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You are in: Cambridgeshire > Nature > Nature Features > On the tail of the tiger

Fen Tiger?

Copyright of British Big Cat Society

On the tail of the tiger

It's been 14 years since this still image from a video of a big cat in Cottenham was taken. Since then numerous other sightings have been made. We track the movements of the Fen Tiger up until its most recent appearances and ask, could it exist?

The Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. They are just some of the Great British myths that have yet to be proven as fact or fiction.

For many years however the folk of Cambridgeshire have debated the existence of a large cat stalking the Fens and the south of the county. We trace the history of its sightings and ask the question: Would it actually survive in Britain?

Where and when?

The Fen Tiger, which if in fact is a big cat is definitely not a tiger, was first reported in 1982 in Cottenahm. Many others mused about big cat sightings for years after but it wasn't until 1994 that whiskers were twitching again.

Joan Peacock with Fen Tiger prints

Joan with prints Courtesy of Cambs Times

It was then that William Rooker managed to capture on film what he believes to be a large cat. The British Big Cats Society have provided us with a still from the video (top left).

Filmed in a field near the Oakington Road in Cottenham the video lasted two minutes and shows, according to the British Big Cat Society, "what is almost certainly a large cat-like animal".

A year later two police traffic officers claimed they saw a large black feline in the Westwick Hall area, a few miles from the filming of William's video.

"We keep thinking about selling up. Because it petrifies me at nights now, I won't come down the garden."

Jackie from Manea

On its travels

From 1995 numerous reports of big cat sightings in other parts of East Anglia had existed, ranging from Holbeach in South Lincolnshire, Wisbeach in North Cambridgeshire and the relative safety of cover in Theftford Forest.

This could mean that the animal likes to travel, that there is more than one, or that lots of people in different places are just getting it wrong.

In May 2004 the Cambridge Evening News printed a story featuring Vernon Whiterod, a Cambridge University cleaner, who claimed he had spotted an animal similar to an ocelot, a large cat native to Central and South America, in between Histon and Waterbeach.

However, recent eye witness accounts point to a north Cambridgeshire return for the mystery beast, signifying that the animal feels more at home in the Fens that make part of its popular Fen Tiger moniker.


So let's fast forward to March 2008. Jackie from Manea, situated between March and Littleport, recalls seeing a large dark cat stalking in the fields at the back of her house.

"It's such a frightening thing to come face-to-face with, when you don't believe in it and you've seen it, it's really frightening."

"I'd guess it was three to four times the size of a normal cat... Definitely panther like."

Roland in Turves

"We keep thinking about selling up. Because it petrifies me at nights now, I won't come down the garden."

Her daughter Loraine was calling in the family's dogs when she caught sight of our feline friend.

"It had big green-yellowy eyes and it started crawling towards me as if it was going to pounce on the dog."

Powerful looking animal

On top of that Roland Mott, from March, got within 50 yards of the beast in Turves, midway between Whittlesey and March.

"I'd guess it was three to four times the size of a normal cat... Definitely panther like. All black, very sleek, not shiny but a sleek, powerful looking creature."

Fen Tiger prints

Courtesy of Cambs Times

"In fact I was quite sceptical at some of the alleged sightings, but I take it back now."

Is there evidence? Well, some would say yes.

The Cambs Times printed photos of large cat-like prints found in Chatteris on 31st March, 2008 (in picture).

Joan Peacock's dog had been barking loudly at something the night before she found the prints.

Could it really happen?

Stay tuned to the BBC Cambridgeshire website as we talk to a big cat expert about the likelihood of the Fen Tiger's existence.

last updated: 03/04/2008 at 11:03
created: 03/04/2008

Have Your Say

Have you sniffed out the Fen Tiger? Think it's all a bunch of feline lies? Give us your thoughts.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Natasha Beech
We definitely saw it this morning (13.08.09 7.40am) in Black Horse Drove near Littleport Cambs, not a black panther but a dark tabby colouring more like an ocelot. stood about 80cm high with a very long thick tale and small feline head, thought it was a dog at first but it looked our way and was definitely a cat! never knew about the Fen Tiger story until I looked up big cats in the area today after seeing it. It was a heartstopping sight and one I'll always remember!

daniel butcher
i saw it as wel, a couple years bak, thought at the time it was just me over reacting but i belive it is out there. honest true xox

just seen the fen tiger 19.30 in dry drayton cambs

I saw large black cat bout 6ft long 2ft high at setchey on banks of the river nar at dawn last october.i was out fishing it was in the field to my left it scared the hell out of me.

Emma Adair
I live in Sutton St James, Lincolnshire. In February this year (2009). I awoke suddenly at the sound of a very unusual noise. I opened the window to listen closely and it was definitely a noise that a black panther/leopard would make. A few days later (when we had all that snow) I saw huge paw prints in the snow. I know that it wasn`t a dog`s paw prints because there were no nails at the end of the prints which mean this was a very big cat indeed. It must have jumped over our 5ft high fences because all the gates were closed. I just wish I had taken some pictures of the prints now. If I see any more I am certainly going to get my camera out.

saw it last night big black scaryran in front of my car well what i fought was the fen tigereasy 5 times size of a big house pet cat

Tim Coles
My son Barney (aged 26!) saw a large cat-like animal today (21 Jan 09) at 16.50 hrs, just outside the village of Knapwell.

robert thompson
i work at c holland and sons it has now been spotted agen by two of my work mates saw it because of the sourounding fields theres a lot of mud and theres a lot of destinctive paw prints in the ground whitch we have taken many pictures of comparing it to a 50 pence peice they are definatly a cats prints because there are no claw marks like a dog would leave and theese are much much bigger than any house cat!!

miss F
Its true you losers!!! grow up!! i think its just jealousy people!! there is a panther on the loose!!

i saw it to it licked my hand and now its my pet. it says sorry colin you looked tasty

i dont live where the cats are but it is true a lot of people let there big cats go some bred some already had cubs now they might not be around now but who nows they one day might just turn up :)

i saw it!!! it ran towards me and bit me!!!

A few years ago I Was walking home from St,ives to Needingworth with my mate. We had, had a few drinks but was not very drunk. It must of been late. 2, 3 in the morning.We got to my mates house who lives in Needingworth near the by pass, and i carried on walking home to Bluntisham as i had football the next day early and wanted to get home. I was walking passed an open field on the corner near his house, and some black thing jumped out and made a roar noise, i then heard gun shots coming from the field and i ran straight back to my mates house. I had never been so scared in my life, I even had tears in my eyes. I told my mate what happend and we could hear the guns shots from his coming from in the field. The next day my mum come and picked me up early. As we was driving home on the bypass there was a big black thing dead in the road. I told my mum about it, but carried on home. After football I made my mum drive me back to see what it was dead on the corner of the road, but when we got there, there was nothing there!! Wish I had gone back when i had the chance!!

Ben Hollis aged 13
i was in a field near london road stores in chatteris when i saw an owl in broad daylight flee from a tree thats when my friend luke said "look"!!! and i said "oh my god" it happend to be a big black cat peering its head from above the grass and we ran and never saw it again Ben Hollis 19.8.08

kaye smith
I lived in London for 3 yrs (I am Australian). My father came to visit and did some travelling. He saw a large cat (panther/leopard) in a side lane in Cambridge. He was getting into his car after being in a shop. He isn't the type who allows his imagination to get the better of him. This was in 1989. He came to London for another stay and told us all about it, and one lad who was at Cambridge College said he'd seen various newspaper reports about sightings.

Greg Selman
My wife, daughter and I saw a very large black cat, much too large to be a domestic cat, (there was a pony between us and the cat which gave us the perspective) in the fields between the A141 and Doddington Road yesterday (Saturday 12th July). It was about 9pm in the evening and we stopped our car near to the Rustlers onion factory to watch it. After about 5 minutes we drove round into the Doddington Road to see if we could get a better view, but it was nowhere to be seen. Quite a surprise!

c. Hollands and sons ltd
large black cat seen in the fields between meldreth and whaddon on numerous occasions. Was just over knee height and whilst it on one occasion, was seen running with its tail pointing straight upwards

I saw a lynx like creature on Saturday at desk. It shot across the road from bedford just I was approaching the caxton jibbet. It had a long thick tail and was definitely some sort of big cat. I reported it to the police.

Kathryn Booth
One of our greyhounds was killed in our back garden in Chatteris on the afternoon of Thursday 24th April. One of our other greyhounds was injured. The vet suggested that the horrific injuries were consistent with those inflicted by a large animal - maybe a large cat but certainly not the result of a dog fight. We are extremely distraught at the loss of our dog and are now worried about the safety of our other dogs. I was looking forward to letting the dogs out more in the garden with summer approaching but now don't feel comfortable with that and am now nervous at being alone in the garden.

My neighbour saw the cat in the field behind her house on Thursday. We live on the outskirts of Manea, near the railway line.She is convinced.

Thought I saw it in a field up near Cottenham the other day?! Not that bothered about it, but it's still something of interest to add to the area!

Barry {Huntingdon]
About 9 years ago i was employed as a coach driver for a company in the March area.Iwas returning late one night after dropping my last passengers off at Downham Market.As i said it was very late probably about midnight or 1am in the morning very foggy and because i was using B roads in my return to March,{i had been to London and had taken a party to Hammersmith theatre to see Cliff Richard appearing in Heathcliffe],My route back from Downham was using the B1094 and the B1098 running along side the 16'drain .From my right hand side and the river bank came this large animal.It was tan coloured much bigger than any dog that i had seen.It had a large head much like a lioness muscular body a long tale that went down and curled up at the bottom,It's feet were enormous compared with any dog,forcing me to stop the coach.It was not in any hurry as it crossed the road in front of me. Before it reached the other side of the road it stopped again turned its head round and looked straight at me before if slowly walked off into the fog and dark.I don't know what i had seen,it was not a domestic animal i do know.I have looked at webb sites and it probably looked more like a cougar as i have said my first impressions were it looked like a lioness.I have told people over the years when the subject has cropped up but i don't know whether i have been believed.I know what i saw.! Andy Harpers show last friday was speaking about big cats in the area around Manea,and it reminded me [although i have never forgotten it] about my comfrontation of something i had seen,

Carole Proctor
A few years ago large prints were found near Manea Station, and I believe this was printed in the Fenland Citizen at that time. I also think that a cast may have been taken of the prints.

it is quite true that there is cat like animals loose in our countryside.they had them in there own grounds in compounds and then laws were introduced that they had to have expensive a number of people let them loose rather than pay their licences.muntjack deer escaped captivity and adapted to our countryside and look how many there is now.there must be some truth in it because the number of sightings all over the country.the number of people with mobile phones and camcorders it will only a matter of time before the evidence comes to will be a tourist boost people will be coming here for safari.i cant wait for our own big cat diary.send for saba dougless hamilton.then when she is walking down manea high street we can beleive it.

:o OH DEAR..pretty cool though.

Ady Sallis
I bike to work sometimes from Chatteris to St'ives and even though I haven't seen it it sure makes me pedal faster at the thought!!!

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