The Mysterious Beast of Gevaudan

The Gevaudan monster that terrified 18th century France
The Gevaudan Monster in a contemporary drawing. Creative Commons image

In late 1764, reports emerged from the French provincial area of Gevaudan that a monstrous animal was terrorising villages and killing people.

 The monster was described as being much bigger than a wolf, with taloned feet and very sharp teeth. The teeth were strong enough and sharp enough that the creature was able to decapitate some of its victims.

At the time, some suggested that it was a panther that had escaped from a private menagerie, as the creature hunted like a big cat, approaching its victims low to the ground before leaping up and biting the throat of its prey.

The stories of the creature were very common, and widely reported – there seemed to be no doubt that it existed. The Gevaudan area was known for its wolves, and over 100 were killed in the few years the Gevaudan monster prowled. Witnesses who saw the creature said it could be a wolf, as it was too large and did not hunt the way wolves do. It was also much faster than a wolf when it ran.

For 3 years, newspaper reports  about the creature fascinated readers all over Europe, and despite several claims that it had been killed (all of those claims turned out to just be large wolves), but after 1767, there seemed to be no further reports.

There were later reports (decades later)  saying the creature had been shot and then dissected by a surgeon, who said it had more in common with a hyaena, but there is no contemporary evidence for this, and the feeling is that the creature just died.