 6, 2007

    Mike: thanks for the clarification, I was assuming that the information on the relevant website was accurate. The author refers to a 2006 examination of the carcass by a Rural Lands Protections Board vet, Dr Keith Hart, and states that the carcass was 1.2 m long in total (= head + body + tail) length. Given that Engel shot and disposed of the Gippsland cat in 2005 (right?) this account is a confused combination of two separate cases.

  35. #35 mike
    March 6, 2007

    No problems Darren. :)
    Not sure if you are interested but I placed the only interview I am aware of by Peter Chapple(deceased) on Australian Big cats here.
    http://australian-big-cats.blogspot.com/
    If you are interested ..I can cut cut and paste the code and send it to you to host on your own site somewhere..
    The bandwith wont cost you any extra $ as it is being hosted on free servers in the US. :)
    If intersted just give me an email on yowies@gmail.com

    Mike

  36. #36 Darren Naish
    March 6, 2007

    I met Peter Chapple when he visited the UK some years ago. Great guy, was very surprised when I heard of his premature death. Thanks for the offer, but I won’t be hosting the interview (yet).

  37. #37 Big Old Blackie
    March 6, 2007

    Themz cats is jist panthers. They aint no pet type varmint. Whats all this here fuss about? Some ornery devil done gone and shot one of them there poor critters, why? He aint botherin none. Jist wait till one of them there ape skunks finds out, and hunts down the fella who shot thems cats. Alls hell is gonna brake loose. Them there ape skunks is mighty ornery and reel fonda cat critters, they is jist like that hellboy fella. So yooz kat hunters beware, yooz thinks yooz is tuff, well jist wait till one of them there ape skunks is a starein ya rights in them there eyes of yurs! Then weez sees whooz tuff?

    God Bless

  38. #38 Monado
    March 6, 2007

    I saw a couple of large cats at our local humane society. Obviously they weren’t some feral breed in the outback but the larger was a kind of Andre the Giant of cats. The two cats were in the kind of cage usually reserved for dogs. The staff told me that the larger one was 34 pounds (15 kg). Picture here and I have others.

  39. #39 T. R. Eddy
    March 6, 2007

    I saw a strange cat at Lake Poway a few years back while running on a dirt trail around the lake. It was a mottled gray like faded blacktop. It’s shoulders were as high as my knees. I would guess it’s weight to be about 70 lbs. It was built like a Jaguar with short popwerful legs.
    It trotted ahead of me on the trail for about fifty yards with no fear and turned and jumped up a bank into the brush. It’s tail was about 12 inches long. It had either lost some or had an un usual length. I found a pad print as large as the palm of my hand the next day. I live in Poway, Ca. USA.

  40. #40 Betty
    March 7, 2007

    I despise the picture of the strung up dead cats … of course, that’s the way the ‘hunters’ like them … DEAD …Big, bad, masculine shooters. I find it all disgusting.

  41. #41 Judy
    March 7, 2007

    Good grief… why is it that the first thing some of these yayhoos think to do when spotting an unusual animal is to kill it? Time to thin the herd. (The human with a quick trigger finger that is.)

    Judi

  42. #42 Barry
    March 7, 2007

    “Australian feral cats really are growing to enormous sizes, why is this happening in Australia’s low-energy ecologies?”

    Australia’s ecologies have been drastically changed for grazing (and cropping) so low energy does not describe “improved” territory.

    Fertiliser has improved the quality of crops and pasture (fertilizer + water = biomass). Another aspect is the provision of watering points for sheep has opened up very large amounts of territory to grazing pressure that it would have only experienced intermittently prehistorically.

    This “not low energy” is brought home starkly if you ever happen to pass a spotlight over “working” rabbit warrens, lots (pick any word for many you like) of rabbits in a small area, the actual amount of food they represent and the potential load of predators they could support is quite sobering.

    Certainly bulk foxes, why not something bigger?

    There appears no shortage of prey (not just rabbits, feral goats spring to mind here as well, to name just one more option) to sustain a bigger predator.

    In fact prey availability poses something of a question to the whole ABC situation, if they exist and they have no shortage of prey, where are they all?

  43. #43 Dr Vector
    March 7, 2007

    why is it that the first thing some of these yayhoos think to do when spotting an unusual animal is to kill it?

    Gee…just guessing here…maybe it’s because the introduced giant cats are eating all the freakin’ endangered marsupials? And it ain’t just marsupials and flightless birds and other weird critters from distant lands. Seabirds and migratory passerines suffer, too (although I’ve seen some whackjob cat-squeezer websites that claim otherwise).

    Fact is, if the animal is sufficiently unusual, the most responsible thing to do is kill it. The ones we know about, we can do something about. The ones that get away, not so much. See also: Sasquatch, body, lack of.

    Plus, cats are delicious.

  44. #44 Mike Taylor
    March 7, 2007

    More surprising is the evidence for very large feral cats in urban environments — even in London. Photos here and here.

  45. #45 Raymond
    March 7, 2007

    -Dr Vector

    “Gee…just guessing here…maybe it’s because the introduced giant cats are eating all the freakin’ endangered marsupials? And it ain’t just marsupials and flightless birds and other weird critters from distant lands. Seabirds and migratory passerines suffer, too (although I’ve seen some whackjob cat-squeezer websites that claim otherwise).”

    Here are a couple of the “wackjob catsqueezer sites”: here and here.

    This situation is not clear-cut, and certainly warrants further studies.In any case, it shows that it is a lot harder to “restore” a pristine ecosystem once it absorbs in new organisms by removing those organisms at a later date.

    What’s intriguing to me is the insistence of aboriginals in northern australia that cats and pigs were present long before europeans showed up in the 1600s.

    I’m not surprised at the level and spectrum of emotional responses towards introduced exotics, as I used to feel much the same way, until I actually did some research on the
    subject.

  46. #46 Darren Naish
    March 7, 2007

    Kitten Kong, best comedy sketch ever.

  47. #47 Luna_the_cat
    March 7, 2007

    Ironically, I also live in the Grampians — but the ones in Scotland (the originals! – hah!).

    The University of Aberdeen has a good stuffed specimen of a Cait Sidhe (Kellas cat), collected from some years before Kellas Cats were “official”. I’ll see if I can go over to the zoology building in the next couple of days and get measurements and a photo; I remember it being fairly hefty, about the size of a small lynx, and distinctly larger than either most domestics or most wildcats. And through a trick of cat genetics, although Kellas cats are hybrids between domestics and wildcats — and even though the wildcats are almost never black and the domestics only sometimes are — according to Zoology here just about all the known specimens of the Kellas or Cait Sidhe were black. Having a little experience with cat colour genetics, I find it credible if not yet well-supported that hybrid giantism goes with a certain colour haplotype.

    Oh, and, for the record? Although my sympathies very obviously lie on the feline side, I recognise that feral cats in Australia represent a very big (pun unintentional!) problem for the native wildlife, and the preservation of that wildlife has to take precedence. That said, Dr. Vector, may you choke on small bones. :p

  48. #48 Wally Davies
    March 7, 2007

    I have had first hand experience wiith the BIGCATS of Austalia for near 20 years.
    I have a website that you are invited to visit, telling of my personal observations of these critters and close living experience with a black female (cat) for 8 years.
    In that time I saw her twice.
    http://www. geocities.com/australiandesertcats.
    Links to The Black Files tell of analysis and observations of juvenile cats that came into my hands.
    Regards to all Wally

  49. #49 Brian
    March 7, 2007

    Wonderful post. I hadn’t heard about ABC’s or “Phantom Cats” until a few months ago, and I think part of the problem with the acceptance of the idea is the use of the terms used to explain these animals. It’s perfectly reasonable to talk about released invasive species, but when I first heard the term “alien big cat” my mind went “Here we go again with the crazy cryptozoology.”

    As some other people have mentioned on here, other than merely confirming the existence of some of these animals, I would love to see a study on the impact they have on local wildlife, especially if they somehow become established or there’s more than just one escaped animal. Domestic cats have been able to wreak havoc on environments they’ve been introduced to, so I can only imagine the kind of impact a leopard-sized cat could do. Hopefully the reality of introduced exotics impacting ecology will gain some more momentum (and that goes for other areas in the world too, i.e. the Florida everglades).

  50. #50 DDeden
    March 8, 2007

    http://the-arc.wikispaces.com/cat
    I presume this is a young cougar, but the legs seem too short.

    I’ve read the feral cats of Maguarie (sp) Island south of Tazmania were all shot dead, and now the rabbits & rats are running rampant, finishing off all the grass, with mudslides covering up nests of sea birds. Hopefully that will be figured out.

    DDeden

  51. #51 Wally Davies
    March 8, 2007

    I will add a few more notes for interest.
    Rather than a few isolated specimensof Bigcat, Australia is populaated with the critters, top to bottom and end to end.
    To exist each cat has to have a living range, perhaps 100 sq kilometers, perhaps more or less, and that cat will defend it to the death. When an usurper comes along looking for a patch the resident cat will fight for it and maybe get killed or kill the other or drive it off. in any case a cat is going to get killed. thus the population is self regulating. As these cats are cannabalistic like pumas in America there are no remains.
    The personel habits of these cats do not resemble F Catus.
    but rather resemble what I have read about the African wildcat F Lybica. Amiable towards humans live around human habitation, and are past masters at keeping out of sight.
    When caught young the African cats are easy to tame and are kept around villiages to kill vermin.
    However I heard about a lady while trailbiking in the bush foud 2 small kittens, so she bagged them and took them home. As they grew bigger they grew more intractable, they were regular little hellcats so she gave them away. I met the lady at a market in Central Victoria last year so the conversation was short.
    Old rabbit trappers told me about trapping in the pre myxomotosis days and sometimes catching big ferals that were outsize and displayed extraordinary ferocity.
    When a local man was trapping for foxes in 2001 he caught 2 juvenile bigcats, and passed the bodies on to me.
    They were very large feral cat size but were indisputably juveniles and the mothers came looking for them.
    A zoo obligingly arranged DNA analysis for me and the results came back catus.
    All my theories about the supa cat went out the window and it was back to the drawing board.
    In the ancient past Australia was settled by Egyptians and Phoenecians. There is plenty of evidence of this to be found along the East coast. Archiac Phoenecian script can be found carved on rocks and gorge faces in many inland parts especially in the Flinders Ranges in S Aust.
    Dates established by scholars date from about 2000 BC to 500 BC, and much mining was carried out.
    Isnt it reasonable to suggest that these people brought cats, possibly F Lybica? They would soon go bush and live a life of plenty.
    The small to medium predation list was well filled with the so called native cats but ther was nothing to fill the upper niche, the large kangaroos . The newly arrived cats were able to adapt and grow in size to hunt these large animals, so in this day and age we have a super predator that can easily kill horses and cattle. besides the tens of thousands of sheep that have been killed.
    These cats were established in the country long long before European settlement. and when I was a kid an old Aunt used to tell me stories about the pioneering days,
    when the forests were being cleared for farming. She told me that there were panthers in the bush, and this was about 1870. During the gold rush days about 1850 miners were afraid to camp out in the bush because of panthers.
    I hope this provides some insight into these fascinating critters.
    Wally

  52. #52 Dr Vector
    March 8, 2007

    Thanks for the links, Raymond. The message I get is that feral cats are hell on islands. On continents the situation seems to be not that feral cats aren’t bad, but that sometimes we have a hard time telling how bad feral cats are. Other times, there’s no question. Seems to me the glass is either half empty or all the way empty.

    The “cat-squeezer” websites I was alluding to are the ones that claim that feral* cats do basically no damage to wild animal populations. There are plenty of these out there. Even if we can’t tell exactly what is going on yet in some cases, the known damage that feral cats do to island species is reason enough to be very suspicious. Some exotics might be no big deal, but my thinking is that all exotics should be assumed guilty until proven innocent. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that many Australians have a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy on feral cats. Sounds like good conservation to me.

    * The real loony ones claim that there are no such things as feral cats, only “homeless domesticated cats”. I suppose the possibility that homeless domesticated cats might have produced wild offspring (for, like, centuries) has not occurred to some folks. I would say more here, but the restraint involved in writing that last sentence without using any curse words caused my right eyeball to shoot out of my head on a fountain of blood. Back with ya in a jiffy.

  53. #53 Raymond
    March 8, 2007

    -Dr. Vector-

    I agree that insular cats are hell on the wildlife.I personally agree the introduction of non-native species
    is a game of chance, but not really avoidable in human affairs.The Pacific coast of North America is a
    good example.IIRC, somewhere between 200-300 species of
    multicellular organisms within San Fransisco bay alone are
    conclusively exotics.This isn’t so surprising, what is; seems to be a lack of corresponding “native” extinctions and staggeringly enough, another 600 to 900 species are cryptogenic i.e. no one knows where the hell they fit in both the current and ancestral ecosystems.That is why I am a bit wary with calls to revert to a “purer” ecosystem in most scenarios.In the case of Australia, where do you set the limit?300 years ago?3,000?Is it even conceivable?What happens if it is?Could humans reasonably live on the continent?What about the near lack of terrestrial predators above 15 kilos with the sole exception of Mankind?There are so many valid questions regarding stewardship of our planet, that at times, it seems that good intentions here may, no probably _will_ have negative consequences down the road.

    -Wally Davis-

    I know little of Australia’s history but IIRC, the feral pig populations of the northern territories are supposed to be genetically distinct from the european breeds elsewhere.
    IIRC, China and SE Asia in general likely traveled to Australia frequently.It’s not very likely they _didn’t_,considering that Oz is practically next door.I reserve judgement on any Egyptian or Phoenecian traders showing up until publishment of said evidence.If Australia is anything like the Americas, that may not happen until the current crop of Anthropologists and Archeologists kick the bucket.Though it would certainly explain just where the hell the Phoenecians et al. went on their 2-3 year journeys!

  54. #54 Mike Taylor
    March 8, 2007

    Matt:

    If the animal is sufficiently unusual, the most responsible thing to do is kill it.

    Possibly not a good policy to follow with the Rodriguez fruitbat.

    Darren:

    Kitten Kong, best comedy sketch ever.

    What? You mean it’s not a documentary?

  55. #55 Tai Haku
    March 8, 2007

    I personally was convinced of the need to deal with australian feral cats of all sizes by visiting one of the (cat and other feral free) Earth Sanctuaries Limited projects after dark – It was like entering a different world.

    On topic I can see how there could be evolutionary advantages leading them to get bigger. Very interesting stuff.

  56. #56 David Marjanovi?
    March 9, 2007

    IIRC, somewhere between 200-300 species of
    multicellular organisms within San Fransisco bay alone are
    conclusively exotics.This isn’t so surprising, what is; seems to be a lack of corresponding “native” extinctions

    Probably they simply don’t have any native counterparts with which to compete. That’s apparently the most common situation.

  57. #57 Raymond
    March 9, 2007

    True enough David, but that’s a hell of a lot of vacant niches!

  58. #58 Wally Davies
    March 12, 2007

    Regarding published literature about ancient Egyptians/Phoenecians settling in Australia, dial up “Ancient Egyptians in Australia” and yoou will find hundreds of entries. Evidence has been found dating to Cheops.
    Regards to all Wally

  59. #59 Chris Berkness
    March 13, 2007

    Regarding the large black feral cats – 45 years ago my music teacher in Minnesota had two large black cats weighing at least 30-40 pounds each. By comparison to the average farm or alley cat, they were enormous. Length, from nose to base of tail, about 24 inches at least. The cats are a breed developed or found in the NW US. Her cats came from Washington state and while not greatly social were far from wild or feral, quite a lap full. Imagine that if released into the wild, they could easily adapt, survive and procreate.

  60. #60 chris wemmer
    May 11, 2007

    I can testify to occasional “body-size outliers” among wild felids and viverrids. Back in the late 1970s the Singapore zoo had a male clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) that was as big as a large spotted leopard. It was truly enormous for the species. On average, clouded leopards are significantly smaller than spotted leopards. Among binturongs I have also encountered occasional outsized animals among zoo and museum collections. I gained the distinct impression that these individuals were not representatives of populations of large bodied animals, but simply very large examples of their species. Was it due to genetics or good nutrition? Or both? I don’t know.

  61. #61 Doreen
    October 13, 2007

    that’s interesting! found it on Google and am glad I came and checked it out! here in NSW we hear about the lithgow panther and the blue mountains big cat

  62. #62 David Marjanovi?
    October 14, 2007

    True enough David, but that’s a hell of a lot of vacant niches!

    And? That happens.

    Regarding published literature about ancient Egyptians/Phoenecians settling in Australia, dial up “Ancient Egyptians in Australia” and yoou will find hundreds of entries. Evidence has been found dating to Cheops.

    Who in their right mind would settle in northeastern Australia? (That’s the part that is easiest to discover from Africa.) There’s not even evidence of Phoenicians or Egyptians in India, let alone Indonesia…

  63. #63 Raymond
    October 14, 2007

    “And? That happens.”

    When you have essentially similiar shallow water/back bay, estuarine species being spread across the world in numbers in the triple digits; possibly even quadruple digits since so many are cryptogenic, you have an event equaling if not greatly exceeding both the miocene african and pleistocene panaman exchanges.

    “That happens” is certainly true, on a geological scale.

  64. #64 johannes
    October 15, 2007

    > There’s not even evidence of Phoenicians or
    > Egyptians in India, let alone Indonesia…

    Gary Brecher (who was mildly amusing before he developed a crush on Pat Buchanan) spoke of an Egyptian invasion of the Punjab, but of course Brecher (or whoever operates under the pseudonym of Gary Brecher – perhaps it’s Ames or Dolan?) is not a historian but a novelist, and he cites no sources. Probably he was inspired by the legendary conquests of Herodotus’ equally legendary pharaoh “Sesostris”.
    Skylax the Carian of course was in the Punjab, and he was in the service of Darius the Great, who, as the conqueror and ruler of Egypt, was technically a Pharao and, however reluctantly, accepted as such by the Egytian Priesthood, or at least a sizable part of it.

    This said, neither the Egyptians nor even the Carians or Phoenicians, who did most of the seafaring for them, were good at crossing large stretches of open sea. The Austronesians on the other hand clearly were. I think that any cat brought over to Australia before the European discovery probably came on board of an Austronesian vessel.

  65. #65 ec
    January 26, 2008

    About ten years ago, on a family drive to Mudgee (west of Lithgow) we saw two very large black and white domestic cats. They were owned by a vintner who laughed when we commented on their size. The cats were lying on a picnic table and we first thought they were dogs. They were muscular, had large bones, heads and paws. Being a cat family we were very familiar with the varying size of domestic cats and feral cats in the Blue Mountains. These cats were enormous, the owners said the cats were of feral stock.
    A couple of years after that, I was on a bike-hike through the Lithgow-Bathurst area with some other Venturers (scouts) when a huge feral cat crossed the road ahead of us. It had some small animal in its mouth. The cat was huge like the ones at Mudgee.
    I’m familiar with the Lithgow Panther stories, and the theories about US soldiers releasing them (amongst other theories), and I know someone who swears they have seen the “panther”. What I do know now is that there are enormous cats in that area and that if you hadn’t been exposed to real big cats, it would be easy to mistake one of the local cats for one.

  66. #66 Ace
    July 18, 2008

    ‘Of course, the first thing we do is kill one.’

    Blimey, of course he did. It’s a dangerous wild animal. There have been reports of these cats killing livestock, and if you look at the size of the one Kurt Engel sht, its certainly big enough to kill a person. Besides, it’s not as though these are native animals – they’re PESTS. They kill native animals, and remember this is Australia, where we have all kinds of unique animals that aren’t found anywhere else thanks to our geographical isolation. We’ve been trying to get rid of feral cats for years – big or small. Creatures like bandicoots and numbats are in danger of extinction because of wild cats and dogs and foxes – animals which don’t belong here in the first place.

  67. #67 C
    August 3, 2008

    The second photo from above. Why have the bushes/trees on the right side of the picture shadows on the road and the big black cat that’s also on the right side of the road not? Based on that the photo seems a hoax.

  68. #68 Ronald Vagedes
    August 15, 2008

    I live in rural northern Kentucky USA, in the woods on my farm my dog, and I have witnessed several feral cats on our walks in the woods. One particular cat was a large black tomcat, although not as large as some of the cats mentioned in the article was nonetheless the largest I have ever seen My guess is that he was approaching 30 Lbs.(Only slightly smaller than my dog at 35 Lbs). I dont have the habit of carrying a camera or gun with me when I hike and even if I did I may not have had the chance to capture a picture or take a shot at this cat so I am not quick to dismiss any account for lack of evidence. Like it or not we know less about science, and nature than we would like to so “absence of evidence is not proof of nonexistence”.

  69. #69 Wally
    October 9, 2008

    Regarding the pic taken by Bob McPherson I havve a series of pics taken of thiis cat, it is no fake,
    One must notice the length of the legs on thiis critter, far longer than the length of a regular ferals legs when matched to the size of the body.
    Pics of juvenile bigcats can be seen on my website (auustraliandesertcats) and pics of thhe feet show that they are far bigger than normal ferals.
    As bigcat annd ordinary cat have same genetics there is evidence that they are cross breeding.
    The body of one specimen that I recovered from a rubbish dump where it had got a can jammed over its heaad and smoothered. showed a body the size of a spaniel with short legs and small cat sized feet/ It had a big head and a set of choppers that beggered description.
    I have skun annd examined both bigcat juveniles and many a feral cat and the 2 carcasses differ greatly with the bigcat having much larger chests, and bulkier hindquarters, made for running, they are more like cheetas.

  70. #70 Wally
    October 9, 2008

    Regarding the pic taken by Bob McPherson I have a series of pics taken of this cat, it is no fake,
    One must notice the length of the legs on this critter, far longer than the length of a regular ferals legs when matched to the size of the body.
    Pics of juvenile bigcats can be seen on my website (auustraliandesertcats) and pics of the feet show that they are far bigger than normal ferals.
    As bigcat and ordinary cat have same genetics there is evidence that they are cross breeding.
    The body of one specimen that I recovered from a rubbish dump where it had got a can jammed over its head and smoothered. showed a body the size of a spaniel with short legs and small cat sized feet/ It had a big head and a set of choppers that beggered description.
    I have skun and examined both bigcat juveniles and many a feral cat and the 2 carcasses differ greatly with the bigcat having much larger chests, and bulkier hindquarters, made for running, they are more like cheetas.

  71. #71 Wally
    October 15, 2008

    Sadly. wildlife is disappearing at an alarming rate.
    The bigcat is not fussy what it eats, from freshkilled animals to gargage. It will leave a kill until it is rorren then eat the lot. At least the maggots are fresh and bigcat loves them.
    Correspondents bewail the disappearing wild life and even years ago when visiting Victoria where koalas were plentiifull very few remaind and patches of fur on the ground were not hard to find.
    Thousands of sheep have had their heads bitten removing the front, others have the cervical joint and back of skull crushed. The crushed brains and contused blood is sucked out Other sheep have been held down and part eaten and left alive. Horses and cows have been ridden until they go down and break their necks. Cows have had their udders ripped off, calving cows have had their vulvas ripped away as the cat attacks the emerging calf.
    They are not nice animals so dont waste too much sympathy on them.

  72. #72 Bo
    November 19, 2008

    In 2007 I spent some time at an Aboriginal community in the Gibson Desert. There is little traditional big animal hunting left, in the time I was there I didn’t see a kangaroo, frozen tails a trucked in from Alice Springs. Because of this the community hunts feral cat, unfortunately I didn’t have my camera handy at the time of the hunt, and one never knows if its bad manners or not to behave like a tourist when you are living in an Aboriginal community. Any how the men bought in a very big cat one day – about the size of a Blue Healer dog. Ciao Bo
    When the a few of the women noticed my interest in the size of the cat they called ‘pussy cat’ they informed me that this was about ‘normal size’. It wasn’t black however, it was a tabby colour. So there are big moggies out there well in the Gibson there is and they are providing a staple meat supply for the communties out there.

  73. #73 Crossy
    May 20, 2009

    The response to why these cats seem to be often black is simply the local environment. In rainforest or heavily timbered areas feral cats after only a few generations in the wild the cats will tend to be black. In the western desert style country cats will tend to be ginger and in the open woodland country they tend to be grey tabby. I can’t remember the source for this information, I read it years ago but a lifetime of travelling the Australian bush has shown it to be largely true. This seems to me to be an adaption for camouflage and an effective one at that.

    In the early 1990s when rabbits were very thick I shot a grey tabby feral cat during pest control that when held at hip height by the back legs, its head was fully on the ground. I am six feet tall so that makes for at least three feet of cat not including tail. It was also massively muscled around the head and neck and was estimated to weigh 25lbs. It was left in the paddock, noted as an exceptionaly large cat but of no further interest, but judging by the response to big cats in the media perhaps I should have turned it into a money spinner! In any case it was certainly the largest cat feral or domestic that I have ever seen. But definately nothing crypto.

    I can easily understand why Kurt Engel would dispose of his corpse because big feral cats arent all that unusual in the Australian Bush. Most property owners or experienced hunters will have a story to tell of shooting or trapping an outsized feral cat.

    As for the cat squeezing set (thanks Dr Vector) I personally would much prefer to see a dead feral cat and live quolls. As many have previously pointed out Australia is a land of unique fauna and something to be preserved. Each cat is responsible for the death of over 300 animals per year, more for lactating females, many of them native. Any help we can give the natives to hold on to their precarious position is necessary and limiting cat numbers is essential.

  74. #74 Nick
    July 2, 2009

    I am going to add to the conjecture with a personal recollection … In the mid to late 90’s we shot a big feral on a property in the South Australian riverlands.

    It was a ginger tom, and big enough that when laid across the back of a suzuki quad bike, the front legs hung over one side and the back the other. That puts it at about 90cm from fore to hind quarters I believe.

    After seeing that cat, I believe a lot more of the reports you hear. Of course they are all exaggerated, what’s better than a monster tale, but there are some big cats out there in the Aussie outback that’s for sure.

  75. #75 john likealotacock
    August 26, 2009

    From Darren: Mr Likealotacock’s comment has been removed due to offensive spelling mistakes (the word ‘faggot’ was spelt incorrectly).

  76. #76 Christopher Taylor
    August 26, 2009

    Why yes, I am, but I don’t quite see the relevance of that point at this moment in time.

  77. #77 matthijss
    September 12, 2009

    Well, mice have grown on gough island becoming an endemic species in 120 years, I think it not improbable that cats can do similar, especially since australia has loads of vacant niches since the eradication of all marsupial predators, a normal size cat is able to catch a rabbit, but prefers smaller prey, (rabbits can kick) There are questions about the real proportions of these reported cats, but some evulution towards bigger cats is at least probable.
    For growing bigger very little mutation is needed.

  78. #78 a Californian
    October 16, 2009

    I have no trouble believing that certain ecological niches might favor a 20 kg predator, a 5 kg predator, a 50 kg predator, etc – and that feral cats might undergo selection so that most meet a specific predator size niche.

    When I visited Yucatan, I met a Mayan family and their pet cat was full grown and looked to be about 2 kg (the size of a 4-month old kitten). I was told that is the normal size of cats in that region. I suspect what these tiny cats eat is mice, possibly also lizards and insects.

    North America has two species of wildcats. Bobcats are 25-30 pounds (10-15 kg) and eat squirrels, gophers, rabbits, birds, and probably rats. Mountain lions are 100-150 pounds (50-70 kg) and eat deer as well as sheep, much to the consternation of ranchers, as well as smaller prey i.e. rabbits. There have been multiple mystery black cat sightings in the US South and Midwest, and most of these are said to be about the size of a labrador retriever (50 pounds, aka 20-25 kg). It is unclear if these are Florida panthers, large feral cats, or melanistic cougars, but 50 pounds is too small to be a cougar.

    My pet cat, whose father may well have been feral, weighs 20 pounds (~9 kg) and measures 36″ (a meter is 39″, yes?) from nose to tip of tail. He is not a Maine Coon or other large breed. He is very shy around strangers, growls at the veterinarian and other people he does not like, and once tried to slash the vet in the eyes. In other words, he’s not 100% tame, even though I’ve had him since he was a kitten. My friend found a kitten on the side of the road in Northern California, adopted it, and it too grew to be a 20-pound monster. Perhaps the conventional wisdom that domestic cats always weigh 8-15 pounds is not correct.

  79. #79 David Marjanović
    October 17, 2009

    a meter is 39″, yes?

    1″ = 2.54 cm
    1 yard = 0.91 m

  80. #80 john
    March 7, 2010

    that iz the smallest cat i have ever seen i cant beleive u thought it was big i have one about 3 times bigger than that
    no joke i am dead set serious brah

  81. #81 Tamara Henson
    March 8, 2010

    I beg your pardon but as I am also from North America I must point out that America has FIVE species of small cat. I admit that three of these are rare but they are native. They are…

    The bobcat (Lynx rufus) most of the U.S.A.

    The Northern lynx (Lynx canadensis, possibly a subspecies of the eurasian Lynx lynx) Northern U.S.A. & Canada

    The mountain lion (Puma concolor) almost everywhere

    The Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) Southwestern states and Texas

    The Ocelot(Leopardus pardalis) Southernmost Texas

    The Margay(Leopardus wiedii) Southernmost Texas

    In addition there is also The Jaguar(Panthera onca)and a mere 10,000 years ago the U.S. also contained the Miracinonyx “cheetahs”, the Panthera atrox “lion”, and two genera of Sabre Tooth.

    That’s a lot of cats for one continent and it makes me skeptical of the claim that South America “only has room for one big cat- the Jaguar” which is often used by those skeptical of new big cat reports from that continent.

    In addition I once saw a documentary on Australia in the early 1990’s (I think it was either Nature or Nova) that filmed a very large feral cat of gray tabby coloration. The film explained that the feral cats had grown to lynx size in response to environmental pressures. So this is not a recent development. I tried to find the exact film but no luck so far.

  82. #82 jeff
    May 3, 2010

    I believe that feral cats in australia can grow larger than a normal domestic cat,but i dont believe they can grow to leopard or lynx sizes.Its genetically impossible,and the fact is we just don’t have the right environment for it to happen.Some of the pics and videos ive seen look fake for starters,and i did see the video of the black cat near the kangaroo…problem is,it looked like a wallaby to me-and the cat didn’t look that big.Im from tasmania,and grew up in the bush.We had a lot of feral cats.some of them were big,but not obscenely so.I once had a cat whose parents were feral.He was sizeable,and powerfully built,but not huge.A cat a metre long is pretty damn impressive(and ive seen some close to that) but Its not in their genetic makeup to grow any larger.Most feral cats are mangy,scrawny,pitiful looking creatures at the best of times,and i tend to think if there are giant cats roaming the australian bush,they are descended from cougars,or panthers..

  83. #83 Mike
    June 9, 2010

    Quote:”Its genetically impossible,and the fact is we just don’t have the right environment for it to happen.”

    On what basis is it genetically impossible.?
    What about crosses with Indonesian jungle cats.?
    You contradicted yourself and imply a certain enviroment might effect the genes.
    Then what is this enviroment that might allow this genetic modification.

    Quote”some of the pics and videos ive seen look fake for starters,and i did see the video of the black cat near the kangaroo…problem is,it looked like a wallaby to me-and the cat didn’t look that big.”

    And you have been to the locations, with any of the photographers or videographers and tried to work out scale and distances.
    Or spoken to anyone who filmed or photographed some of these animals or asked anyone who has been involved in chasing up the reports in Australia..?
    Or are you just calling people hoaxers based on looking at one web page. :)
    The point of the wallaby footage with the cat..is that it is outside the range of a normal feral cat..it is sizeable and powerfully built..
    If Tasmanian feral cats are of that size, then please post some videos and photos..
    Can you show us video/stills of the animal your parents owned please for us to compare to Temby footage.

  84. #84 Gaddy Bergmann
    July 8, 2010

    Thank you for blogging on this interesting topic. Yes, cryptozoology is usually speculative, and not so much in the realm of science as popular media. However, in this case, there does appear to be some evidence that giant feral cats are roaming the Australian countryside. Perhaps this explains the sightings of panther-like phantom cats elsewhere, too. It might also have important ramifications for the evolution of big cats in general.

  85. #85 Anto
    August 17, 2010

    It must be a hybrid. Possibly a bigger cat had sneaked into the area and mated with a domestic cat. Just like the tiger and the lion, Liger. This must be a hybrid. But, then of course, which animal mated? I have never come across a case like this before, but I don’t see the cats harmful. A domestic cat wouldn’t attack a human unless the human is taking it’s kits, or hurting the cat whatsoever. Case Closed.

  86. #86 David Marjanović
    August 18, 2010

    A domestic cat wouldn’t attack a human unless the human is taking it’s kits, or hurting the cat whatsoever. Case Closed.

    Unlike your average dog, cats know they’re too small to kill you.

    These ones might not be too small, and if so, they probably know it.

  87. #87 dalecoz
    August 28, 2010

    Very belated comment. It would be logical for a cats to have the potential to get much bigger.. Logically the majority of animals in a genome should be of currently optimum size, with out layers on both the up and downside in terms of size. Under ordinary circumstance, as in North America, the outsized and undersized animals are less efficient in the core niche and other species adapted to the larger niches outcompete them in those niches. A mountain-lion sized house cat isn’t going to be able to live on small rodents and birds, but isn’t going to be as good at hunting deer as mountain lions. Under ordinary circumstances they quickly starve to death.

    In Australia, there is a vacuum in the larger predator niches, while the smaller predator niches are overcrowded. Being big allows a cat to avoid a lot ot that competition, both from inside and outside the species. No, a nearly mountain line sized house cat wouldn’t be as good a predator as a mountain lion, but in Australia it doesn’t have to be.

    By the way, this pattern is not restricted to cats or Austrakia. My farmer friends tell me that raccoons have been getting enormous in the Midwest US. No bears to compete with them and no wolves to get them if they’re too slow gettin up a tree. Then there are the enormous chimps in areas of Africa without Gorillas

  88. #88 Grace Anderson
    November 10, 2010

    I found this article very interesting.
    Where I live, in South-eastern Victoria, there are often reports and sightings of large, black, cat-like animals, and also of unexplained animal killings. Nothing of the damage a fox, eagle or dog could do.
    I was reading a series of letters from a relative to her absent husband, when they were first settled in Australia.. She made note of a ‘large black tiger’ hanging around the homestead.
    Mega Cats are there!
    Just coincidence, you say? It’s a coincidence that records of these Mega Cats have been around for years?? sightings are still happening all the time??
    Yeah! YOU go camping in the Otways, let’s see how safe you feel! If the Otway Panther doesn’t get you, a snake will! Good riddens.

  89. #89 Rod Moore
    April 26, 2011

    The dingo is thought to be descended from domestic dogs introduced by Indonesians who visited the north coast around 2000 BC. Perhaps they kept cats on their ships to kill rats, and some of them went ashore as well. If those giant cats have been in Australia for four thousand years instead of just two hundred, it may explain how they have evolved to such a large size.

  90. #90 David Marjanović
    April 26, 2011

    Perhaps they kept cats on their ships to kill rats

    Not in 2000 BC. No way.

  91. #91 Rod Moore
    April 30, 2011

    If not four thousand years, then definitely more than two thousand years. According to Evolution of Domesticated Animals by Ian Mason (1984), cats were kept in India by 300 BC and China by 200 BC, so they must have reached Indonesia about the same time.

    According to a DNA study by David MacDonald of Oxford University in 2007, the domestic cat diverged from the African wildcat about 130 thousand years ago. That suggests that it could have been domesticated much earlier than the conventional wisdom says. Cats would have been in demand as soon as farming was invented and corn was stored in granaries, so they could have spread quite quickly. According to Mason, the practice of keeping cats on ships also goes back a long way, because it started in ancient Egypt.

    Anyway, I don’t claim to be a moggieologist. I just want to make the point that the Indonesians could have introduced cats into Australia a long time before 1788. Whether it was in 2000 BC or 200 BC, it would still have given them enough time to do quite a lot of evolving.

  92. #92 Simon Townsend
    May 31, 2011

    This has been a very interesting blog and I find contributors observations or at least cogitations of interest, especially Mike Williams who has done an enormous amount of work to collect records , both historical and recent of the Australian big cat phenomenon. As a field naturalist I kill feral cats on a regular basis. While they are secretive and have acute senses they are not particularly difficult to trap as they will come to a meat bait without much hesitation. Likewise they will respond to predator calls and also stare at a spotlight long enough to be shot. I have never seen or handled one that was bigger than a big domestic. There are no specimens extant I have been able to locate that have ever indicated they grow to extreme size. We need skulls.! If a reader knows of any outsize feral cat skulls please let me know. I have been collecting field reports of an Australian mystery big cat for nearly 30 years after seeing it once in 1973, at close range. I have been so inundated with public interest that I created a website to encourage people to report their experience of outsized feline predators (www.bigcatsvic.com.au). Currently the Victorian State Government has decided to investigate big cats in Victoria and has invited my colleague John Turner and myself to collaborate with government oficers in July 2011 re this matter. I will keep this blog informed as things develop.

  93. #93 Allen Hazen
    May 31, 2011

    Simon Townsend (#92):
    Thank you for posting to this 4-year old (!!) string. I will be interested in any further developments.

    Re: “I have never seen or handled one that was bigger than a big domestic.” There is a considerable size range in domestic cats, and the biggest ones can be fairly impressive. How big was the biggest feral cat in your experience (rough number from off-the-top-of-the-head memory will do)?

  94. #94 Simon Townsend
    June 1, 2011

    This is an “old(!!) string” but there are very few blogs out there worth adding to as I am sure you are aware! My heaviest feral cat to date was 15 pounds or near enough to 7 kilograms and a bit. It was a male, all muscle, no fat, black in colour and just under 37 inches total length and killed on the edge of the Sunset Country in North West Victoria in January 2005. Its stomach was empty on examination. At the time to me it did not appear excessively large and I gave the cleaned but unmeasured skull to my girlfriend who has incorporated it in a sculpture she has constructed. I am sorry I have not kept better records in the past because I could sure use them now. I implore any and all to keep cat skulls and details of provenance if they have an interest in the subject.

  95. #95 Allen Hazen
    June 1, 2011

    Simon Thompson–
    Thanks for reply! (You keep better records than I do!)
    37 inches is about 940 mm, so about an inch shorter than the “Australian tabby” Himmy that Darren mentions as a possible record-holding domestic cat. An impressively big cat (and, given the temperament of ferals, not something l’d want to corner unarmed!) but not really much support for the hypothesis that Austalian ferals have evolved into something bigger than domestic cats.
    Thanks again.

  96. #96 Bill
    June 24, 2011

    I have seen a giant domestic looking cat on the side of a road just walking along in the mountainsides of northern Greece. I was perplexed. It was bigger than my German shepherd. But looked exactly like a cat.

  97. #97 Marcus
    July 5, 2011

    I wonder if this is an example of the ‘mesopredator release hypothesis’ where feral cats are literally growing into the ecological gaps left by thylacines & dingoes?

  98. #98 Monado
    July 5, 2011

    The trouble with those pictures is that there is no sure scale in them. The hanging one could be closer than it looks.

    And that cat along the path — if that is just a trail in the grass, one footfall wide, then the cat is a slightly stocky, slightly large cat.

    @88, I had a possibly feral, normal-sized cat (he hung around determined to move in with us until we grabbed him and found an adoptive home). He would lash out at a sudden movement and once laid open a small artery in my arm.

    I have seen apparently normal domestic cats that are twice the length of average cats and fatter. One of them weighed 34 pounds. There are tails to that bell curve.

    Why black, anyway–I would expect feral cats to revert to the agouti pattern of tabbies, especially in grasslands. Maybe just because it is harder to make out betraying details on a black animal…

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