For a very long time we British have had a peculiar kind of hysteria.
Every now and then,some community spots a great big cat.
And by big, I mean Big. Not just some moggie who as had a few too many cream buns or located its owner’s stilettos, but a full-grown lynxy, pantherish monsterkitty extraordinaire.
In fact it was only August 2012 when all Clacton-on-Sea was a-buzzing with the sighting of a great shaggy monster sighted in a field by holidaymakers Steve and Gill Atkin. For three days police were out and a great search was mounted for what must surely be an escapee from a local zoo?
But no. On closer examination the creature – for whom 25 police officers, a special firearms unit and specialists from Colchester Zoo were all deployed – turned out to be Teddy Bear the local cat.
A police spokesman said: “Extensive searches have been carried out, areas examined and witnesses spoken to – yet nothing has been found to suggest that a lion was in the area.
“The reporting of the animal is not being treated as a hoax, but should such information come to light we will have no hesitation in making arrests..”
But there was Felicity the Puma, who was captured in Invernesshire in 1980 after wedon’tknowhowlong in the wild.
This morning a new light has dawned on the whole British Seeing Cats thing. And the discovery has been lying in a basement, secret testament to the Big Cat Theory for more than a century.
The BBC reports this morning that it was a stray scientist on the loose in the basement of Bristol Museum who unearthed the astounding new evidence.
He remains as I write anonymous. But he it was who took a look at the cat’s dusty identification tag which claims that the cat was shot for worrying sheep in Devon in 1903.
And specialists say it’s a Canadian lynx – a dog-sized cat.
The findings have been published in the journal Historical Biology.
Dr Ross Barnett, a molecular biologist from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Durham, is reported by the BBC as saying: “I’ve seen one of these cats in the wild.
“They are pretty impressive cats – they are a reasonable size, and they have lots of fluffy fur which makes them look even bigger. They have sharp claws, teeth and strong muscles.”
The poor soul had lots of plaque and no incisors – indicating that at some point, it had been in captivity.
But its last hours were spent roaming and hunting, as its ancestors had done before it.
So we may fantasize wildly here about big cats.
But just sometimes, it’s the real Meow.
Your can read more about out Bristol Canadian lynx here