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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
Mystery surrounds 'big cat' photo
Dartmoor animal: pic Martin Whitley
Martin Whitley photographed the "mysterious" animal while at work
A photograph of an animal taken on Dartmoor is "almost certainly" not a big cat, according to a local expert.

The picture was taken by falconer Martin Whitley, who stumbled across the creature by accident near Hound Tor.

The area inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, but Mr Whitley said there was "definitely nothing supernatural" about the animal.

But Danny Bamping, founder of the British Big Cats Society, said he "just couldn't see it" being a big cat.

Mr Whitley, who owns Dartmoor Hawking, was taking a group of American tourists for a "hawk walk" last month when the animal was spotted about 200 yards (183m) away.

"One of the tourists started pointing and said 'what's that'," he said.

'A lot bigger'

"We watched it for about 400 yards as it came closer. It was in no hurry and seemed completely indifferent to us.

"There was a group of kids on a nearby tor making quite a racket and it ignored them too."

Mr Whitley, who was born and brought up in the area, said he has no real idea what the animal was, but is certain it was not a cat or a dog.

Dartmoor animal: pic Martin Whitley
I wouldn't completely rule out a dog or a pony, but my money would be on a hairy wild boar
Danny Bamping, British Big Cats Society

"I've seen a big cat on the moor before. It was 10 years ago and it was about the size of a collie - this was a lot bigger.

"Later we put a German short-hair pointer in the same spot. It's about 25 inches to the shoulder and this beast was at least an inch taller and utterly dwarfed it in bulk.

"It was definitely nothing supernatural - ghosts don't jump puddles and this one did."

Mr Whitley said his pictures have proved popular with hotel guests at Lewtrenchard Manor, who have been asking him to provide more "beast tours".

Big cat expert Mr Bamping raised doubts about it being a cat-like animal.

"I've studied the pictures and I just can't see it being a big cat," he told BBC News.

"I wouldn't completely rule out a dog or a pony, but my money would be on a hairy wild boar".


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