Monday 3 September 2012

The London 'black puma' mystery

In the 2009 CFZ Yearbook, author, zoologist and friend Karl Shuker spoke of his delight at finding a rare print of a 'black puma', which he discovered during a trip to the 'world of books' at Hay On Wye. The print shows a fascinating cat, of dark pelage yet with a slate grey underside, and beneath it the heading, 'The Puma In The Gardens of the Zoological Society.'

The colour print - if based on a real animal, as it seems to be - suggests that at one time a melanistic puma was present at the London Zoo. The existence of melanstic puma's has long been debated, and for more information on this debate read Karl Shuker's fascinating blog post HERE  There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that black puma's roam the wilds of Britain, or the world for that matter and there appears to be a lot of confusion as many 'researchers' and the like have put forward the theory that the black cats often reported in the UK are melanistic puma. This is nigh on imposisble, and reading Mr Shuker's post explains why, and it seems that too many people are all too eager to create an extra mystery when one is not required. What is clear is that black leopards do roam parts of Britain, and that melanistic puma's do not exist, and yet here we have an intriguing print showing a black puma that was as said to have been housed at an English zoo. Of course, the animal may well have been exhibited as some sort of freak, and while such an individual may have existed in a zoo, it is nigh on impossible for a breeding colony to exist in the UK. What many people do not understand is that for a puma, let alone leopard to be completely jet black is also impossible, the leopard although appearing extremely dark will still be the darkest form of brown with the rosette pattern showing in certain light. Froma  distance the black leopard will appear jet black but it isn't. A black puma, even if such a beast did exist, would have a slate grey underside, and these type of animals have no reason to exist in the wilds of the UK, but the rare print is still intriguing, more so in the sense that I now own a copy, after picking one up in a local market shop for the sum of £3! The gorgeous colour print could well be one of the most mysterious paintings I've seen and would be interested to know of anyone else who has a copy or if anyone knows of a black puma being kept at the Zoological Gardens maybe two centuries ago.

I mention the 'black puma' and other mystery cats in my book MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: LONDON, but however rare the print may be it appears that an actual specimen of a living black puma is rarer still, especially in the wilds of the UK.

I'll post a photo of the print soon.

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