The Beast of Primarette is not really a top drawer Premier League monster, so the first port of call will have to be the French version of Wikipedia. Here is my own translation:
“The “Beast of Primarette” was a man eating animal responsible for a series of attacks on humans in the vicinity of the village of Primarette in the south east of France. The first attack took place in the spring of 1747. Between then and the end of the winter in 1752, seven victims were identified in the parish registers.”
Primarette is a tiny village in south eastern France. On this map, it is represented by a red dot. The orange arrow is on holiday, but not in France:
In 1747, François Malarin, the village priest of Primarette, reported the very violent death of a little boy in his parish :
“In the year 1747 and on the 23rd of May, the Tuesday of Whitsuntide, during the service of Vespers, a carnivorous wolf (loup carnassier) seized the child of François Malarin from the door of their house in the presence of his mother. She was unable to snatch the child back from the animal’s teeth. Several people returning from Vespers heard the story of this misfortune and ran into the woods, following the trail of blood left behind by the child. They found some of his limbs scattered on the ground including the head, the arms, an upper leg and a foot. These body parts were all buried in the presence of Michel and Gabriel Perrochat, father and son, Antoine Jeury, Jean Bassat, Claude Berthier and several other people who had rushed to see this sad sight. The child, aged around seven years and one month old, was the legitimate son of François Malarin from Espagnoux and Fleurice Petit. Whereof I have signed, not the witnesses, who do not know how to write.
Favre the Priest.
An “x” is appended by Michel Malarin as a supplementary act.”
A sketch is in existence:
This beast, most un-wolf-like in its behaviour, was later to claim several more victims, and the priest reported later that year the level of emotion aroused by these incidents. In the Parish Register of 1747 he wrote therefore:
“There have been this year a large crop of acorns, and carnivorous wolves have eaten three children in Primarette. It is believed that they were most probably lynxes and the common people believe that they are werewolves. Until the priests give the peasants permission to carry out hunts armed with pairs of spectacles, nothing will be able to cure their stupid credulity.”
Below is the original parish register entry, in French, of the paragraph translated above. See if you can pick out any words, such as “loups”, “carnassiers”, “loups garous” or any other words. I can’t imagine any reader would be expecting to manage to read French written by long dead Favre the Priest in 1747. Nor indeed, would he be expecting anybody to still be reading his words in 2015:
Here is a werewolf, a “loup garou” filmed by a trailcam in Wisconsin:
The last victim within the bounds of the parish of Primarette was found in 1752, but nobody was ever able to identify the animal responsible for all these attacks.
Here is a very large wolf. It will calm you down after the werewolf. This animal was filmed by a trailcam in northern Scotland:
Here is a list of the poor victims:
May 23rd 1747 Michel Malarin, 7 years of age
June 1st 1747 Joseph Fournier, 13 years of age
October 24th 1747 Mathieu Roux, 5 years of age
October 11th 1748 Benoite Pichon, 2 years of age
January 23rd 1749 Marie Peiron, 6 years of age
May 14th 1751 Jeanne Fervonat, years of age
February 19th 1752 Marianne Boindrieux, 3 years of age
Another French website suggests that mention of the huge number of acorns, and the presence of man eating wolves may be connected in the minds of the locals at Primarette. Perhaps they had some kind of superstition about this.
It is unfortunate that no description of the beast seems to have survived, although I would continue to argue that if the locals in this area thought that all the deaths in the area were caused by lynxes or werewolves, then that in itself lends credence to the idea that it was no ordinary wolf, an animal with which they would have been only too familiar. Favre the Priest tried hard to give people in the distant future some idea, adding little sketches to the side of his manuscript:
Here is a pair of wolf’s heads:
I have enlarged some of the sketches. Again, you may be able to read some of Favre the Priest’s words:
Here is a second head, with the name “Marianne Boindrieux”:
See if you can see the signature of Favre the Priest (“curé”):
This cryptid did not behave like an ordinary wolf. A wolf does not attack people at their front door. I’m not sure either, that a wolf would run off, dismembering its victim, and scattering body parts around, almost in sheer glee. And why did the same individual wolf remain in this area from May 23rd 1747 to February 19th 1752? Or was it a number of individuals from a local population, all with the same deviant behaviour? Members of a different species, in fact? “Like a wolf, but not a wolf.”
In so many cases like this, the original French text calls the animals “loups carnassiers”. “Carnassiers” means “carnivorous” or “predatory”. Why do they keep appending this epithet to the word “loup”?
And how on earth can this continuing series of creatures continue to be explained away either by the nefarious activities of Jean Chastel and his sons, or the accidental interbreeding of wolf and dog? It has become a truism nowadays to say that “wolves don’t interbreed with dogs. They eat them.”
And what happened to the Beast of Primarette after 1752? Did it take early retirement?
One more monster to terrorise the local peasantry of bygone France was the so called “Bête de Cinglais” which was also called the “Bête d’Evreux”. Its bloodstained career lasted from 1632–1633, as it terrorised the province of Normandy, bringing violent death to one of the most beautiful areas of a beautiful country. Indeed, there is a sharp contrast here with the wild mountains frequented by so many other of the monsters we have read about. Here is a map of northern France:
And here is a bit more of a close-up. The green UFO marks the precise location:
As always, the best approach is to take an average of the various French websites. The “Virtual Institute of Cryptozoology”, the “Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie”, states that:
“In 1632, about fifteen kilometres to the south of Caen, in the Forest of Cinglais, an animal carried out a reign of terror. Those who survived its attacks described it as a kind of huge mastiff of extraordinary agility and speed. Two historical documents mention the mysterious beast: the “Gazette de France” of March 19th 1632 and the edition of June 17th 1633. The edition of 1632 announces that the predator has already devoured around fifteen people in a month.
Forest rangers have shot at it with their muskets but are unable to cause any injury. The priests are trying to mobilize the inhabitants of the neighbouring parishes but the population is so traumatised that very few volunteers dare to take part in the hunts. The hunters themselves do not want to venture into the woods unless they are in a large group. The 1633 edition of the newspaper announces the killing of an animal at the end of a massive hunt lasting three days, organised by the Count de la Suze, with the participation of between 5,000-6,000 hunters and beaters. The Beast of Cinglais looks like a kind of wolf, but is longer, and more red in colour with a more pointed tail and a wider rump than an ordinary wolf. At least thirty people have now been killed.”
This, conceivably, may be a depiction of the creature:
Interestingly enough, there was a further series of attacks only some fifteen years later in the Forest of Fontainebleau. This is a very similar area to the Forest of Cinglais and is not particularly far away at all:
“In 1679, woodcutters were killed and eaten in the Forest of Fontainebleau. Records in the parish of Bois-le-Roi mention several cases of attacks.”
A website which specialises in the ghostly aspects of the beautiful Forest of Fontainebleau also carries a few tales of ancient beasts thought to live there:
“There used to exist around the beginning of the sixteenth century a fabulous animal that spread terror in the Forest of Fontainebleau and its surroundings. All indications are that it was a wolf, but some cried “Werewolf”, or tried to blame a magician who was said to be an expert in the art of shape shifting.”
“And then, around 1660, long before the famous Beast of Gévaudan, there was already talk around this area of the Bête du Gâtinais, the Beast of Gâtinais, a frightful creature which looked like a monstrous wolf. His greatly exaggerated exploits, murdering children and young girls, used to feed people’s fears. Such stories caused many sleepless nights. It was even said that the Beast used to cross the River Seine to come and steal little children and animals on the far side.”
Even in fairly modern times:
“Towards the end of the nineteenth century, an old woman recounted the story of a great evil beast which lived in the forest and which came out from time to time to attack farm labourers, shepherds and flocks of sheep. The monster had to its credit a whole multitude of atrocities, dead sheep, dogs killed and children who just disappeared. The little girl who set off to gather hazelnuts in the woods, and was never seen again. The young nine year old boy devoured near the village of Nanteuil les Meaux”
“It is quite possible that these three stories all refer to the same species of animal, described at different times in history….With evidence of this type, spread over long periods of time….it is not easy to make sense of things, to separate the mythical and imaginary monster from a mere animal.”
That “mere animal”, of course, is the wolf, considered in the France of bygone years to be guilty of far more serious attacks on humans than, say, the wolves of present day North America or Europe. This is the location of Fontainebleau. Compare this map with the maps for the Beast of Caen/Evreaux/Cinglais”:
As far as Fontainebleau during the first half of the sixteenth century is concerned, there were certainly many people who thought that nobody should ever go down to the woods. If they did, they would certainly be sure of a really big surprise, one with lots of a fangs and an aggressive attitude that needed quite a lot of adjustment. And yes, there were lots of marvellous things to eat, (in a way) but it was better not to go alone. It’s really lovely down in the woods, but perhaps it is safer to stay at home:
“In the reign of King François the First, during the first half of the sixteenth century, a certain Sebastian Rabutin was to rid the country of a terrible lynx which was just as murderous as any of our previous beasts. It too was devastating the same region, devouring in turn both young girls and children. This monster, which appears in a fresco in the ballroom of the Château de Fontainebleau where it is depicted as some kind of hybrid between a wolf and a feline, was so formidable that no one dared confront it . For the record, the “loup-cervier”, in Latin “lupus cervarius”, which means deer wolf, is the common name of the Lynx, a big cat which hunts hares or rabbits, but never deer or men.”
I have not been able to trace the fresco in the ballroom of the château, but there is quite a lot to go at:
“At Chartres, in 1581, a young boy was buried at Ver-les-Chartres, killed by a “wild beast”, “une beste sauvage” whose identity we are not at all sure of.”
If this were not a wolf, and a wolf would surely have been recognised, then it may well have been one of the mysterious beasts we have been examining.
But let’s just forget this supporting cast for the moment. Let’s return to “La Bête de Cinglais”. Another interesting blogpost about this fearsome creature comes from Evelyne Achon:
“The Forest of Cinglais is about 15 kilometres to the south of Caen. The “Beast of Cinglais” is also called “The Beast of Evreux” or “The Beast of Caen”. It refers to a man eating animal behind a series of attacks on humans.
The first attack was mentioned in 1632. These attacks are known through articles in contemporary newspaper. The Gazette de France therefore reported on March 19, 1632:
“News from Caen in Normandy. The 10th of March in the year 1632. Since last month in the forest of Cinglais, and then between there and Falaise, people have seen a wild beast that has already devoured fifteen people. Those who have avoided his fangs report that this savage beast is similar to a large mastiff of such a speed that it would be impossible to run and catch him on foot. He is of such extraordinary agility that people have seen him jump right over the river in certain places. Some people call him Thérende. Local residents and forest gamekeepers have shot at him from range with their arquebuses on several occasions, but without wounding him. They do not dare approach him, or even to reveal themselves, until they are organised in a large group, exactly as they will be today when they hear the sound of the alarm bell, to which all the parishioners from all the parishes around have been invited by their village priests, as three thousand people are assembled to carry out the hunt. “
A gigantic beat was organized in June 1633, with the participation of between 5,000 and 6,000 men. An animal was killed, and the attacks ceased.
Here is an old engraving of the Beast. Spaghetti for lunch:
The Gazette de France reported on June 17th the death of the creature as follows:
“This raging mad beast which I wrote about last year as having eaten in two months more than thirty people in this forest was believed by everybody to be a creature of magical properties. But the Count de la Suze, having assembled by the order of our Lieutenant General on the 21st of this month between 5000 to 6000 people, has pursued the creature so keenly that after three days it was killed by a shot from a flintlock musket. It turned out to be some kind of wolf but longer, redder in colour with a pointed tail and a rump wider than normal. “
Here is the Forest of Cinglais:
Wikipedia supplies a little information, but seems, perhaps, rather coy:
“This beast was identified as a wolf, but a mystery still remains. It was described as a kind of red wolf with an elongated body and a more pointed tail than a common wolf. It seemed very quick and agile.”
“In 1632, this Beast killed fifteen victims in only one month. It struck in Normandy, where those who escaped described it as a great extremely fast and agile mastiff. It then settled in the Forest of Cinglais, about fifteen kilometres south of Caen. It then killed a dozen or so victims before they organized a hunt that lasted three days and brought together more than 5000 people. It was killed on June 23, 1633 by the Count de la Suze.”
“It will eventually be described as a wolf, but a great mystery still hangs around this story ; the behaviour and the agility of the creature are in no way anything like that of a wolf.”
In the fullness of time, I will finish this almost interminable list of “Monsters of France” and draw them all together as the same unknown species. This particular creature is a good example. The Forest of Cinglais, the Forest of Fontainebleau and the charming countryside around Orléans are all pretty much the same kind of environment. The looks and behaviour of these beasts are not unique. Other localities have had strange reddish animals, animals with noticeable tails, animals with extreme agility or with great speed or an ability to leap long distances. There must be a link between them all.
I am very struck by the words of Abbé Pierre Pourcher about the Beast of Gévaudan:
“Everybody who saw it said it was not a wolf. Everybody who did not see it said it was.”
The Beast of the Vosges is a fairly recent monster to rampage through the French countryside and it has a very different flavour from the Beast of Gévaudan, the Beast of the Cevennes, the Beast of Trucy or the Beast of Sarlat. Its victims, for example, were not human beings but rather livestock, much like the modern monsters of the USA such as the Grassman of Perry County, Ohio or the Devil Dog of Logan County, West Virginia.
And there were more than just one Beasts of the Vosges. The first struck between 1975-1977 and the second reared his enraged, ugly head from 1994-1995. And then a third Beast appeared as recently as 2011.
But first, some geography. The Vosges are in the east of France:
They are mountains which are much lower than the Alps and they do not have the same snow capped peaks. They are more rounded, with conifers and moorland:
While not a top tourist destination, the Vosges are famous for their savoury cuisine and their beers, both of which look towards Germany and the east for inspiration.
For the Beast, once again, I will look at a number of French cryptozoological websites and you can take your own average between them. “Vampire Dark News” says:
“The “Beast of the Vosges” is one of the favourite topics of discussion for residents of the local cafés. Everyone remembers the ravages of this strange creature from 1977 to 1988.(these dates differ from other sources). It killed more than 300 animals, between Epinal and Bresse (an area of over 150 square kilometres). Poultry houses were attacked, horses were injured, at least 200 sheep were slaughtered … but there were no attacks against human beings.
The animal would disappear only to reappear later and begin its misdeeds all over again. Was it a wolf? A rabid dog? Several stray dogs? An animal trained to kill? The mystery was never solved because nobody ever managed to get a really good look at the beast, neither hunters nor the police nor the military despite 26 hunts being organized to kill it. The Beast was able to avoid all the ambushes and all the traps. Shot at several times from fairly closely range, the animal was never wounded or identified. The only conclusion was that it was some sort of canid. And because of this, stray dogs were killed everywhere.
And then in 1994, a she-wolf that attacked flocks of sheep was saddled with the nickname of the “Beast of the Vosges”.
It was filmed by an amateur and was active for several months before being found dead in 1995. Protected by a Decree of the Ministry of the Environment, the protected animal could not be hunted, at least officially. But who buried the remains which were found in early 1995?
The name of the Beast of the Vosges was later given to a type of lager produced in the Vosges area.”
In December 1975, at Rambervillers, forest workers noticed footprints of a carnivore that they could not identify. In March 1976 , in Domèvre-sur-Durbion, seven cattle and a number of sheep were found slaughtered. A few days later, cattle were the victims at Moriville and sheep at Hadigny-les-Verrières. They accused the Beast of attacks on poultry sheds, of injuring horses and of slaughtering at least two hundred sheep. No attack though was made against human beings After a final attack on sheep on June 2, 1976 , nothing more was heard of the animal.
A few years later, in 1994 , a female wolf was given the nickname of the “Beast of the Vosges”. For several months it maintained its attacks on flocks of sheep, before its remains were found on May 19th 1995 .
In 2011, after an absence of some 17 years, the Beast again attacked flocks of sheep in the Vosges in the village of Ventron; forty sheep were found dead in less than a month.”
“It all begins with a report on February 6th 1977 when Lucien Baret, a Federal Guard, is the witness as the beast stalks a roe deer in the woods at Rambervillier. It is some kind of enormous wolf-dog which hunts in the open without making the least noise. And then in less than ten months, not far short of 62 sheep, two lambs and a bullock weighing 300 kg have their throats cut out, and more than a dozen cattle are attacked.
What seemed at first sight to be a mere footnote in a newspaper, just mentioning feral dogs, now becomes transformed into an affair with a monster where everybody has their very own something to contribute. First of all the talk is of a wolf or a dog or a lynx. And then suspicion turns to human beings. Fingers are pointed at certain people, but the favourite is Herr Reinartz, the owner of a vast estate which partially covers sections of a more ancient hunting ground, the most frequently hunted area in the region. Furthermore this German industrialist is not particularly lucky because he has a name very like that of a Nazi colonel, Colonel Reinardt, who committed atrocities in the region during the Second World War, only thirty years previously. This is a similarity which fans the flames of old hatreds. Present day Monsieur Reinartz fears for his life. Has he imported a couple of wolves to guard his estate, but then they have escaped, as certain people claim? Certainly not. A wolf only attacks in certain conditions and these were not fulfilled here. The estate of Monsieur Reinartz being a hunting ground, the wolves would have had more than enough to eat without having to go beyond their enclosures in search of what they already had in their cage. A large cage covering several hectares but a cage nevertheless.
And against all expectations, the press goes wild. The German industrialist is attacked. Abuse is heaped upon him. He is insulted on the front page of certain newspapers. The affair goes to court. Had he been of another nationality, things would probably not have degenerated in this way. None of this, though, stopped flocks of sheep being ripped to pieces by the teeth of the beast:
And then one day, roughly one year later, everything just stops. No more massacres, no more animals to put out of their misery in the first light of morning. As mysteriously as it appeared, the Beast of the Vosges disappears. It flies away. All of this, of course, without anybody really understanding at all why. But after its disappearance, the Beast leaves lots of unanswered questions, and even 32 years later, tongues will not be loosened. There are a few clues perhaps, and doubtless some details are completely true, but the people who know, or who think they know, just add to the legend. One can well imagine what will have been written about this Beast in 210 years’ time when other people look at this business, in exactly the same way that we nowadays look back at the Beast of Gévaudan. How many arguments there will be in future generations between all the different viewpoints !
It is impossible not to see in this business numerous similarities with the Beast of Gévaudan. The same black magic seems to protect the animal which escapes through the fingers of the hunters on every single occasion . Beats are organised, but with only the same effectiveness of those of Duhamel in 1765, despite the fact they are now carried out with methods which the eighteenth century could not possibly have imagined. One day the Beast of the Vosges manages to escape its pursuers because one of the hunters is not at his post. A strange reminder of the indignation felt by the noblemen at Malzieu in 1765 when the Beast of Gévaudan was similarly allowed to escape its pursuers because a guard was not in the correct place. And as one thing leads to another, people realise that this affair is not, in actual fact, very different from that of the Beast of Gévaudan. There are no human victims to pity, of course, but the chain of events is a mechanism which remains essentially the same for both affairs: first of all, people want to put things into perspective: it’s just a wolf. Everything will soon be taken care of. Then, as the Beast evades beats, traps and poisons, it becomes a tool of vengeance. In the Gévaudan of the eighteenth century the Bishop of Choiseul Beaupré sees the Beast as the avenging arm of God. In 1977, in the Vosges, it soon turns into a dog, radio controlled from some distance. But nobody will say a word about it. Nobody?”
(My own translation)
This same website, and many others, contain the only three known photographs of the Beast of the Vosges. They prove it, apparently, to have been a canid of some sort, but not definitely a wolf. The account concludes with:
“always this question comes to everyone’s lips: the Beast, what was it? I asked Daniel Jumentier, who was present when the photos were taken, and he himself saw the Beast from afar
The animal was probably a wolf dog cross, first or second generation, weighing at least sixty pounds.
It was released to attack herds and flocks to hurt their owners. Vengance between men, but through the intermediary of animals. We can see two periods in the attacks: at first the Beast is confined to attacks on the plain, but then goes beyond La Bresse (a mountainous area) where it then goes wild. According to Daniel, one reason for this fit of madness: the loss of its master.”
And of course, unless somebody suddenly decides to speak up and reveal some hitherto hidden secret about this creature, we have reached the end of our investigation. Here some films to keep you going. The ancient ones date back as far as 1977, when Mankind’s existence was only occasionally slipping into colour:
And here is the second:
And this one shows that even a third comeback is not necessarily excessive:
There will be no more Beasts of the Vosges though. The Grey Wolf has now officially returned to the Vosges Mountains, thanks to the conservation efforts of a number of countries in the European Union, including Spain, Italy and Germany. Indeed, the Beast in 2011 was most probably one of the first two wolves who arrived in the Vosges that very year. “Smile, you’re on Trailcam!”:
From 1809-1817, the Beast of the Cévennes, the Beast of the Gard or the Beast of Vivarais,(a creature which obviously ranged far and wide) was just one more in the long, long series of creatures, beasts, monsters, feral or hybrid dogs, wolves with completely atypical behaviour or sexual psychopath serial killers who have ravaged different areas of France from around 1550 until the present day. Here is the Cévennes region:
Here is the Vivarais area, in red, in the centre:
And here is the Gard area, famous for the Pont du Gard. Again, it is in red:
Once again, I have looked at a number of French cryptozoological websites and you can take your own average between them. “Vampire Dark News” provides a solid, simple introduction to the latest killer:
“This particular creature spread panic in a vast region comprising Lozère, the Grand Gard and the Ardèche from 1809-1817. It killed, however, comparatively few victims compared to the eight long years when it was active. There were only 29 victims, almost exclusively women and children, six of whom were decapitated. On the other hand, the monster was brave enough to venture into the very houses where people lived. Their descriptions said that the beast was a wolf the size of a donkey with brown fur, a black mane and large udders. Perhaps it was an animal which had escaped from a circus. This creature was never killed.”
(My own translation)
How many wolves fit that description? A black mane? The size of a donkey? Large udders?
« The Journal du Gard on Octobre 21st 1809 announced the attacks by this animal in these terms :
« In just a few days, a ferocious animal has spread terror in the region of the Gard. Just like the Beast of Gévaudan of days long past (1764-1767), the Beast of the Cévennes is ravaging this part of the “country.”
Wikipédia then goes on to say:
“The Beast killed 29 people, including 19 children, but the list might actually be longer, because the Death Certificates do not always mention the reason for the death. A child called François Marcy, seven years old, was devoured on September 8th 1812 next to his house. Augustin Colomb, aged eight, was carried off on January 9th 1813. Only his head was ever found. In the middle of October, little Rose Henriette Dumas, aged seven, was devoured in the woods. The attacks went on from 1809-1816, and the audacity of the creature recalls the famous affair of the Beast of Gévaudan. A woman of 34 was attacked just coming out of the church and the beast even attacked villagers inside their own houses. The rumour was current that it had even eaten the hands of a child who was being rocked in his cradle. Despite numerous beats and traps set by the people of the different villages the creature remained uncatchable. The attacks came to a final end in 1816 but the affair was never cleared up. It is unknown if this animal was killed during a beat, whether it changed its area of operation or if it was a question of crimes which had been carried out by human beings but were then disguised as being the work of a monster.
Several theories are offered about the origin of this aggressive animal. According to certain people it was a female wolf from Spain even though its behaviour did not resemble that of a wolf in any way whatsoever. The pins in the clothing of certain of his female victims had been removed (hardly the behaviour of a wolf) and six corpses were found decapitated, their necks seemingly having been cut by a blade. The very act of decapitation, of course, is not one which is done deliberately by any animal.
Mont Lozère seems to have been the epicentre of the whole business and had already experienced widespread attacks by wolves in the seventeenth century.
The descriptions which were given by witnesses at the time are extremely variable. Some people talk of an immense wolf, the size of a donkey with a mane and a coat of brown or red fur. Other witnesses describe a creature, or a wolf, the size of a calf, with a grey and red coat. In the majority of the descriptions, the witnesses agree on the presence of a huge belly covered in white fur which almost dragged on the ground. The beast had large ears, a long muzzle and a thick, heavy, tail.”
(My own translation)
What animal was this? An immense wolf, the size of a donkey with a mane and a coat of brown or red fur? A wolf the size of a calf ? A huge belly covered in white fur almost dragging on the ground? A creature, or a wolf? This is beginning not to make any sense at all. The French peasants in this area, just like those in Gévaudan, all knew a wolf when they saw one. And white fur underneath its body means it cannot have been any species of wolf known today. And the Beast of Gévaudan explanation, based on crazed killers who used hybrid creatures to kill on their own perverted and vengeful behalf will only stretch so far. Indeed, the more I think about it, the more I am beginning to have my doubts even about Jean or Antoine Chastel and the rest of the local lunatics who were supposed to have masterminded the Gévaudan outrages.
“The Beast of Vivarais (or of Cévennes) killed many women and children between 1809 and 1817 within the departments of Lozère, Gard and Ardèche. The animal is described as having the form of a wolf, but with longer ears and black hair bristling over the entire length of its back. Another report, dating from 1813, speaks of a wolf the size of a calf, with grey and red fur, with a dangling belly covered in white fur with “roudeaux” (a word I have been unable to find in any dictionary, but they are tabby or tiger striped with white). The head and muzzle are long, the tail is long and sticks up at the end. The official number of victims is twenty-nine. However it is likely that the list is actually longer because Death Certificates do not necessarily mention the cause of death. In an article on the Beast of the Cevennes, Guy Crouzet details all of these killings, some of which say a great deal about the horror and helplessness of the local people in trying to overcome events which had left them completely out of their depth. And so near the village of Brahic: “was interred the body of François Marcy of Vénissac, seven years old, eaten by a wild beast on September 8th 1812, just a few steps from his home. Vézian, minister of the church.”
“ January 9th, 1813, the death of Augustine Columbus, aged eight. Devoured by a wolf, only the head was found. The boy was abducted on January 8th at five o’clock in the evening in the place called Beaujeu.”
On October 23rd 1813 at Saint-André-de-Cruzières, before the authorities there appeared: “Jacques Dumas, a farmer by profession, the uncle of the deceased, who lived in Chazelles and also Monsieur Graffand the Imperial Solicitor, who lived in Pierregras. They stated that Rose Henriette Dumas, seven years old, the daughter of Louis Dumas, a builder and Marie Maurin, from Chazelles has died from having been devoured in the woods by a ferocious wild beast yesterday, October 22nd, The remaining fragments of the deceased’s body were collected up, inspected carefully and then wrapped in the blood soaked skin of the little girl. They were recognized by her father Monsieur Dumas to be those of his late daughter Rose Henriette.”
Guy Crouzet also made a good point about Mont Lozère, which seems to have been the focus point of the Beast’s activities. Mont Lozère has already played host in the past to other monsters of the same type: in the seventeenth century, attacks by wolves on human beings were reported in the region of Saint-Julien-du-Tournel. And don’t forget that that the very first attacks by the Beast of Gévaudan were reported in Langogne, on the very edge of the Vivarais region. The Beast of Vivarais finally disappeared from the region in 1817, without ever being found. Perhaps it was killed during one of the many organized beats. Nobody knows.
(My own translation)
A wolf, but with longer ears and black hair bristling over the entire length of its back?? A wolf the size of a calf, with grey and red fur?? A dangling belly covered in white fur?? A tail that is long and sticks up at the end? For a wolf?
The “Midnight Forum” possibly isn’t quite the kind of website you might have expected, but it provides many of the details we have previously noted:
“The Beast of the Vivarais was also known as the Beast of the Cévennes or the Beast of the Gard, This monster killed 19 children. This creature first appeared in the regions of Ardèche and Gard in 1809. The descriptions of the monster vary widely. Some say it was a huge wolf the size of a donkey, with a thick mane and a coat of brown or red fur. Others said that the creature was completely black, or that it was a wolf the size of a calf with a grey and red coat. In most descriptions, however, witnesses spoke of a big belly covered in white fur, which hung almost to the ground. Many thought it was a she-wolf that could have come from Spain, even if the behaviour of the animal was in no way whatsoever like that of a wolf. It had big ears, with a long snout and a luxuriant tail.”
(My own translation)
This last one may well be a rehash of other accounts, but it is equally possible that it may be the firstborn account which all the others have rehashed.
Nobody could accept without question that this animal was an everyday, common or garden wolf. These French people two hundred years ago knew wolves.
From 1818-1829, supposedly 14,000 wolves were killed every single year in France. Even in 1889, around 500 wolves were trapped or shot nationally. The last wolf was killed as recently as 1937. It is, of course, a different question to explain exactly what the Beast of the Cévennes, the Beast of the Gard or the Beast of Vivarais may have been. And at this distance in time, it is not really very likely to happen. Having said that, I am working on it, even as we speak….
According to that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia….
“The « Bête de Sarlat » was a man-eating animal behind a series of attacks against human beings in the Périgord province of France. During the spring of 1766, a dozen or so fatal attacks were been recorded in the villages around Sarlat. The inhabitants of the region were filled with genuine panic, beginning to talk of a gigantic beast thirsting for human blood or even a werewolf. The creature managed around fifteen victims more, before in August 1766 the peasants and noblemen organised a beat together with more than a hundred rifles. During the course of this, the animal was flushed and killed. It was a wolf infected with rabies but the people did not readily accept this explanation and continued to talk of a werewolf.”
One website devoted primarily to the « Bête du Gévaudan » has a little to say about the « Bête de Sarlat » :
After all, the two areas are not a million miles apart in distance, although the two time periods clash, with the more famous Gévaudan monster killing its victims between the early summer of 1764 and June 19th, 1767 when a local man named Jean Chastel supposedly killed it during a hunt organized by a local nobleman.
“The Bête de Sarlat terrorised the Périgord province of France in the XVIIIth century. Its first appearance came in March 1766, when it carried out around ten killings in the surrounding area. The fear that the Beast caused can be imagined. It was from this time onwards that the myth of an enormous monster thirsting for human blood arose.
But in the month of August 1766, it was finally identified as a wolf suffering from rabies. The people did not really believe this explanation and it must be said that in the intervening time at least another eighteen more people were killed. The monster was seen absolutely everywhere, even in the dark backstreets of Sarlat. When the people’s fear and exasperation was at its height, the legend of the beast grew to such a point that the good people of the area no longer dared go out as soon as it got dark.
From this time onwards, both peasants and nobility came together with more than a hundred rifles and began a beat. The creature was found, pursued and shot. This death was confirmed by an assembly of a large number of happy eye-witnesses and seems to have taken away once and for all the justified fears of the local people. We know very well that the wolf with rabies and the man with rabies seem equally overcome with madness: frothing at the mouth, slavering and biting. They are terrifying to see and dangerous to approach. But this killing only stopped the spread of the rumour. Nothing really changed either in Sarlat or in the surrounding region, where they still spoke of the beast as a werewolf.”
“The first time that this creature came to people’s attention was in the spring of 1766 when it had already committed a dozen murders in the villages around Sarlat. From then on, absolute terror reigned in the province of Périgord. They spoke of a gigantic beast, thirsting for human blood, and soon the legend grew to such a point that the people no longer dared to go out as night was falling, because it was claimed that the monster had even been seen in the very streets of Sarlat itself. The creature killed another good fifteen or so people before both the peasants and the aristocrats, driven to it by fear, organised a beat with more than a hundred rifles. The animal was flushed and killed, and it was stated to be a rabid wolf. Even if this particular animal was killed, its legend remained alive and well throughout the whole region, where they spoke for a good many more years of a bloodthirsty werewolf.”
“The Beast of Sarlat terrorised Périgord in the XVIIIth century. Its first appearance dates back to March 1766 when it had already committed around a dozen murders in the neighbouring areas. It is easy to imagine the terror that it provoked. It was from this time that there began the myth of an enormous monster thirsting for human blood. In the month of August 1766, however, the animal was finally identified as a wolf carrying rabies. The ordinary people found it difficult to accept this explanation, and it must be said that in the meantime it had killed at least eighteen more people.
People would see the creature absolutely everywhere, even in the dark alleyways of Sarlat. With fear and anger both reaching their peak, the tales told about the beast grew to such a level that the good people of the region no longer dared to go out as night fell. From that moment both peasants and aristocrats came together with more than a hundred rifles and organised a beat. The animal was found, tracked and shot. This death was witnessed by so many ecstatic eyes and seemed to have rid the local people for ever of the object of their well justified fears.
We know very well that a wolf or a man with rabies both seem equally overcome with madness, slavering at the mouth, frothing and biting. They are terrifying to see and dangerous to approach. But this only stopped the rumours from spreading, nothing had changed and both in Sarlat and the surrounding area, they still talk of the beast even now as a werewolf.”
At the time in 1766, a broadsheet about the beast was published locally in the province.
Here is the bottom half with the text. Hopefully, the words are a little clearer…. Here is a translation of the words you can see, but unfortunately, this is, literally, only half the story. And it seems supremely ironic that on the scan of the front page, you can see some of the print from the back page in reverse, but I cannot find it anywhere on the Internet…
“The curious, remarkable and true tale of the deaths and disorder caused by the ferocious beast, in the area around Sarlat in the Périgord region (of France).
Recently there has been seen in the area around Sarlat in the Périgord region, a ferocious beast, that was considered to be a rabid wolf, but one of an extraordinary size. This ferocious beast roamed, at an incredible speed, over the parishes of Saint-Julien and Grossejac. In vain did a number of the inhabitants of one or the other parish try to put a stop to the depredations of this cruel animal. Between eighteen and twenty people were the sad victims of its fury.
This animal was in complete contrast to the Beast of Gévaudan of which so much has been said; for it seems that the former hated only men whereas the Beast of Gévaudan preferred to attack women. When ready to seize its prey, it put up its hackles, and its eyes became flaming red. It raised itself up on its back legs and tried to seize the victim, sometimes by the face, sometimes by other parts of the head. To stop the ravages of this formidable enemy, whose terrible deeds were already beginning to weigh only too heavily on people, the nobleman Descamps and the gentleman Saint Julien……
Raising itself up on its hind legs, of course, is not normal behaviour for a wolf, animals which nowadays seem to stick firmly to a four legged approach. Flaming red eyes, of course, are not a feature of any known wild animal.
“In the XVIIIth century a monster terrorised the south eastern part of the province of Périgord for several weeks. The creature appeared in March 1766 and around a dozen people were killed in the villages around Sarlat. Then was born the myth of an enormous beast thirsting for human blood, like some kind of werewolf.
In the month of August in the same year certain people identified it as a very large wolf infected with rabies. But the population were not reassured by this, especially as in the meantime eighteen other people had been killed. People glimpsed the beast everywhere, even in the dark little lanes of Sarlat. The “population of the village shut themselves away in their houses. Around a hundred people armed with rifles, both peasants and nobles then organised a beat. A rabid wolf was killed. The attacks stopped but the legend lived on, that of a werewolf.”
Its report continues with a device that is known, probably, to newspapers the whole world over. Indeed « Sud-Ouest » could not consider itself a real newspaper if it did not have that desire to thrill, to terrify and then to sell more newspapers…
« Un loup a-t-il été aperçu en Dordogne ? »
“Has a Wolf been seen in the Dordogne?
«This animal was photographed at Saint-Amand-de-Coly. Other people in the immediate area have been seeing it for the last two weeks. According to government sources, the theory of a wolf, however, is not particularly credible and some doubt may be expressed. Quentin Sarlat, aged 20, was coming back from Montignac last Friday and came across this animal in a field at Saint-Amand-de-Coly.
He took a photograph of it, unlike one of his friends who had already seen it two weeks previously. «At first, the animal was much more distant and then it began to run across the field in my direction only to stop about ten metres away from me. He looked at me for at least thirty seconds, and I did not dare get out of my car. Then the animal went off round the back of the car, without ever taking his eyes off me »
As for Aurélien Viau, the regional head of the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (The Ministry of Hunting and Wildlife) said that there was little chance that this was a wolf.
«Looking at this photograph, I would say that it’s a dog because the animal is too fat, it’s wearing an orange collar and it does not fear man. But nevertheless we will be going over there to have a look round. »
The collar that the animal is wearing could well be an identification collar, as some method of tagging wolves. On the other hand, it is certainly a wolf which seems to have eaten all the pies.
After this, of course, widescale panic seems to break out and the questions below are suddenly all asked in the newspaper. Nobody seems to notice it is that old strategy….”thrill, terrify, sell”……
Et si le loup revenait dans les forêts de Dordogne ?
“What if wolves came back to the forests of Dordogne?”
Le loup peut très bien recoloniser entièrement le territoire
“The wolf might very well recolonise the entire area”
Environnement : les sentinelles guettent toujours le loup
“Environmental news: a network of guards await the wolf”
And then, AH NON !!!!….
Dordogne : le loup était un husky
“Report from the Dordogne: the wolf was just a husky.”
Most significant of all perhaps is the verdict of the historian Jean-Marc Moriceau who in a newspaper article entirely worthy of our Daily Mail will:
“retrace the blood soaked career of the wolf in France. 8000 dead people in 250 years, and perhaps it isn’t all over yet….”
Perhaps the writer who argued in one of my previous blogposts that the entire French nation was too often guilty of collective hysteria in the face of these much maligned and gentle animals was correct. This website makes « Sud-Ouest » appear almost conservative in its ideas….
After researching “The Beast of Gévaudan”, I was amazed to find that over the centuries, a large number of different areas of France have been ravaged by man-eating creatures, such as the monsters in the countryside around Auxerre, Lyon, Orléans or the Vosges Mountains. On a number of occasions what was probably one single animal might even be called by several different names as it wandered widely around various places. «La Bête des Cévennes », « La Bête du Vivarais » or « La Bête du Gard », for example, were all one and the same monster.
The majority have always been considered wolves, although of course, in our time the wolf no longer seems to behave in this aggressive way. Strangely enough, for a substantial number of these less widely known beasts, the witnesses were often keen to say that it was a wolf but not an ordinary wolf like the ones which they saw virtually every single day. It may have had a wider muzzle, or a belly that dragged on the ground. It may have had pale or even white underparts. Ironically, this latter identification feature on its own actually excludes the wolf as a possibility.
All three of these details, of course, the muzzle, the belly and the underparts were features of the “Beast of all Beasts” in Gévaudan. The peasants, shepherds and shepherdesses were armed only with a stick, or a pole with a knife attached to it, because the lower classes were forbidden to carry firearms, which was the exclusive right of the nobility. Agricultural workers, though, were all highly experienced at identifying wolves. And lightly armed as they were, the population of the average administrative area in rural France in the eighteenth century might still kill a hundred wolves a year between them.
Nowadays, the wolf seems a much calmer animal. They have become extremely rare in Western Europe, and even in Eastern Europe they seem to be less dangerous than old oral traditions would have us believe. Furthermore, it is certainly a fact that only one person has ever been killed by wolves in North America, and even then the wolves involved had become over-habituated to Man through frequent feeding on a landfill site.
The process by which wolves are believed to have become man killers in France is described in a French Wikipedia article, entitled “Le Loup dans la culture européenne”…“The Wolf in European Culture”
….Thanks to the improvements made in the field of agriculture, Man ceaselessly extended his cultivated land and increased the area for his livestock at the expense of woods and forests. The Feudal System and hunting as a leisure pursuit constantly reduced the number of animals to hunt, and attacks by wolves became therefore increasingly frequent. Flocks of sheep were an easy prey item during a period when food was short.
In normal times the wolf does not attack Man and indeed, even when he is hungry he fears human beings, above all when he is forced to confront an upright enemy. Faced by a man, the wolf always backs down or just runs away. Nevertheless wolves in the Middle Ages used to follow men around when they were out at night walking between villages. The wolves always remained a certain distance away from them. Without doubt they were doing this to get food, thinking that the man must be hunting and that they could grab any unwanted food that was left behind. These stories of wolves which followed men at a distance, sometimes over dozens of kilometres, accentuated the phenomenon of fear of the wolf.
However, attacks by wolves on men were reported for the first time towards the end of the Middle Ages, from the time of the Hundred Years War onwards. These attacks also correlate with epidemics of rabies which can change a wolf’s behaviour completely.
At this time of famine the wolf might have started devouring the corpses left behind by the warring armies. Not rabid wolves, but wolves used to the taste of human flesh would have committed acts of predation towards weak human targets. These cases of predation disappeared around 1820 because of the disappearance of open air mass graves from this period onwards. There will always remain nevertheless a small number of isolated attacks linked to epidemics of rabies, but in this case the cause of the illness is easily identifiable.”
(My own translation)
Further ideas come from « Mikerynos » writing on his own excellent website. He sees the entire French population as having within them a deep seated fear of the wolf, much as other nations might have traditional fears of people of a different race or cultural background from themselves.
“Nowadays beasts still appear in the French countryside but they only kill sheep or other animals. The most famous of all was the Bête des Vosges in 1977.
Feral dogs, escaped zoo animals, animals trained by malicious pranksters and sometimes wolves are used to explain these episodes.
But the Old Demons are not yet ready to fade away. The arrival of Italian wolves in the Parc National du Mercantour has brought about the raising of a protective shield wall on the part of livestock farmers and hunters, who have not been at all afraid of introducing the question of the danger to human life, for in the collective subconscious of the whole French nation, some monstrous beast can still be seen lurking dimly behind these innocent wolves, which have absolutely no connection whatsoever with it.
Over the course of the centuries in France there have been many other episodes similar to the Beast of Gévaudan, even if they were less blood soaked. And the explanations are always exactly the same. Wolves are the guilty ones.
Nowadays all zoologists are in complete agreement with each other that the wolf practically never attacks Man. Indeed on the contrary, the Wolf always flees from Man. The idea that a Wolf is a man eater is essentially a French one which has led some people to deduce that the wolves in France must be the only ones to exhibit such behaviour! In the same way the theme of the werewolf, a man who can change into a wolf, is above all a French one. And The Beast who brings together both of these two themes is, in exactly the same way, as we already said, a very French concept.
In a word, though, it is the fear of untamed nature which shines through these themes, a fear which has become particularly focussed on certain species such as the wolf. Every animal attack which seems beyond rational explanation very quickly leads to gossip and rumours. The Beast of Gévaudan is not the only animal to have spread terror across France. There was “la Bête d’Evreux” (1632-1633), “la Bête de Brives” (1783) and “la Bête du Cézailler” (1946-1951).
The most ferocious seem to have been “la Bête de l’Auxerrois” and “la Bête du Vivarais”.
The former appeared in 1731 and killed 28 victims. It was described as a tiger or a wolf. The “Bête féroce de Sarlat” was famous in Périgord from 1766 onwards. Its peculiarity was not to attack women but to kill exclusively men. In 1814 it was the turn of the « Bête féroce d’Orléans » to achieve a certain success. It ripped to pieces and devoured the poor inhabitants of the countryside, massacred entire families, destroyed and devastated everything which appeared in its path and carried out the most appalling carnage, if one is to believe the caption explaining an etching of the period. A lament was even written about it; the style is not too clever but we can imagine the fear of the audience who were listening to such verses. The official disappearance of the wolf from France came in 1937 when the very last one was killed in Limousin. Or more precisely, the Wolf was presumed extinct insofar as the breeding population was diminishing between 1930 and 1939.
From 1818 to 1829, more than 14,000 wolves were killed in France every year. That was the era of the appearance of the single shot rifle (1830) then there were repeating rifles and the double barrel shotgun. Firearms became henceforth extremely accessible and extremely effective. Wolves could be killed at a range of more than 100 metres. The number of hunting permits awarded just grew and grew. In parallel, the use of poison spread among wolf hunters: monkshood the wolf killer, added to ground glass, meadow saffron, a concoction with tamarack, water hemlock and nux vomica.”
(My own translation)
I have found it a fascinating idea that only two hundred or so years ago a highly developed European country like France could have been repeatedly ravaged by man-eating animals, whether they were wolves or, just plain, simple monsters of the type the Hillbilly Hunters chase after on a weekly basis in the TV show “Mountain Monsters”.
I intend therefore to bring these unknown creatures back into the public eye. Had they been active in an English speaking country, I am sure that they would be a lot more famous than they are now, although, of course, they do appear in a good many French websites on “la cryptologie”. The first one to feature, on a purely alphabetical basis, is the “Bête de l’Auxerrois ou la Bête de Trucy”….
Called by two alternative names, the “Beast of Auxerre” or the “Beast of Trucy” was either one or several man-eating animals which were behind an extensive series of attacks on humans. Nowadays, the tiny village is called “Trucy-L’Orgueilleux”.
The first incident came in November 1731 when a young boy of 12 years old was working close to the wood of Trucy-sur-Yonne to the south of Auxerre with his mother. She managed to snatch him back from the carnivorous animal which was trying to devour him, but he died in her arms as they made their way back home.
Attacks then succeeded each other in such quick succession that King Louis XV offered a reward of £200 to whoever could kill the beast. Beats were organised and numerous wolves were killed. The poisoned carcasses of sheep were left out in the fields but the attacks continued, with young children the principal victims. The beast even ventured into the village of Mailly-la-ville and carried off a young child who was playing in front of his house. Trying to snatch him back from the beast’s fangs, his nurse was only able to recover one of his feet (or just one of his arms according to other witnesses).
Illustrations of the “Beast of Auxerre” or the “Beast of Trucy” seem pretty well non-existent on the Internet. The engraving below appears on one website, but it is also featured elsewhere as being the “Beast of Orléans”…
In five months the local priest of Val-de-Mercy recorded 14 deaths due to the attacks of this carnivorous animal. By the end of the year 1734 a grand total of 28 victims had been listed. The animal supposedly killed a total of nine children, nine women and ten men according to the death certificates which have so far been located. In 1734 two wolves were killed in the course of a hunt and the attacks stopped shortly afterwards. There was however, no irrefutable concrete indication that either of these two animals was behind the attacks which had lasted for three desperate years. Contrary to the Beast of Gévaudan, these killings seem to have concerned as many men as women
In 1817 a second carnivorous beast ravaged the forest around Trucy for a few months, strangely, at the very same place as the animal from eighty years previously. One child was devoured close to Charentenay, another at Fouronnes and numerous people were injured. Poisoned sheep were placed close to the woods and the beast duly disappeared without leaving any trace whatsoever. No carcass was ever found but mercifully the attacks stopped.
This picture allegedly shows the “Beast of Auxerre” or the “Beast of Trucy” but it had previously been used in pamphlets about the Beast of Gévaudan.
For the attacks of 1731–1734, contemporary rumours talked of a werewolf, of several wolves and even of demons. The witnesses spoke of either a huge wolf or a tiger. Following the usual pattern, the witnesses’ descriptions indicated an animal that was “like a wolf” but which nobody thought was just an ordinary wolf. According to the experts nowadays the monster was probably some exotic wild animal which had escaped from its owner, but given the descriptions, it was most probably not a common-or-garden wolf.
Unlike the countryside though, in the towns, certainly, the majority of the people had little idea at all of what a wolf was like. Here is a contemporary picture of a wolf….
For the second series of attacks in 1817, local talk was of a hyena although one statement described a mastiff dog with pointed ears.
It is always worth looking at a second account of what are clearly the same events
“In 1731 there appeared in the woods around Trucy, to the south of Auxerre, a beast which terrorised the region. The first attack was on a boy of twelve in November 1731, very close to the tiny village of Trucy-l’Orgueilleux. The number of victims quickly increased, with 17 in three years, of whom the majority were children. The king offered a reward of £200 to whoever could kill the beast but without result. The creature then continued its carnage until 1734 when it quite simply disappeared without anyone having been able to kill it despite numerous beats being organised. Overall it killed approximately 30 people, the majority of them children.
In 1817 it was a different beast which ravaged again the very same area of Mailly-la-ville and the Forest of Trucy. Described as a tiger or an enormous wolf, people finally concluded that it was a wolf of enormous size and particular ferocity. It killed 28 people (nine children, nine women and ten men) and was never killed despite numerous beats being organised and the poisoned carcasses of sheep being placed randomly in the surrounding area. Like its predecessor this animal just disappeared “back into Nature” so to speak.”
Clearly there has been some confusion between the two websites over victim totals, but it is always best to see at least two variations of the same story. If you want to see more than just these two then go to the French Google and search for either “La Bête de Trucy” or “la Bête de l’Auxerrois”.
“…a mother grabbed her twelve year old son from the jaws of an enormous beast without managing, alas, to save him… After this they killed a number of wolves, but the beast continued to attack young children, women and men…… 28 victims were eventually listed. Then they killed a couple of wolves, and the attacks ceased. People talked of werewolves, of wolves gone mad, and even of Demons. Witnesses spoke of the “Beast like a Wolf” but actually “Not a Wolf”. The experts nowadays tend to speak of a wild animal, but seldom of a mere wolf.”
At least one other website which lists “The Monsters That Ravaged France” clearly places “La Bête de Trucy ou la Bête de l’Auxerrois” not in the category of the wolf but in that of the “bête mystérieuse”. These same details are given by that great expert, « Mikerynos » in the very first article on the page….
“(Elle) est apparue en 1731 et a fait 28 victimes. Elle est décrite comme un tigre ou comme un loup.”
What is most striking about “La Bête de Trucy ou la Bête de l’Auxerrois”, though, is the sheer number of victims consumed. In English we say “as hungry as a wolf”. I don’t know if the French have an equivalent but if they do, it should probably relate to Trucy or Auxerre!
Last night I once again sat down to watch my heroes, the Hillbilly Hunters, set off in quest of monsters, this time to Hocking Hills, Ohio, in search of the legendary Hogzilla.
This thousand pound porker is a hybrid of two closely related animals. His fierceness comes from the introduced feral pig that the Americans call by many different epithets, including the Russian Boar, the Razorback, or the enchanting “Pineywoods Rooter”. His size comes from the huge, overfed and genetically modified farm pigs, such as we see in the fields as we drive north of Nottingham on the A614. The American equivalent is the beautifully deep red coloured “Duroc pig”.
Given his enormous size, his sharp, twelve inch long tusks and his desperately aggressive temperament, Hogzilla is a genuinely fearsome beast who will kill you if he can, and eat you if he is hungry.
The task is defined here…
Here are the first stages of the final night hunt…
And, for the first time ever, SUCCESS!!!!!
“Hogzilla” is suddenly “Trapzilla”.
Within a couple of days, he will make 500lb of sausages. Hurrah!!!
On a more serious note though, towards the end of the third video, Trapper make some very pertinent comments about the accuracy of the evidence given by even the most honest of eyewitnesses, especially when they are frightened.
Last week I watched my heroes, the six Hillbilly Hunters, chase vainly after the Hell Hound of Pike County, Kentucky. As a European, though, I could not possibly be unaware of this fearsome creatures’s striking similarity to the so-called “Beast of Gévaudan”, or, in Occitan, the language spoken by the ordinary people in this area of France at the time, “La Bèstia de Gavaudan”.
Whichever language is used, this is the historical name given to the creature which ravaged an area of up to 300 square miles in the province of Gévaudan, in the Margeride Mountains in south central France. In those distant days, between May 1764 and June 1767, this entire area was completely agricultural, and it was common practice once winter ended, to send the herds of cattle or flocks of sheep up into the spring and summer pastures in the high mountains. In an era long before mass communication, news was slow to emerge from the region of an epidemic of killings by an unknown but huge creature. This animal preyed for the most part, usually in broad daylight, on the young boys and girls who were sent up into the mountains for months on end to look after their father’s animals. Sometimes its prey was the women who lived in lonely cottages and tiny villages, often as they tended their animals or gathered crops in open fields. These three categories constituted, of course, the easiest of targets. They were made even easier by years of failed harvests and famine during the period preceding the first appearance of La Bèstia. Indeed, during the many huge beats which were to be organised during the following months, a whole succession of high ranking officials from Paris were all astonished to see the peasants who were taking part, fainting and falling over, passing out from malnutrition and the physical effort involved in walking for any distance across fields or through woods.
The creature, for the most part, ignored men, and likewise cattle, sheep and goats. After the kill it would disappear into the dense patches of forest scattered across the granite plateaux and grass covered hills.
The number of victims differs according to sources. One study estimated there were 210 attacks, with 113 deaths and 49 injuries. Nearly a hundred of the victims killed were partly eaten. However, other sources put the number of fatalities at between sixty and a hundred, mostly defenceless children, or perhaps adult women, with more than thirty victims injured. Attempts have been made to compile full lists of his victims’ names. Click on “Attacks” on the left hand side of the webpage.
Here are some contemporary illustrations of the creature, nearly all of which depict girls or young women as the victims.
According to those who saw the attacks, the monster had formidable teeth and an immense tail. In general, La Bèstia resembled a wolf but it was huge, between a calf and a horse in size. Overall, its fur was said to be unusual in colouration, mostly red, but its back was streaked with black. It had a large doglike head, a snout like a wolf and a mouthful of large teeth. Its small straight ears lay close to its head, and it had a strong neck and a wide chest. The tail was immensely long, and somewhat like that of a panther. People who were struck by the tail said that it was a blow of considerable force. One or two witnesses said La Bèstia had cloven hooves, or that the end of its four limbs was tipped with a hoof. Others said the claws were so heavy that they merely resembled hooves.
Here is one early depiction of the creature. The text at the top of the illustration below means…
“This is the figure of the Monster which is ravaging Gévaudan. This animal is of the size of a young bull. It attacks by preference women and children. It drinks their blood, cuts off their head, and takes it away. £2,700 is promised to whoever kills this animal.”
(My own translation)
This is an entry in an unknown parish record…
« L’an 1764 et le 1er juillet, a été enterrée, Jeane Boulet, sans sacremens, ayant été tuée par la bette féroce, présans Joseph Vigier et Jean Reboul. »
“In the Year 1764, on the first of July, was buried, Jeane Boulet, without the Last Sacraments, having been killed by the ferocious beast, present Joseph Vigier et Jean Reboul.”
(My own translation)
My knowledge of Old French is limited, and I do not know whether the spellings are correct for 1764, or whether the priest was writing the words as he would have said them. They would certainly not be correct by modern standards of orthography.
Here is a legal document taken from the parish records in the village of Rocles, with the graphic description of the death of a little girl called Magdeleine Mauras, a victim of the Beast of Gévaudan…
“On the 30th day of the month of September in the Year 1764, Magdeleine Mauras was buried, the daughter of the late Jean and Pagès from Pierrefiche. She was about 12 years old and staying with her uncle John Baptiste Mauras from a place called Thorts in this parish. Her body was found on the 29th day of the month, gnawed on the neck and the breast by the ferocious beast which has been ravaging through this diocese for five months. It ripped her throat out when she was coming back to herd her uncle’s cattle homeward at 4.30 in the evening.”
“The rest of her body, which was lacking an arm, ripped off and consumed by the said beast, was laid in the cemetery of this parish of Rocles in the tomb of the ancestors of her father. Present at this were Jean TF, Jean, Jean-Pierre Bouet and Pierre Martin, the son of the late Antoine, from the place called Thorts, all of them illiterate.
I made these enquiries, the Priest at Aubignac.”
(My own translation)
At least one grave of a victim remains…
The French means
“Here was devoured by the Beast Carobal Gayon, June 13th 1765”
He must have been one of the very few adult male victims.
The horrific method of killing victims by ripping their throats out was frequently used by the Beast. Not surprisingly, the government eventually undertook to rid the area of this ferocious creature.
One of the first to try his luck, in October 1764, was Captain Duhamel and his dragoons from Clermont. They did not have an enormous amount of success, and the dragoons themselves were extremely unpopular with the people of the region, as they frequently damaged their crops, and refused to pay for their lodging when billeted with local families. Duhamel was supposedly responsible for this picture of La Bèstia…
Duhamel’s written description said that the monster had the chest of a leopard, the legs and feet of a bear and the ears of a wolf. He thought the animal was some kind of hybrid, but considered that its father was a lion. He did not know what the mother had been. He, like d’Enneval and his son, who were to succeed him in March 1765, refused to believe that it was just an ordinary wolf.
It was January 12, 1765, when twelve year old Jacques Portefaix and his little group of seven friends were attacked by La Bèstia. After several assaults, they drove off the monster by staying grouped together. The encounter came to the attention of King Louis XV who gave rewards to all of these gallant young men. including Jacques Portefaix who was given enough for his education. The King then decreed that the French state would help find and kill the monster.
At this time, of course, the population of France believed that Louis was king by Divine Right. In other words, he was directly appointed by God. Clearly, if Louis could not protect his people from the ravages of an animal that was initially supposed to be merely a large wolf, then questions would certainly be asked about his suitability to rule the country in the face of what might easily be called a punishment sent from God.
Three weeks later, therefore, a concerned King sent two professional wolf-hunters, Jean Charles Marc Antoine Vaumesle d’Enneval and his son Jean-François, to Gévaudan. They arrived on February 17, 1765, bringing eight bloodhounds trained to hunt wolves. Over the next four months father and son hunted wolves believing that eventually they would surely kill the beast. The attacks, however, continued and they were eventually to lose their jobs. D’Enneval père had previously been considered “l’un des meilleurs chasseurs de loups qui ait jamais existé“, “one of the finest wolf hunters who had ever existed”. He had killed some 1,200 wolves in his lifetime, the majority of which, amazingly by today’s standards, were in the Normandy region. His final departing judgement, though, was that, whatever La Bèstia was, it was no wolf.
On June 22 1765, therefore, Monsieur Antoine de Beauterne, the king’s arquebus bearer and Lieutenant of the Hunt arrived. They began immediately to organise beats by the local people, and set about the same policy of killing as many wolves as they possibly could, in the hope that one of them would turn out to be La Bèstia.
On September 20, 1765, Monsieur Antoine, as he was universally now known, killed his third and largest wolf measuring 31 inches high at the shoulder, 5 feet 7 inches long, and weighing 130 pounds. The wolf was named Wolf of Chazes after the nearby Abbey of Chazes. Strangely, though, this shooting did not take place where the Beast had ever killed anybody, and indeed, it had never been seen there previously.
Monsieur Antoine stated officially:
“We never saw a big wolf that could be compared to this one. This could be the fearsome beast that has caused so much damage.”
The animal was identified as the culprit by attack survivors who recognised the scars on its body inflicted by victims defending themselves. The wolf was stuffed and sent to Paris where Monsieur Antoine was received as a hero, receiving a large sum of money as well as titles and awards.
And then, OH NO!! Very soon, and certainly from the month of November onwards, there were rumours of fresh attacks. They continued throughout the whole of 1766, and then twelve year old Marie Denty was attacked and devoured on May 16th 1767.
On June 19th, 1767, a hunt was organized by a well intentioned local nobleman, the Marquis d’Apcher,
The supposed second beast was duly killed by a local hunter named Jean Chastel. The death of this creature seems finally to have marked the end of these appalling attacks in this benighted region of France.
Writers later introduced the idea that Chastel had shot the creature with blessed silver bullets of his own manufacture. This was probably so that it would fit in more exactly with the largely twentieth century tales told about werewolves, particularly in the cinema.
Upon being opened, the animal’s stomach was shown to contain human remains. Like the first creature, this second wolf was sent to Paris, but, because it had decomposed so badly and was extremely smelly, nobody was particularly interested. Even so, what seems a very thorough autopsy was carried out by the King’s Notary, Roch Étienne Marin.
One television programme, Australia’s “Animal X”, stated that this picture shows, according to Chastel himself, the animal that he shot.
Jean Chastel is nowadays commemorated as the saviour of the region. His signature is preserved, and so is his rifle…
His house is prominently labelled…
The French means
“In the country of the Beast of Gévaudan Here lived Jean Chastel who killed the beast on June 19th 1767. ”
He has a statue…
There are, as you might expect, any number of explanations of the identity of the Beast of Gévaudan. I will look at as many of these as I can in another blogpost.
One thing, however, remains indisputably true: La Bête du Gévaudan was only too real, and terrified thousands of people for a good three years.
Nowadays, La Bèstia is much more in favour. He has numerous statues dedicated to him…