Assessing Big Cat Size In The UK

The recent sensationalized story about the lion wandering around Essex, England prompts me to ask “Are the British able to assess the size of big cats?” I wonder whether the British know what these cats are really like. I would certainly doubt if the average British person knew much about the wild cat species generally. We are too far removed from them. This lack of knowledge coupled with a superstitious nature has resulted in an endless stream of big cat sightings in the British countryside over decades. It is also a journalistic habit to discuss big cat sightings in the UK.

Essex Lion
Essex Lion. Size comparisons etc. The base picture is real and is a screenshot of the Essex lion.
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Above is a poor quality picture that I have annotated to show how misjudged the assessment was (on my own assessment which is open to criticism). One of the key elements, in my opinion, for judging the size of this cat was the ragged hedge at the end of the field. These are normally about 5-6 feet tall.

The headline news story (for the Daily Mail) was of a lion or possibly a puma, wandering around an area near to St. Osyth, Essex, UK. People had seen it with their own eyes and even heard the roar (the power of suggestion). The Times journalist said it was the length of two sheep. She saw it for a full 20 minutes before it ambled off. The Google map shows the spot. Typical near-suburban England.

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A ton of police where called out including marksmen and a helicopter. I thought “please don’t shoot the tiger!” I shouldn’t have worried because it is another one of those British Big Cat Sightings. We do like them and the press does too. They are along the lines of the Loch Ness Monster. I wonder whether this is a subconscious desire by the British people to reinstate our large wildlife that we so efficiently exterminated hundreds of years ago?

In the UK there has been the following large animal sightings. The large cats are often black to add to the mystery:

  • Wales – Dog of Darkness
  • Cu Sith – a dog the size of a calf
  • Beast of Bodmin Moor – Devon, England
  • Beast of Exmoor – Cornwall, England
  • Galloway Puma – Scotland
  • Surrey Puma – Surrey, England
  • Sheppey Panther – Sheppey, England
  • Cheetah of Shooters Hill – London, England?
  • Essex Lion – the current story.

My feeling is that there is a desire to see large animals in the wild in the UK and there is a certain amount of superstition but above all at a distance Brits cannot assess the size of large wild cat species.

The Essex lion story concluded with a person going up the the “lion” and seeing that it was a large ginger domestic cat with a slight ruff! They are great domestic cats. James Bowen and Bob are a famous duo. And ginger cats are often large and the boss in a group. The Essex Lion may be a cat named, “Teddy Bear”. no, I mean roar..

9 thoughts on “Assessing Big Cat Size In The UK”

  1. This was on the News on “B.B.C” in Mumbai and i personally thought that it could be an escaped pet lion on the loose as the eyewitness accounts seemed authentic.Michael has shown the first picture of the animal on this blog something “B.B.C” did not although they mentioned eyewitness accounts.Arthur.Conan.Doyle gave the World Sherlock.Holmes and one of the best haunting mystery story in the “Hound of Baskervilles”. Seems most Britishers are carried away by the “Hound of Baskervilles” fiction and like to imagine a genuine large beast roaming in the British forests or Moor lands.This could have been a reality a few decades ago when manny Britishers owned large cats legally as pets, same available in London’s famous store “HARRODS”.In the 21st century its very difficult for a wild big cat to roam undetected in the British forests.

    • Yes, Rudolph, good comment. I forgot to mention that there was a time when you could buy a big cat at Harrods as a pet. Anyone could do it anytime. Totally unregulated. These days, I really don’t think there are many pet lions or tigers in the UK. They will be rare. Maybe a handful.

  2. Aha! Methinks the average person might have an unfortunate bowel reaction if he saw a real lion up close and personal! Vicious large 400kg beasties with sizeable fangs and able to beat you senseless with a single swipe!

    Not at all like Monty Python’s lion tamer thought they might be!

    PS – I’m from South Africa – I’ve seen lions up close (but always with a fence in between), in game reserves or (sadly) in zoos. Best place for lions is running free in their natural environment. Wonderful majestic animals.

    But a great story – wait for the wag who decides to really release a lion in the English countryside. Oops….

    • One day we will have a real lion on the loose (2025) and people will see it across a field and shout “Oh, look there’s auntie’s ginger tabby..I was wondering where he’d got to…here kitty..”

  3. That makes sense,some people will be disappointed though if the lion turns out to be “Teddy, the neighbour’s cat”.Funny story!^^

    • People are desperate to see a lion or a black panther running over a English field. No one has got firm evidence yet after all these years.

      Mind you Teddy Bear is a very big domestic cat!

    • It’s the Brits. We wish we had the puma or some other large wild cat. We are ahead of all other countries in terms of hunting large wildlife to extinction.


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