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Mystery Big Cats of Australia

Updated on January 20, 2015
VladimirCat profile image

Vladimir is a former champion ratter (retired). His hobbies are bushwalking, birdwatching and nature studies

Mysterious Big Black Cat
Mysterious Big Black Cat

Big Cats are stalking Australia

Big Black Cats have been spotted across Australia, huge and frightening creatures prowling the remote regions of vast mountain ranges and hidden valleys.

Sightings have multiplied of late, perhaps because of the pressures on animal habitats in these last long years of the drought. Scattered farming communities are terrorised, cows mysteriously mauled and livestock slaughtered.

Left behind, as calling cards, are Big Cat paw-prints.

What could the Big Cat of Australia be?

I have my own idea

There are no native big cats in Australia, although once a highly specialised group of killer marsupials called Thylacoleo, marsupial lions, wandered around the continent. The size range of Thylacoleo varied from a house moggy up to a lion, but in any case they all vanished around the end of the Pleistocene.

Speaking as a representative of the small predatory carnivorous Felis catus, I can vouch for the survival of a species against all odds. I believe the Big Cats of Australia are distant relations of the extinct Thylacoleo, and that they survived the Ice Age. And good for them

Thylacoleo - Australian Marsupial Lion

Thylacoleo, the Australian Marsupial Lion
Thylacoleo, the Australian Marsupial Lion

Is the Marsupial Lion still around?

Thylacoleo was part of the marsupial family Thylacoleonidae - predatory marsupials which lived in Australia from Late Oligocene times until the end of the Pleistocene. That's a long time ago by anyone's standards.

In those far off days of the late Pleistocene Australia, like Africa today, had its own megafauna. But ours were marsupials, as distinct from the placental mammals of the Old and New Worlds.

Members of this marsupial family varied in size. Some were just my size, like any ordinary house cat and some were the size of an African lion. The most famous species is Thylacoleo carnifex, usually referred to as the "Marsupial lion".

Has the Thylacoleo survived? Are his descendants still in the wild places of the Blue Mountains today?

The Lithgow Panther? - Pretty real and pretty scary

The Lithgow Panther
The Lithgow Panther

Described as like a Panther

Over the past three decades there have been some 60 separate reports of a large cat-like animal attacking livestock and people in the Blue Mountains and Lithgow to the west of Sydney. This animal has been described as being like a panther!

The sightings range from distant glimpses to close encounters, and include large scratches on trees and instances where goat and sheep carcasses were found in trees.

Sightings of big cats began over a century ago in the Blue Mountains and where large areas of the Great Dividing Range represent an ideal habitat for such animals.

Big Cats in the Great Dividing Range? - "More likely than not"

The Great Dividing Range, New South Wales
The Great Dividing Range, New South Wales

Evidence of the Big Cats from Plaster Casts?

Colony of Big Cats is "more likely than not"

In 2003 a New South Wales Government inquiry found a colony of big cats is "more likely than not" roaming Sydney's outskirts and beyond.

Local Residents of tiny towns along the Great Dividing Range have understandably become fearful. I would be fearful myself if these big cats were spotted where I live!

The problem, of course, is that while the mysterious creature continues to pop up, nobody has ever landed the sort of indisputable evidence that would prompt David Attenborough to book the first flight to Sydney.

Sheep Mysteriously Mauled
Sheep Mysteriously Mauled | Source

Evidence of the Big Cats from dead sheep?

The mass slaughter of sheep is often given as evidence to support the big cat theory. The reports say the sheep are killed by a clean puncture or slit in the throat, the insides then eaten precisely and with no mess.

Just the way a big cat kills and eats its prey.

I'm only showing you the photo from the back. You don't want to see the other side.

Local Mountains Newspaper February 2011

Please excuse the slant in the image, the cover of the scanner is very heavy and hard to use - my claws have trouble with the slippery lid.

Big Cats - A Big Game Hunt announced in 2012

Theories for the Mystery Big Cats

1. Blame the Americans

In the Gippsland region of south-eastern Victoria the origin of the cats is blamed either on American army personnel or American goldminers.

One theory is that World War II airmen stationed in the area brought panthers with them as mascots, only to later release them into the Bush.

A lot of sightings in Eastern Australia occur in old gold mining areas and anecdotal evidence suggests pumas were brought to Australia by American goldminers in the 1850s. These animals may have subsequently escaped or were released.

2. Escaped Circus Cats

Then there is the common zoo, or circus escapee, explanation. But history seems to deny that theory with records of just three escaped lions and one fugitive tiger. Two lions were killed and the third returned to its cage. The tiger was recaptured.


Cryptozoology is a 'pseudoscience', it's a belief in something that has no scientific plausibility, it can't be scientifically tested. But that means nothing to the people out there searching for creatures whose existence has not been proven. Not yet, anyway.

Whether you see cryptozoology as a legitimate and cutting edge science or a collection of folktales and legends, this book, Cryptozoology A to Z, is marvelous fun to read.

Bagheera, my favourite big black cat

Bagheera My Hero
In my youthful days I thrilled to the description of Bagheera. A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the black panther, inky black al...

© 2009 Vladimir


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