Foul Beast


For my Halloween post this year, I fall back on one of the creatures of the night that has longed intrigued me – the wild beast hound/wolf.  The thought of some creature prowling the countryside in search of victims has always made my blood chill.  Some of these creatures like the famous “Hound of Baskervilles” were fictitious creations but often some of these stories of demon dogs or wild beasts were based on some historical incident.

Take for example, the story about the Beast of Gevaudan.  Between 1764 -1767, in the former province of Gevaudan whichwas located in the mountains of south-central France, a man-eating creature is claimed to have killed more than 100 people.  This creature bore some resemblance to a large wolf but it did not hunt in packs as wolves do.  It seemed to attack people preferentially even when cattle and other livestock were present.  It attacked the head and killed by biting the neck or taking the whole head off.  Many of the victims’ bodies were found partially eaten.

Things got so bad that King Louis XV sent professional wolf hunters to help and though they killed a number of wolves, including a particularly large one called Le Loup de Chazes, the attacks and killings continued.   Eventually a local hunter, Jean Chastel, was credited with killing the real beast.  Chastel claimed that he was part of a larger hunting group when he stopped to read the bible and pray.  At that point, the beast appeared and stared at him.  Upon finishing his prayer, he killed the beast.  Survivors of the attacks positively identified the carcass as that of the beast that attacked them and human remains was found in its stomach.

However, others wondered about Chastel’s tale and some suspicion arose that the beast did not immediately attack Chastel because it had in fact been raised and trained by Chastel.

But what was the beast?  It was described as being wolf-like but much larger, the size of a cow.  It had a wide chest, a long tail ending in a lion like tuft of fur,large pointed ears and a long jaw with protruding fangs.   It’s fur had a reddish tinge and smelt horribly.  Some witnesses claimed that its feet resembled hooves rather than paws.  Others claimed the hide was so tough that it was practically bullet proof.

Traditional stories suggest that the beast was a werewolf or a warlock who could shape-shift.  Another early theory was that the beast was the result of cross breeding wolves with certain breeds of domestic dogs.  Or perhaps it was a lion wearing armor, or it was a rare form of hyena.

I think it is interesting that some cryptozoologists and scientists suspect that it could have been a surviving remnant of a Mesonychid which are a group of animals that seemed to resemble the creature described by the survivors; especially the description of the size, protruding fangs, hooves and reddish fur.  The only problem is that Mesonychids are believed to have died out some 32 million years ago.

So what do you think it was?  And are they still prowling around today?

This is what a Mesonychid might look like………..

The Beast of Gevaudan?
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18 thoughts on “Foul Beast”

  1. I like the beast. He looks cool, I especially like his mane. He is a lion mixed with wolf. Thank you for a wonderful and interesting insight. I enjoyed it.

  2. That would scare the hell out of me. He wouldn’t have to chase me down, I’d drop dead of a heart attack just seeing him!

  3. What a strange looking creature and story. Does not look like a squirrel would be one of his friends. If I saw it I would follow Riot Kitty’s example.

  4. I think the fact that there was a kind of menagerie in the vicinity explains a lot. It would be interesting to know where the remains of the shot animal(s) ended up – were they stuffed out? I saw that one was displayed at the court, so they surely did something to avoid it rotting away in the face of the king. Maybe afterwards it went on a traveling show? Cryptozoology is fascinating. I think that there are still some creatures or species unknown to us. Douce France, France on the countryside, is really empty, especially the Southern and Central parts …

  5. I lived with a gray wolf for 13 years and this creature bears scant resemblance to wolves, nor do they ever grow as large as cows. The behaviors are not wolflike, as noted, and wolf packs invariably cull weak and infirm animals from a herd; they do not attack humans. (In the few recorded instances of such attacks, I am positive it was because they were cornered and attacked by the humans.) I know that animals believed extinct do occasionally show up in remote areas, so I’m thinking it may have been a Mesonychid who adapted to changes in its environment. I suppose it’s good to know that we are tastier than livestock.

  6. The picture seems to be a precursor to a hyena. But for an animal to be the size of a cow, hunting alone, etc., even allowing for exageration, this is not a wolf-like description or behaviour. I think the 100 deaths were the work of a serial killer, which in more superstitious times would be attributed to animals or demons. So I’m going with mass-murdering human with some poor beast killed as a scapegoat. That or a werewolf.

  7. Crag,
    I completely like your train of thought. A mass murderer is an interesting theory but I like how you hedge it with “or a werewolf”. I couldn’t agree more or maybe killer bunnies.

  8. The head reminds me of a rodent, with the long, thin muzzle and flat top, unlike wolves whose muzzle kinda sticks out of the rest of the head. The teeth don’t look like rat teeth, though. But, the body is wolf like, although it’s hard to see in your picture. Here’s another where I googled the species. http://www.bluelion.org/images/Andrewsarchusartforweb.jpg Apparently, they evolved into whales. I definitely don’t see the resemblance there. And why evolve into the sea when you’re king of the land? mosasaurs evolved from a small lizard who could only run to the sea to get away from the dinosaurs.

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