The Beast of Veyreau….another cannibal killer!

One more man eating monster to terrorise the local peasants of France was the “Bête de Veyreau”. At a time and in a place both relatively close to the Beast of Gevaudan, his bloodsoaked career peaked from 1799 onwards as he laid waste to an area of France called the “Causse Noir” or “Black Causse”. This beautiful countryside is situated more or less in the south of the Massif Central. Here is the old province of Rouergue, whose capital was Rodez:

rourgue

And this is a more detailed map, with a red square in the extreme east representing the village of Veyreau. The orange arrow refused to travel abroad:

map square

The province directly to the east of the green area is Gévaudan. The “Causse Noir” or “Black Causse” is dry, rugged and rocky.

1280px-Causse_Noir

There are many mountainous areas and some notable gorges such as the “Gorges de la Jonte”:

gorges de la jonte

Normally, the best approach for these French monsters is to take an average of the various French websites. In this case however, that is not really going to work, because, as far as I can see, more or less every account of this creature is virtually the same, and probably owes a great deal to Wikipedia:

“The Beast of Veyreau was a man eating animal which ravaged an area in the “Causse Noir” not too far from Gevaudan, from 1799 onwards.  This was an area where livestock were raised and is nowadays part of the Département of Aveyron. These attacks filled the inhabitants with such immense fear, and the Beast had so many “dozens of victims”, that the locals thought the Beast of Gévaudan had come to their region.”

I have been able to find one person who could expand a little on that:

“around the year 1799, there appeared in the country a beast which filled all the inhabitants with great fear. Its build was slimmer and more willowy than a wolf. Its way of walking had such agility that it was seen first in one place, but then four or five minutes later in a different place perhaps several miles away. And woe betide any child that might meet the creature. The Beast would carry them off and eat them , first the liver and then the limbs. In the space of six months this beast killed three victims including a boy of six whose limbs they found hidden in the earth in the Malbouche Ravine, in the very same place which was, people used to say, the haunt of the ogre.”

Mention of “The Ogre” will lead me neatly to another blogpost in the future, when this long series of familiar crazed creatures, blood soaked beasts, maniacal monsters, feral dogs, wolf-dog hybrids, wolves with attitude or whatever nasty four legged beast you can imagine, becomes just for a few hundred words, a two legged cannibal killer, with the supercool name of Jean Grin.

To get back to the story, this is the tiny village of Veyreau:

Veyreau_aerien1

The very best version of the story of the “Bête de Veyreau” comes from a website designed to “découvrir et aimer la Lozère”, in other words to “discover and love La Lozère”, which is one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas of the “Causse Noir”. The account of the Beast below is quoted directly from the parish records of the village of Veyreau, which were collected together in 1870 by the then parish priest, Père Casimir Fages. The road sign  below shows that two languages were/are spoken in this southern part of France. “Veirau” is the village name in Occitan. Try the Wikipedia website to read about this ancient language. You will find a really interesting use of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been translated into a number of widely spoken languages but then into a good number of others such as Occitan, Gascon, Provençal and half a dozen others. At the very least, it has a wonderful moving map which you can click to enlarge:

veyreau_entree_panneau

As was so often the case in old France, the parish priest was the only literate person in the immediate area, and it was for him to record the history of tiny villages such as Veyreau. Père Fages’ church is still there:

eglise-de-veyreau-e1380921126557

The hard work for this website has all been done by an extremely dedicated gentleman, Monsieur Bernard Soulier. Bernard is the President of the Association “In the country of the Beast of Gévaudan”, in French,  “Au pays de la Bête du Gévaudan”. This organisation is based in Auvers, a small village in the Haute Loire district.

.
Here is Père Fages’ story:

“Around the year 1799, there appeared in the country, especially around the village of Paliès, a beast that filled all the people immense fear; its size was slimmer than a wolf ; Its way of walking had such agility that it was seen in one place, and four or five minutes later it was seen in another place perhaps a league away. It had the head and muzzle of a large greyhound ; it used to come into villages in broad daylight, and woe betide any child that might meet the creature, the Beast would carry them off and eat them, first the liver and then the limbs. One summer’s day, the Beast appeared at Paliès. Children spied it from a long distance away and ran to take refuge in a tree close to a house on the northern side of the village; faster than lightning, the Beast seized one of the children, who was already two metres off the ground and carried him off into Madasse Wood. Men shearing the sheep of a local farmer, including the father of the unfortunate child, ran at top speed to the place where the Beast had gone. The noise that they made caused the Beast to abandon the little boy who was found shaking on the ground with his insides ripped out! Seeing his father looking for him, he did, however, have the strength, to shout “I’m here”, but he died a few moments later. This child aged six, was called Pierre-Jean Mauri; in the register Monsieur Arnal who carried out the baptism ceremonies in 1794 when the child was fifteen months old, has added to the margin of that register, “Devoured by the ferocious Beast”.
Fifteen days later, the Beast took a child from the farm of Graille at Rougerie. In company with his older brother, he was keeping watch over the cattle close to the natural spring of St. Martin; the elder brother tried hard to help his brother, but when the beast stood up on its hind legs, he was so frightened that he fled and went for help at Veyreau ; it was a Sunday, a large crowd came to help, and searching the Malbouche property, they found the remains of limbs that the Beast had hidden in the earth. This same beast also seized a little girl named Julien who lived in Bourjoie ; her father was busy knocking nuts down from the trees; the small children were close to the tree, and the Beast, in full view of the father, seized the little girl; the father set off after her, but he could not catch her up, and a few days later, she was found buried in the undergrowth; her liver had been eaten.
These different characteristics of the Beast filled the people of Veyreau and St André with justified fear; several people saw the Beast which accompanied them, gambolling along, jumping about, but not daring to attack adults; One day in bright sunshine, the Beast walked through the village of St André, and stopped outside the door of a weaver’s house; they took it for a dog, and at the very moment when they were going to stroke it, it disappeared in  a flash. Monsieur Gaillard, the parish priest of St André, with whom I have discussed this extraordinary animal, assured me that he had heard it one evening in a small field below the duck pond, emitting howls like the braying of a donkey, something which was confirmed by several other people:

howl

All the local poachers met to hunt the creature, but when they encountered the Beast, they said that sometimes, especially when it was being shot at, the creature rolled around on the ground but then disappeared with enormous speed. The people who were children during this era, agree how great was the terror that it produced throughout the whole region of the “Black Causse”. Never attacking men or animals, because we had seen it pass through the middle of herds of cattle and flocks of sheep without doing them any harm, the Beast targeted only children. In the course of this year, from June to December, two boys and a girl were the sad victims of its ferocity; nobody dared walk outside on their own at night, and by day everyone carried a halberd at the end of a stick to defend themselves, in case they met the creature:

halberd

What was this Beast? It could not be classified as one of the known animals in the area; Monsieur Caussignac claimed that it was a hyena; Monsieur Gaillard, the village priest of St. André, thought it was a lynx, and the common people gave it the name of “Werewolf”, in French “Loup garou”:

loup-garou-1
After some six months or a year, the creature disappeared without anybody knowing what had happened to it. About the same time, a similar beast was seen in the Sanvero woods near the village of Cornus in the Aveyron province; it almost managed eat a little girl that I was to know twenty-five years later; she was near her home in the village of Labadie, in the parish of St Rome Berlières ; her brother, older than her, rushed to her defence and grabbed her from the creature, he dragged her into the house ; through the cracks  in the closed door they could see the Beast watching and waiting for some time for the prey which had escaped, only by the skin of her teeth. Indeed, a bite from the creature had taken a considerable piece of skin from her side; this scar was never to fade throughout the rest of her life:

werewolf
Whatever this animal was, its appearance had an enormous impact throughout the whole area of the Black Causse. Uneducated people saw in the Beast something supernatural, especially after all the upheavals and ordeals of the recent Revolution.”

And there you have it. Yet another wolf that seems to be not quite a wolf. At the moment, I am favouring the idea that up until about two hundred years or so ago, there was a second, much fiercer and larger species of wolf living in the remote and most mountainous areas of France, some prehistoric survivor that had lingered on until the nineteenth century in ever diminishing numbers, until, after tens of thousands of years, it finally became extinct. I cannot believe that the locals were incapable of recognising an ordinary wolf when they saw one. I cannot believe either that wolves were hybridising with dogs across the whole of France to produce killer hybrids. Wolves don’t have steamy affairs with dogs. They eat them!

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13 Comments

Filed under Cryptozoology, France, History, Science, Uncategorized, Wildlife and Nature

13 responses to “The Beast of Veyreau….another cannibal killer!

  1. Too bad they didn’t have DNA testing back then!

  2. Have the French Tourist Board heard about you? I am sure they would pay you to stop publishing these monster scare stories!

    • It’s pretty much on the contrary actually. If you go to the French Google, “www.google.fr” and insert the phrase “tourisme bête de Gévaudan” you will see just how much cash this monster generates nowadays. Apparently, they even mark all their regional footpaths with the purple paw print of the Beast. Presumably people enjoy the fear of a beast which hasn’t been seen since 1767.

  3. atcDave

    The wolf/dog hybrid theory may have some legs. I live in Michigan where it is a major concern; wolves WILL bread with larger dogs given the opportunity. In some circles the wolf/dog hybrid is an appealing animal, with some of the size and strength of the wolf and the trainability of a dog.
    But these things are actually illegal to own because they typically get too much temper and unpredictability from the wolf side while loosing some of the natural fear of man.
    They have been known to lead packs of dogs that WILL attack and kill humans, especially children. Scary stuff.

    The biggest problem I have with this theory is just that such hybrids don’t normally stand out as that odd. They may favor wolf or dog; so most viewers would just identify them as a wolf or dog. In the part of France we’re looking at I would think large, wolf-like dogs like Alsatians would be common enough that a hybrid would not be that interesting to look at. But then there was at least one account of someone getting within arms reach thinking it WAS a dog, so perhaps that’s exactly what it is?

    My questions would be; do dogs or wolves bury their prey? Or is there any other evidence in the natural world to support a more crypto-zoological answer (unidentified prints/scat/kills)?

    As GP Cox mentions above its a shame there’s nothing to do DNA testing on.

    • Thank you so much for this comment. It contains a lot of information which nobody seems ever to have pointed out, especially the fact that wolf-dog hybrids may lead packs of wild dogs to attack and kill humans. Certainly the mixture of wolf and dog takes place the other way round: those black wolves you see in ordinary wolf packs have been considered the descendants of the domestic dogs which used to live with the Native Americans. They would have been closer to their wolf ancestors presumably.
      As far as I know there was no scat or hairs ever found from the Beast of Gévaudan, at least. On one occasion, though, they did find what the hunters were happy were its paw prints. I have them in a book, and they look to me (no expert at all) to be the same as a wolf but much bigger. The front foot of an Italian wolf is measured at 10cm x 8 cm and the Beast as 16.2cm x 12.2. They also have the print of a 120lb dog which is 8cm x 7cm. The dog is nothing like the two others, being very round and quite a bit wider.
      My own belief is that these creatures were an unknown wolf-type creature from the past. The peasants all said that it was “a wolf but not a wolf”, and that would explain it for me. It must have been, in my opinion, considerably more obvious than the wolf-dog hybrids that turn up in Google images, none of which are really hyper-distinctive. A lot of modern writers do think that the beasts were hybrids…possibly of wolves and the various huge mastiffs that were bred to fight bulls and bears in the Europe of that time.
      The Beast never came back to its prey. Many hunters repeatedly left the various bits of the half eaten corpses in situ, but injected them with strychnine. It was completely unsuccessful. The Beast didn’t bury ever the corpses either, but sometimes would take away just the head or an arm. Many writers think that this was a result of the Beast trying to pull the whole body into the trees to eat in peace but then it just fell to pieces.
      Again, thank you so much for your interest. I hope I have answered your questions.

  4. Is there no end to these wild beasts! The French must be living In fear! As. A side note, it’s a shame the little arrow never found its way in! It’s become a ‘trade mark’.

    • Strangely enough, there were lots and lots of wild beasts between, say, 1500-1850. Most were thought to be wolves, or something like wolves. Other countries had their own beast, such as the “Bête de Milan” and a number of others in Italy and Portugal. They have now been replaced with mysterious big cat type animals in the present century, all of which, even the “Tigre de Paris”, just want to run away from man and limit themselves to slaughtering livestock. These animals seem to be widespread particularly in eastern France and western Switzerland.
      The maps I used were all French, hence the lack of the orange arrow. But don’t worry, he will be back!

  5. Pingback: Jean Grin, not a nice man | John Knifton

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