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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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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Up here in Central Goldfields / Highlands / Grampians, we are supposed to have a large black panther like cat that prowls the bush. Local farmers have reported seeing them for years, but no evidence to prove it so far.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Makes me think twice about riding my horse in the bush.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      If the thylacoleo survived this long without detection, it'd be a huge feat for science. If they're just panthers brought over by Americans, it's not as exciting or mysterious but it would explain the presence of such big cats.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      We get feral cats where I live almost as big as bobcats, but they only steal our chooks. I would love to see the mystery solved one day, ahh glotta go I hear scratch marks at the door, moggy peppa wants to come in

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have just come from a friends farm which is on the edge of thick Nth. Qld. rainforest she gave me a look at 2 decapated calf's. I looked up this sight and await her visit from the James Cook University to try to identify what creature or being could have done this ?

    • chrisqw profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm reserving judgement. Here in the UK there's a similar scare about the West Country panther.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      @anonymous: PPS: And as for them attacking people, well maybe ... but I've had one less than a couple of hundred meters from me SEVERAL times (and on one occassion very much closer than that), and they each left as peacefully as they came, making no attempt whatsoever to attack me ... one of them liked my chooks however. We have tracks on our property all the time -- never once has our stock (when we had sheep and goats) or ourselves been attacked ... but maybe that is because there is a large amount of native scrub forrest nearby, filled with STACKS of kangaroos and wallabies? Could be. These inoffensive creatures will only be coming to feed because of habitat and prey destruction. In my experience with these beautiful animals, they would much rather be left alone to hunt native wild-life than us or our live-stock.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      @anonymous: PS: Re the 'artist's interpretation' of the marsupial-lion ... no, it's not like that -- that looks like an over-grown quoll, whereas the Marwurrumburr is very Big Cat-like -- maybe the Marwurrumburr is a descendant of this "Thylacoleo"; maybe a relative. Refer to the article-writer's photograph, and fill in the blurry photo details in your imagination from my description. That said, there is one with this colouring ~ a tawny-beigey-brown, lion-like in colouring, but with the same marsupial-esque body-form ... I've seen it too, but I only got a glance at that one for a second -- my Mum saw it clearly, and except for the colour, we described identical animals (it's possibly a species with genetic colour-variations like the puma of South America ~ some being tawny-beige, and some black, but the same species ...?).

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've seen it and it's no panther! It's no escaped zoo- or circus-animal, like a tiger or lion, or something like that. No -- it's completely unique, & unmistakably an Australian animal. By it's body-form, I'd say it's definitely the marsupial 'lion' referred to above. It's not unlike a Thylacine in some ways, but black & bigger, and it walks & runs distinctly like a cat. The photo above is exactly like what I've seen ~ a sort-of Thylacine-headed (but wider & shorter in the face, whereas the Thylacine is narrower & longer ~ this animal's head is more like a lion, whereas the Thylacine is almost wolf-like with it's elongated snout); but like a Thylacine, it's sort of 'kangaroo'-tailed, but a HUGE black cat; taller in the hind-quarters than the fore-. And I think it's the Marwurrumburr ~ the native wild-cat referred to in many an Aborigine song & story. The Marwurrumburr is no legend or myth -- I've seen it with my own eyes ... and WOW! What a magnificent creature -- one of nature's miracles. And I've seen it quite a bit more than once! From Gippsland to the Mallee; and I've seen it several times on my current country property, and so has my Dad who lives with me (I'm not giving a specific location 'cause some sick bastard will go & hunt it, and I'll have no part of that). You'll never look at camping in the Australian bush the same way again! :)

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      10 years ago from Central Florida

      How mysterious and it does sound plausible that there is something out there that we just haven't identified yet. Blessed by a squid angel and featured on You've Been Blessed.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      @anonymous: wich is in S.A by the way

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      there are also videos of news story's/videos people have captured now all over youtube of the Big Black Cats in Australia, and my dad and mum both saw 1 between Paracillna and Hawker with a wide muscular chest and it was atleast 3.5ft from front paw to head with a head on it as big as my American Bulldog.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      Jennifer Sullivan 

      11 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Yikes, I would not want to accidentally cross its path! Great job on this lens - blessed by a squidangel

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      11 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh me, I would hate to run into that black panther like creature. I hope they find it. This was so interesting.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Very interesting, and I adore the video series.

      I just learned something new today...several things actually...and will have to put my Australian father-in-law on the barby to see if he knows anything about these elusive creatures!

      A five time wings up!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      12 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wow, you sure do know a lot about cats! Very informative and well put together....5*s!

    • Laniann profile image


      12 years ago

      Good advise Vladi - run if you ever see a mysterious giant cat. 5*s

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Very interesting lens. We have big cats in England too, or at least there have been many reported sightings and similar evidence.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      The big cats are gorgeous (as are the small cats), but when they come near your "back yard"...yikes!

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      12 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great work Vladimir,you have some great info here on mystery big cats of australia,there certainly are a few out there!A very clever pussy.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      12 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Great lens on a fascinating topic. There are stories of wild great cats here in England, reported sightings, photographs, paw prints and the carcasses of sheep that some experts claim show signs of being killed by a large cat. 5* and lensrolled

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      12 years ago

      very cool...the wallaby carcass looks a lot like the 1/2 a rabbit Kitty Wompuss gave me as a present last some reason he only eats the top half of the animals he catches...great lens 5*

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      12 years ago from Massachusetts

      You gotta love any alien cat conspiracy story. Very well done, Squid Angel blessed!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Vladi -, you are a very clever cat. What a very good lens. Great pics, great original ;) content and thorough research. For that you get my Blessing.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      12 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Vladimir certainly looks wigged out (aka freaked!) up there. I don't blame him. Some of these big kitties could and would eat him without even chewing. But he did a great job on this lens. He even got some cool and sometimes icky photos. Well done!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Very interesting lens! I've always been fascinated with these kinds of sightings!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Vladi, your story is quite intriguing. Your pix are nice -- I was just a tad put off by them, but I'm just a girl -- totally not used to seeing after-dinner remains quite so, er, remainish. 5* to you!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      12 years ago

      Wow Vladi ( may I call you Vladi?) this is a thorough investigation you have done. There have been reports of big cats here in Scotland as well, the thought here is that they may have been big cat pets which were released into the wild when the dangerous animals act was strengthened. You deserve every one of the 5* and a sprinkling of Angel Dust as well.


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