Tales of a big cat stalking the countryside are common to areas across the UK - and Gwent is no exception. And the debate has re-ignited once more following the discovery of large paw prints by a dog walker in England. Argus columnist Jon Powell looks at the mystery.

FOLLOWING the discovery of large paw prints by a dog-walker in Newton Abbot, the intriguing mystery spanning decades surrounding big cat sightings has once again caught public attention.

Dog walker Brett Bennett and his lurcher Kalba discovered the set of paw prints in Holbeam Woods, five miles from Dartmoor.

Along with the dismembered remains of deer found near the scene, speculation has surfaced that a big cat may be in the vicinity.


However, Danny Bamping, Researcher and founder of the British Big Cats Society, (BBCS), was dismissive of the prints.

South Wales Argus:

Danny Bamping

Mr Bamping said that "these are most likely to be prints made by a dog", adding that "the claw marks should be 'pin sharp', not blunt and thick as these appear".

Mr Bamping, who studied in Newport, added that "whilst those marks weren't found in Wales, Wales itself is one of the biggest hotspots for sightings of large cat-like animals".

In 2008, the British Big Cats Society recorded 86 sightings across Wales, 80 per cent of those black cats.

In 2002, two panther-like creatures were spotted by police officers near Goldcliff, Newport, with a sighting of a similar creature accompanied by what seemed to be a cub in Abergavenny.

In 2004, police investigated a sighting near Brynmawr along the A465, the report from the witness stating that the animal was large, sleek, cat-like in appearance, with yellow eyes.

Between 2011 and 2014, 102 sightings were made of 'black panther like creatures' across the UK, 17 of these reports made by members of the public to Gwent and South Wales Police.

Among the incidents on file include a frightening report from 2000 when Josh Hopkins, then aged 11, was slashed across the face by what he described as a 'black leopard' kind of animal.

Josh, who at the time was out searching for his own cat that had gone missing, sustained injuries which left vivid claw marks on his right cheek.

In response Gwent Police dispatched a helicopter to search for the animal, with marksmen armed in readiness to deal with whatever had injured the Josh.

However, after scouring the area, the search proved fruitless.

Other data released by the government and police sources in 2009 report witness sightings of a tiger-like animal on the M4 by a motorist and that of a black panther with two cubs in Troedyrhiw

In 2019, sightings across the UK include a dog-walker's encounter with a huge black cat that growled and bared its teeth, and a creature in Stroud, Gloucestershire that according to the witness moved 30 ft in "two or three bounds".

Mr Bamping, whose interest in investigating reports was sparked by making such a sighting himself concluded "interestingly and on a scientific note, a big cat is only classed as one if it has the capacity to roar!"

  • Have you seen a big cat in Gwent? Did you get pictures? Drop us a line on newsdesk@southwalesargus.co.uk