« MGI suppression watch: Jiaozuo | Main | Reagan co-prosperity sphere proposed »

August 27, 2012


des von bladet



Via the magic of Keith Fleet's twitter feed I give you the magic of yesteryear and the famed search for the Shooters Hill Cheetah of 1963:

It was a magnificent affair. It covered 850 acres and involved 126 policemen with 21 dogs, thirty soldiers, ambulance men and RSPCA officials. No sign of a big cat was found - except for some spoor. These were huge - some seven inches across, the size usually associated with a lion or tiger; yet they showed claw marks, the characteristic not of a lions, but of a cheetah's paw print. The 'cheetah', however, was never caught and the hunters dispersed'.

Richard J

There's something significant about the decline in imagination or something, that strange sightings of unusual objects are no longer fairies, sprites or the devil, or even UFOs, but just, well, big cats.

Now concentrate this time, Dougal. These
are very small; those are far away...


In honour of tonight's bedtime reading: Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound


Given the tradition of so-called Alien Big Cats, I'm assuming Lion-O must have been checking that the local Earthlings are safe.


Just finished "Professor Moriarty and the Hound of the D'Urbervilles", due IIRC to a recommendation on this blog; it's good fun if a bit derivative of Flash.

Gareth Rees

There's something significant about the decline in imagination or something, that strange sightings of unusual objects are no longer fairies, sprites or the devil, or even UFOs, but just, well, big cats.

Now that nearly everyone carries a camera around with them all the time, when someone claims to have seen something unusual, everyone quite reasonably wants to know why they didn't take a picture of it.

Gareth Rees

In other words, pics or it didn't happen.

Richard J

Or as those rapscallions at 4chan would say UFO or GTFO.


But there was a picture and everyone scrunched their eyes and said they saw a lion. In this context it's the captions that count.


This is exactly what you would expect from evolutionary psychology. On the veldt, you see, hominids who occasionally saw things that weren't lions and said "Ooh! A lion!" merely got the reputation of being a bit jumpy, while hominids who saw things that actually were lions and thought they were bin bags got eaten. We have evolved to err on the side of caution when it comes to the lion/not lion distinction.


Another factor in the emergence of the British big cat subculture: ubiquitous cameras with digital zoom but no telephoto lens.

You take a photo of the dog/cat/binbag/lion at the other end of the paddock, can't see it very well, max the zoom and incidentally crop out everything but a backdrop of indistinct foliage, blurred by camera shake exaggerated due to the zoom, leaving nothing at all as a scale-reference.

Bada bing, bada boom, lion photo. You'll note that all British big cat photos conform to this pattern. There's never anything in the frame that provides scale - because if there was, it would be painfully obvious that it's the size of a house cat, and nobody would care about it.


Mind, there was a bloke on the Today prog this morning with a professorial title claiming that he, personally, had seen the body of a 4ft long feral cat in this country and that the Australians had once shot one measuring 5ft 9ins from end to end.

He didn't seemed worried about this and said they weren't a threat. I'm not sure I'd want to go close enough to find out if he was right, to be frank


Aussie feral cats are pretty hardcore. But they're not lions, are they?


ubiquitous cameras with digital zoom but no telephoto lens

The Clacton cat is a prime example - everyone was asking "what's that?" when they should have been playing "What have we pixellated?".

belle le triste

I think there are two dimensions to the ABC phenom. Certainly one's camera-related, and Alex has explained it very well. But the other is "biggish unidentified beast" spotted in twilight on liminal ground, perhaps when in liminal state -- no camera, just an unexplained and fleeting sighting.

I've had one of these, when I was a teenager back in Shropshire driving my mum's car home very late -- early hours -- from my girlfriend's, I passed at speed a large black dripping wet beast walking along the pavement, briefly caught in the headlines, long gone when I turned back to look again. It looked somewhere between a very large droopy dog and a very small and very weird pony -- it had a long sad face. And maybe walrus-y whiskers.

Anyway I don't think it was an undiscovered or invasive species -- I think it probably was just an unusual dog, and probably not as big as I now semi-remember it -- but the circumstances and the WTF-ness imprinted it. Size is hard to register in the near-dark.

belle le triste

And I myself WASN'T pixillated.


"briefly caught in the headlines"

Headlights, right? But given the subject.

Also, shouldn't someone be comparing this to the Loch Ness blurry monster/branch/bird/thing photos?


Some big dogs are too damn big, particularly at night. When I was walking back from the pub across country one summer night - light in the sky, thickening twilight on the ground - a very large black dog came out of nowhere and stood on the path in front of me for a while. I knew damn well it was just that, a very large black dog, but if I'd been a bit more superstitious or a bit drunker (or both) it would have scared me badly.

belle le triste

"the headlines in my head" (yes, oops, headlights)


Even if it was just a large grey plastic bag flapping about, it was probably the most exciting thing that has happened in Clacton since someone in that vicinity looked out to sea and thought 'Is that a boat full of Saxons heading this way or was that well water a bit off last night?'

The comments to this entry are closed.

friends blogs


Blog powered by Typepad

my former home